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.