Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area (SBRA) is a partnership of over 80 public and private agencies, businesses and individuals working toward a common vision: children arrive at school healthy and prepared to succeed in school and in life. Serving Planning District 16, which includes the City of Fredericksburg and the Counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Culpeper, SBRA implements long-term strategies for improving school readiness for all young children, birth to five.
The Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area initiative began as Success By 6 through the Rappahannock United Way (RUW) in 2001 with a focus on early literacy. It grew into a regional coalition called the Rappahannock Area Success By 6 Early Childhood Coalition in March of 2006 with the formation of a Steering Committee.
In May of 2007, the Coalition received a planning grant from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF). The planning grant was used to strengthen the Coalition’s organizational infrastructure by funding a part-time Coalition Manager; enhance existing and develop additional relationships with business leaders, elected officials, and community leaders; develop a formal coalition structure; create a strategic plan; and build support for additional public-private financial partnerships.
In 2008, Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area formed a Leadership Council and developed its vision, mission, and goals. A Planning Grant from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) enabled SBRA to formalize and strengthen its organizational structure.
In June 2010, SBRA was awarded a Getting Ready II grant. With this VECF grant, SBRA funded two part-time positions, continued with systems building efforts, and worked on implementing two identified early childhood strategies: the Virginia Star Quality Initiative (now Virginia Quality)and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. The VECF Getting Ready II grant required a local match that was met with funds from an Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD) grant and community investors, including McQ Inc, Millennium Engineering and Integration Company, The PNC Foundation, Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine, SimVentions, Inc. and Rappahannock United Way. VECF grants have enabled SBRA to continue building community support and public awareness, as well as begin the implementation of program initiatives.
A third early childhood strategy, Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices, was being implemented from funds from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY).
During this grant cycle, SBRA received approval of its tax exempt 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, effective December 17, 2010. The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation helped SBRA secure the pro bono services of an attorney specializing in tax exempt organizations and completed the 501(c)(3) requirements.
Additionally, SBRA successfully and unanimously transitioned its Leadership Council to a Board of Directors in February 2011 and established the infrastructure necessary for board governance. The newly formed SBRA Board of Directors adopted its Articles of Incorporation, By-laws and Conflict of Interest Policy; established board terms; and formed Executive, Finance, and Public Engagement Committees for governance and oversight.
The Board authorized its approval to complete and file a 1023 Form: Application for Recognition of Exemption with the IRS and authorized approval to secure Directors’ & Officers’ Insurance. The 1023 Form was filed with the IRS in March, 2011.
SBRA’s current program initiatives include: Al’s Pals: Kids Making Health Choices, a social and emotional development program, to preschools and early learning centers; Ages and Stages Questionnaire, a childhood developmental screening tool that identifies strengths or possible concerns and educates parents about developmental milestones; Virginia Quality, a statewide system designed to assist childcare providers in their efforts to assess and improve the quality of their services; Passport to Kindergarten, a community-based program that facilitates a connection among early learning centers, preschools, kindergarten staff, and parents to foster the kindergarten transition process; and Mixed Delivery Preschool Pilot, a public-private partnership grant designed to provide more spaces in Pre-K for low income children in our region.