The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma recognized the need for quality child care in the Stilwell, Okla., community and developed a plan to help local families access this valuable resource.
To address this issue, the Cherokee Nation funded the development of the $4.2 million Stilwell Child Development Center, a new facility that will provide high-quality, center-based care for children.
The state-of-the art facility provides direct care for 98 children, ages 6 weeks to 4 years old. Aspects of the Cherokee culture decorate the inside of the building, including the water spider who in Cherokee legend brought fire to the animals from a distant burning tree after land was created for the animals to live on. A cultural specialist will visit the center to share Cherokee culture with the children.
“Increasing access to early childhood education is critical for the sustained success of the Cherokee Nation, and we are proud that more of our youth will be encouraged to dream big and reach their full potential,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker told the Cherokee Phoenix. “I’m honored to be here today to open this facility for the Cherokee children. There is nothing more important than our children and their learning. This expansion will positively touch the lives of so many of our citizens, and we created new, quality jobs in the process.”
“Research shows the most important time for brain development is between birth and age four. The Cherokee Nation Child Development Center in Stilwell is dedicated to making the most of this significant time in a child’s life,” Director Tricia Peoples told the Cherokee Phoenix. “The completion of the new Stilwell Child Development Center shows the Cherokee Nation’s commitment to children and early learning.”
“The facility the child development center was in was very dilapidated and the kids needed a better place to be, and this is a wonderful facility,” Tribal Council Frankie Hargis told the Cherokee Phoenix.
The new facility created 10 new jobs and added about 50 additional child care slots. The 19,000-square-foot center quadrupled the size of the former center built in 1969. Eight classrooms and four age-appropriate playgrounds are just a few of the center’s major features. Cherokee Nation owns and operates an additional center in Tahlequah. The two centers are licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has operated a CCDF-backed child care program to serve Indian families in 14 counties of northeastern Oklahoma since 1992. The purpose of the program is to support the highest quality of culturally appropriate child care to its tribal members and other Native Americans residing in the area. The CCDF program offers child care assistance to eligible families to pay for child care services. The program has continued to expand since its inception, becoming the largest funded Tribal CCDF lead agency in Region VI and is second largest Tribal CCDF grantee. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma provides child care services to over 3,500 children annually. The program permits parents to choose from a broad range of child care providers, including Tribal child care centers, family child care, center-based child care, relatives, friends and neighbors.