Success Stories – Invest Early

Executive Director – Jan Reindl

The need for high-quality early childhood care and education is growing, especially in greater Minnesota. Research also shows that investing in early childhood care and education provides a strong return on investment and positive outcomes for Minnesota’s most vulnerable children and families.

One provider that is delivering high-quality early childcare and education in greater Minnesota is the Invest Early Initiative, a comprehensive early childhood collaborative of four school districts and KOOTASCA Head Start in Itasca County, Minnesota, that serves young children and their families. In fact, it is the largest rural early care and education program in Minnesota.

Invest Early provides high-quality early childhood care and education to low-income children and families (the median income for families was $23,982 in 2015-2016), who have an average of 3-4 additional risk factors. Their programs offer a comprehensive, whole family approach, providing children with stable learning environments, and parents with a menu of supports including mental health, family development, and parent education.

As a four-star Parent Aware-rated facility, Invest Early is committed to providing high-quality care by employing licensed instructors and child care providers, providing a safe, stimulating learning environment, supporting a play-based learning environment through hands-on activities, employing developmentally appropriate activities, serving healthy meals and snacks, and creating individualized learning plans.

Currently, 69 children receive support from early learning scholarships, helping to make high-quality care accessible to their families.

The results are clear: students served by Invest Early are succeeding, and do better than many of their peers. Two out of three students from Invest Early are ready for kindergarten, compared with only half of a low-income comparison group.

We know that this early success has long-term positive impacts on children – both 3rd and 5th graders who had been Invest Early students performed better on MCA reading and math tests than other low-income students statewide.  Not only does early childhood care and education improve outcomes for children now, but also in their future schooling.

Invest Early has also committed to a community view for supporting early care and education throughout the region, working with multiple partners like Itasca County Health and Human Services, Public Health, Children’s Mental Health, Itasca Community College, Early Childhood Special Education and other licensed child care providers. Together, they recognize that quality childcare is an asset not just for parents and families, but every member of the community.

The Invest Early Initiative has a track record of positive results for hundreds of families in Northern Minnesota, and provides a model for how rural areas can develop partnerships to implement effective, high-quality early childhood care and education.

Success Stories – Playhouse Childcare Center, Inc.

Center Director Heather Freese

On January 22nd, the MinneMinds campaign hosted a gubernatorial conversation in St. Cloud, Minnesota featuring two candidates for governor, State Representatives Tina Liebling and Erin Murphy. As our first forum in Greater Minnesota, it was an opportunity for candidates to learn more about some of the unique challenges many families and providers face in Greater Minnesota.

The forum was also provided an opportunity to learn more about some of the ways child care providers are innovating, and how they are adapting to challenges, which was on display at Playhouse Child Care Center Inc. This Four-Star Parent Aware-rated facility is delivering high-quality results for children and is meeting the needs of a diverse set of parents and families in St. Cloud.

What makes Playhouse unique is its partnership with Reach-Up Head Start. This partnership provides more high-quality care for local, low-income families to prepare them for kindergarten, including additional staff that can spend more quality one on one time with kids. In the classrooms that have these staff, the ratio for caregiver to child is 1:7 vs 1:10 for other rooms. While this may not seem like much, it can provide strong benefits for children and their development.

It’s also important that children are given the tools to succeed at every level of development. Research shows that 90% of brain development occurs by the age of five – it’s crucial during these years that kids are on track. At Playhouse, each level of a child’s development has age-appropriate programming, from infant, toddler, preschool to school-age. This programming covers everything from what children eat, how much rest they get, to their outdoor play time.

Playhouse is committed to serving the diverse set of families in St. Cloud. Considering its location near St. Cloud Community and Technical College, Playhouse serves many parents who are students at the college – providing multigenerational benefits for students advancing their own education while their children receive high-quality care.

At Playhouse, 33 families receive funding from CCAP and 34 children currently receive state early learning scholarships. Demand for high-quality care is growing, and the center doubled in size in 2016 – and has slots available for 96 families, a number that will continue to grow.

Access to high-quality care and education is crucial to the health and well-being of Minnesota’s families and children. MinneMinds is committed to increasing this access, but also to finding flexible ways to deliver this crucial need. Many early care providers are working to find ways to innovate and deliver results, and the partnership between Playhouse and Head Start is just one way.

Playhouse Child Care Center Inc.’s goal “is for each child to develop a sense of positive self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth providing the foundation for children to prepare them for school readiness.” With their Head Start partnership, funding from early learning scholarships, and Four-Star Parent Aware rating, Playhouse Child Care Center Inc. is an example of high-quality care made possible by state early learning investment.

Success Stories – Joyce Preschool

Executive Director Laura Tompkins

The MinneMinds coalition has partners across the state that embrace key values, provide innovation, and take child-centered approaches that provide meaningful and long-lasting positive benefits for Minnesota’s children and families. These programs are leading the way in providing high-quality early childhood care and education.

MinneMinds knows that high-quality early childhood care and education improves outcomes, and key partners like Joyce Preschool, a Spanish-immersion school, are making this happen for children and families every day. Their high-quality, research-driven and culturally relevant programming have delivered consistent results for children and parents alike. In a city where only 36% of Spanish-speaking students are kindergarten-ready, 100% of Joyce’s graduates in the past six years have been ready for kindergarten.

 

Joyce is a 4-star Parent-Aware rated, bilingual, multicultural preschool that provides culturally relevant programming for its students and is rooted in equity. In Minneapolis, 41% of Hispanic children live in poverty, which can contribute to obesity, food insecurity, and toxic stress — all of which affect a child’s ability to succeed in school. At Joyce, children are in a nurturing environment that meets each of their unique needs and provides necessary support.

Joyce’s takes a multigenerational approach with a simple perspective: “to give children their best opportunities, we don’t just enroll preschoolers, but work in partnership with families. At-home circumstances affect in-school success, so classroom time isn’t enough on its own: we emphasize empowering, educating, and involving our families.” At Joyce, 100% of parents are directly involved in their student’s education.

Access to high-quality early childhood care and education is critical to a child’s life, but too often is out of reach for low-income families. At Joyce, 25% of students receive state early learning scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition, including transportation costs. Thanks to this support, families and parents who may not be able to afford high-quality early education are able to, which can provide much-needed stability. With increased investment in state early learning scholarships, even more families could benefit.

The best outcomes for children and families come when they are given the environment to succeed, and provided the support they need. By increasing access to high-quality early childhood care and education, like the programs offered at Joyce Preschool, Minnesota’s most vulnerable children and families can be given the tools to succeed now and in the future.