Best Beginnings History
Formally started in the fall of 2003, Best Beginnings, Clinton’s Early Childhood Initiative, resulted when community partners from Youth and Family Service Bureau, community parents, the Early Childhood Education Council, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, Head Start, Henry Carter Hull Library, the Joel School, The Morgan School, and Middlesex Hospital Home Health Care came together with the mission of helping provide a strong base for the development of every preschooler in Clinton. The year prior to the United Way grant was funded by Drug-Free Communities Support Program and by in-kind contributions from the community partners. The first year was a period of providing community awareness, first for professionals, including pediatricians and early care and education directors, and then for parents.
Today 23 people representing these community partners continue on this Early Childhood Education Council. These representatives, mostly volunteers, attend eight meetings per year and guide the initiative in its work. The State Department of Education counts on communities having such a council to guide school districts in Connecticut in matters related to Early Education.
Best Beginnings is grateful for the support from a Middlesex United Way grant from September, 2005 to May 2009. Funding has been $15,000, $20,000, $15,000, and this year, $12,500. For 2008-09, the Board of Education added $7,500.00. The focus of the grant funding is to reduce the amount of challenging behavior in children, 0 through 5 years, through identification and intervention. The grant consultant and project manager is Linda N. Stuhlman; Coralie Williams serves as the community outreach worker, Kim Brown serves as the project’s psychologist, and Anna Recine as the Spanish interpreter. Most of the workshops for parents and professionals are conducted by Linda N. Stuhlman. Best Beginnings received the Middlesex United Way Community Impact Award in January, 2007 and the organizational structure has become a model for other Middlesex County communities who have received United Way grants.
Best Beginnings registers families with preschool children; currently registration is nearly 300 families representing over 500 children, ages 0 through 5 years. It is estimated that this represents nearly 70% of the preschool and kindergarten population. A registration fair has been held for the last three years in September. At the 2008 fair, there were 48 table areas where parents received information about resources available and children were provided appropriate activities. Attendance was about 400 people.
During the school year, parent workshops and support groups are held on subjects ranging from discipline to nutrition. Parent information sheets are widely distributed at workshops and through schools and the library. Professional development workshops are held for teachers from all the early education and care centers in Clinton. Pediatricians are provided materials and referral information.