The Beginning of the Network
In order to share best practices for delivering their services and learn from each other as peers, staff of nine agencies began meeting voluntarily as a group, eventually creating a blueprint for a formal network. Along with DHS, they envisioned a state office, headed by a board of directors representing the regional agencies, that would coordinate their strategic planning, administer their contracts, advocate for more and better child care options and support them with resources, technical assistance and specialized services.
The Formal Association
On March 24, 1999, the state office was formally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization doing business as the Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association. It began with only two employees: an executive director and a bookkeeper.
The network soon identified target groups that would need to be served in order to accomplish this mission:
Parents - we give parents peace of mind by offering child care referrals in their community, geared toward their family's specific needs.
Providers - we offer trainings, on-site technical assistance, activity ideas, health, safety and business support.
Communities - we collect, analyze and report data about child care demand, availability, quality and cost, , as well as advocate for policy to support families and young children.
To begin child care data collection and analysis, the association hired a third employee, a data specialist, in 2000. Then, in 2001, a fourth employee was hired to provide hands-on assistance to the regional agencies as they strove to carry out their programs.
The year 2005 brought another expansion of services, to meet specialized needs and harder-to-reach groups. Besides employing registered nurses to render child care health consultations to child care providers, the Association hired an individual to focus on services to Hispanic families and providers, as well as a specialist in children from birth to three. The Infant Toddler Project aimed to assist parents with information and resources to make the most of early developmental needs and phases, while assisting providers with information, resources and technical assistance to improve the quality and efficiency of their care for infants and toddlers.
The Association Today
While funding has declined in recent years, the services provided to families, providers and communities continues to grow and change. The association has incorporated updated technology to meet the needs of families' search for care, increased its work with providers to increase quality, and continues to be an integral part of the child care system both at the state and local level.
The Oklahoma Child Care and Early Education Portfolio, updated each year online, is a vital repository for statistics and assessments of child care data, both statewide and by county. It helps leaders and policy makers at all levels identify the nature and location of child care issues to inform their decisions and work.
In 2017, a new database management software, Work Life Sytems, was implemented statewide. The system provides clients with an intuitive navigation experience for searching online for child care. The CCR&R staff is able to update data more accurately and with ease, as well as, provide excellent customer service to clients who call the referral line.
Today the Oklahoma Child Care Resource & Referral Association is praised by regional agencies as a priceless source of information, support, technical advice and advocacy that enables the entire network to make progress toward the day when Oklahoma communities support the development and learning of all children.