Early childhood development always has been a focus for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and will continue to be, according to Assistant Chief Gary Batton.
To spotlight the tribe’s commitment to the cause, Chief Greg Pyle declared April 8, 2014, as the Choctaw “Day of the Young Child,” coinciding with National Week of the Child.
“Our heritage has long valued the importance of raising children to respect others, work hard and strive to achieve their dreams,” said Pyle. “We believe in children and their abilities to succeed, beginning at the youngest of ages, and will do all we can to support their development and success in life.”
Batton said it is vital for the tribe’s sustainability, and the future chief might just be one of those little people listening to current leaders read “Five Little Monkeys” during Tuesday’s celebration at the Durant Choctaw Nation Child Development Center.
“It’s all about generational betterment, having it better than our parents did, our children having it better than we did and so forth,” said Batton, also mentioning the genesis of the head-start facilities was in 1997. “It is critical to invest in our kids.”
Tuesday’s program also included a “blessing” of the young children by senior heritage resource technician Olin Williams and a Choctaw children’s dance presented by head-start students.
Angela Dancer of the Choctaw Nation Tribal Early Learning Initiative was a coordinator of the event.
“It’s really about supporting our young children in their growth, in their developmental stages and preparing them to start school,” Dancer said.
What she called comprehensive “systems of care” include the Tribal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program that covers the prenatal period to 3 years of age, the Parent as Teachers program that focuses on parent-child interaction and the head-start facilities.
Dancer said everyone works together toward these goals. That effort gets a small boost through a federal grant, the Tribal Early Learning Initiative from the U.S. Department of Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
“It’s a collaboration that’s really wrapping around these children, looking at school readiness, promoting growth and development in our children, supporting any kind of parent educators who are out in the homes or in the child-care centers, the teachers in the classrooms and our families. We’re also teaching parents the importance of developing our children and reading to them on a daily basis.
“Our chief, our assistant chief and our entire tribal council understand the importance of childhood development, and getting a fresh and good start in life through these programs.”
Choctaw District 1 Councilman Thomas Williston participated in the reading Tuesday.
“Enjoy every minute of it,” Williston said. “I’m glad to be part of it.”
Pyle also noted that he and the council support many other complementary areas that benefit families —such as parenting education, and family health and wellness — while parents and staff work selflessly.
“We recognize that there are many challenges for families, but there are also countless opportunities to positively impact children’s lives,” he said. “We must make the most of them.”
Contact Regina Phillips at (580) 924-4388 ext. 20 or on Twitter @NewspaperRegina.