Early Learning Scholarships Are Critical for Children in Child Protection

The Policies in Play series takes a closer look at the recently passed state legislative policies that affect early care and education. We work with partners to find out what these policies look like in action and how they impact Minnesota children and families.

By: Rich Gehrman, Founder and Executive Director of Safe Passage for Children

Early childhood education and quality child care are among a handful of services that significantly reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect, and also lessen negative effects when it does occur.

That is why Safe Passage for Children and Think Small actively participated in the successful 2017 campaign by the MinneMinds Coalition to pass legislation giving top priority for early learning scholarships to children who are homeless, in child protection, or in foster care, and to open eligibility at birth rather than age three.  As a result of this effort, $20.65 million was added to the state budget for the current biennium, bringing the total early childhood scholarship pool to $140.4 million.

While the increase itself was modest, the policy changes in this statute mean that our most vulnerable children can now get critical child development opportunities on a priority basis, and during the much earlier period when it can best promote healthy brain development.

This accomplishment caps years of effort by key legislative leaders and the MinneMinds Coalition, with a special push this session by a team that included Safe Passage, Close Gaps by 5, Hennepin County, People Serving People, and Hylden Advocacy and Law.

Continue reading Early Learning Scholarships Are Critical for Children in Child Protection

Brain Development in Infants and Toddlers

90% of brain development occurs by age 5.

80% of the brain is developed by age 3.

Ages 0-3 are an important time for brain development.

These eye-catching statements sound impressive but can be confusing and misleading. Learning certainly continues after age five, and the window for development doesn’t close at Kindergarten. However, we know that interactions in the first few years of life are important to a child’s future. A parent’s relationship with their young child shapes the healthy development of their brain and body.  But what is the role of brain development? And how can caregivers support children 0-3 to have a great start? Continue reading Brain Development in Infants and Toddlers

Prenatal to Three Policy Forums: Working Together for A Great Start

This month marks one year since the start of the Think Small blog. To celebrate, we’re using January to highlight information and initiatives from Think Small and our partners about infants and toddlers and their caregivers in Minnesota. This post is part of our series on children 0-3.

By: Representative Dave Pinto, District 64B

Representative Dave Pinto

Since the very beginning, my top priority as a legislator has been to make sure that every child in Minnesota gets off to a great start. The disparities that our state sees in education, economics, health, and the criminal justice system – some of the worst in the nation – are paralleled by disparities that begin with prenatal care and continue from birth and beyond.

Continue reading Prenatal to Three Policy Forums: Working Together for A Great Start

Word Pedometers Brought to Minneapolis to Help Close Word Gap

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

Minnesota is heralding in an innovative program to help close the word gap. The word gap–a 30 million word deficit between children from low income families and their more well-off peers– is evident by age 3. In order for it to be reversed, children need both parents and caregivers to speak, sing and read to them often.

This new approach to early literacy, originated by the LENA Research Foundation, is designed to make a tangible change to those stats by encouraging parents to be more intentional about building vocabulary-enhancing interactions into their parenting.  Continue reading Word Pedometers Brought to Minneapolis to Help Close Word Gap

Poverty’s Immense Impact on Brain Development During Childhood Explored

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

LEL FCC 2011More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, $23,550 a year for a family of four.

Children living in poverty are often exposed to a cluster of circumstances that affect their brain development. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Madison found that children from low-income families experience less cognitive stimulation, stressful living conditions and harsher parenting, which all affect brain growth and development.

Continue reading Poverty’s Immense Impact on Brain Development During Childhood Explored

Learning Starts at Birth: Implications for a Lifetime

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

LEL0212FCCFrom the moment they are born, children are learning from their surroundings. Everything from brain growth to approaches to life are shaped by what does—or does not–happen in their first months and years of life.

As highlighted in a study from the Ounce:

“Early experiences that are nurturing, active, and challenging actually thicken the cortex of an infant’s brain, creating a brain with more extensive and sophisticated neuron structures that
determine intelligence and behavior.”

Continue reading Learning Starts at Birth: Implications for a Lifetime