The Oklahoma Head Start State Collaboration Office (OKHSSCO) is located in the Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies (OKACAA). OKHSSCO is overseen by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce (ODOC) through contract with OKACAA. OKACAA's mission is to improve the lives of low-income individuals by creating opportunities for increased self-sufficiency and greater participation in the community. They also work to ensure Head Start's participation in systems-integration strategies to benefit low-income children and their families.
OKHSSCO's purpose is to align diverse early childhood programs on common elements and provide the means for Head Start programs to engage in collaboration at the state level. They enhance partnerships and mutually developed agendas with state-level organizations and agencies supporting low-income families in the HSSCO priority areas.
Major partnerships and memberships include:
- Oklahoma Head Start Early Childhood Collaboration Advisory Board
- Governor's Interagency Council on Homelessness Member
- Children's Oral Health Coalition (COHC)
- Child Health Advisory Task Force
- Oklahoma Turning Point Council
- Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR)
- OPSR Professional Development and Workforce Workgroup
- OPSR Quality, Access, Standards, and Accountability Workgroup
- OPSR Data Coordination Workgroup
- OPSR Policy and Workgroup Coordination Committee
- Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership and Outreach Committee
- Oklahoma Head Start Association
- Oklahoma Indian Head Start Directors Association
- Training and technical assistance (T/TA) specialists
- Regional Office
OPSR, also branded as Smart Start Oklahoma, is the State Advisory Council. The OKHSSCO has been in operation since March 1, 1996. It is currently operating in its fourth five-year grant period. OKHSSCO authorized through its partnerships with OKACAA and ODOC to act on behalf of the state and the flexibility to fully comply with grant requirements, as the grant intends.
The major goals of OKHSSCO include:
- Fostering and enhancing effective Head Start participation in state-level coalitions and multi-agency public and private partnerships involved in supporting low-income families through services in the 10 priority areas and priorities of Office of Head Start (OHS) Region VI.
- Promoting and facilitating Head Start's engagement at the state level in gathering information and conducting needs assessments related to coordination of Head Start services and inclusion of Head Start in the state's early childhood systems and transitions to schools.
- Facilitating building the best possible linkage, alignment, and inter-operability of common elements found in diverse early childhood programs, including Head Start, state pre-K, and child care programs, and a statewide coordinated early childhood data system.
In addition to the contributions listed above, OKHSSCO has accomplished the following:
- Invited state partners to a retreat to learn about OKHSSCO's work, resulting in the creation of the Oklahoma Head Start Early Childhood Collaboration Advisory Board. It consists of state-level partners who advise and inform the work in the 10 priority areas of the grant and are actively involved in shaping the OKHSSCO strategic plan of work.
- Supported the travel and participated in the team planning meeting for two national policy academies, Chronic Homelessness and Homeless Families with Children, resulting in the creation of the Oklahoma Governor's Interagency Council on Homelessness.
- Funded the facilitator who assisted the governor's Task Force on Early Childhood Education that led to legislation creating the public-private Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR) and its private foundation from 2000 to 2002.
- Contracted with OPSR to assist with community mobilization for the development of local partnerships that included Head Start and completed a research study to determine where Head Start programs were collaborating with public schools to provide the state pre-K program in a mixed delivery, braided funding model. A list of these collaborations is maintained on the OKHSSCO webpage.
- Since 2003-2004, the HSSCO has used the PIR data base to produce an annual Head Start Fact Sheet with selected data on Head Start programs in Oklahoma that includes important services provided by grantees, enrollment and funding in the state, teacher qualifications, and other data as well as maps indicating the location of all programs and a directory that includes information about each Head Start grantee.
- Wrote two oral health grants. One resulted in the creation of the COHC that includes state partners involved with finding and accessing dental services for children with disabilities. The second grant was a follow-up to that forum.
- Co-chaired the COHC for nine years and wrote several additional grants, including one to host a forum to address the oral health issues of children with special health care needs and two for launching and supporting the Head Start Dental Home Initiative.