In the fall of 2015, Dana E. Friedman, Ed.D. was hired by Suffolk County Executive, Steven Bellone, in 2015 for the purpose of exploring the best ways for the County to help young children reach their full potential. With the help of our Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter, they assessed the range and reach of services in Suffolk County to help families and children. The exploration also involved looking at four communities where the County had created Community Resource Centers: Wyandanch, Huntington, North Bellport and Brentwood/Central Islip. The research concluded that there was an amazing array of services available to families and children, however, there were not enough services for all those who needed them. Furthermore, there were missed opportunities for groups to work together and strengthen their capacities. Wyandanch and North Bellport were seen as two communities where local residents had come together in meaningful ways and would be amenable to working with the County to prevent or to treat adverse childhood experiences (also known as ACEs) and improve outcomes for young children.
What followed was participation in the monthly meetings of the two Community Resource Centers in Wyandanch and North Bellport and ongoing conversations with a variety of agencies to plan some collaboration. Thirty organizations were brought together to provide services to families, starting with pregnant women, and supporting children in infancy and preschool, assuring they are ready for school and helping them achieve high school graduation. Over time these initiatives and projects were joined together to create Smart Start Suffolk.
Smart Start Suffolk has evolved and is currently growing through initiating a closed pilot where participants will receive in-home training and support on attachment, the impacts of trauma, and modeling positive behavior to support the development of their child. Smart Start Suffolk also looks forward to continuing its work within the community working alongside governmental agencies, community partners and community members to support Suffolk County’s children and families.