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Helping Children Reach Their Full Potential

Minnesota nonprofits discuss the importance of early childhood development.

The first three years of a child’s life are key to future educational achievement, economic productivity, healthy lives and stronger communities.

Children and their families need support during this period. On October 7, Foundation fundholders gathered together virtually to learn more about this issue and Minnesota’s efforts to support this work. Watch the recording below:

Experts on the panel included:

  • Nancy Jost, Director, West Central Initiative
  • Janice LaFloe, Founder, Montessori American Indian Childcare Center
  • Bharti Wahi, Executive Director, Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota
  • Barbara Yates, President and CEO, Think Small

Think Small is committed to advancing quality care and education for children in these early, crucial years. Barbara Yates shared the state of early childhood education in Minnesota, where half of kids are not fully prepared for kindergarten. “Minnesota achievement gaps between our white students and our students of color and Indigenous students are some of the highest in the United States,” said Barbara.

“The social contract, particularly for young children, is broken — it was never robustly there,” said Bharti. At the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, she works to advance policies and inspire activism so that every child gets what they need to thrive and become successful adults.

West Central Initiative (WCI), based in Fergus Falls, MN, has an early childhood initiative based on the idea that a strong, healthy society and workforce rely on making children a priority. “Our childcare system is sort of an unsystem,” said Nancy, “but it needs to work better for parents, families, and providers.” Through community organizing and coalition building, WCI seeks to bring people together in long-term efforts toward its early childhood goal.

Janice founded the Montessori American Indian Childcare Center (MAICC) in 2014 to fill what she saw as the biggest gap in services for the Native community — early childhood support. Today, MAICC seeks to address the early childhood needs and academic achievement gap of American Indian children through revitalizing language and culture.

If you’re interested in early childhood development and would like to support nonprofits working on these issues, consider recommending a grant to one of the organizations above, or to one of these additional organizations suggested by our Community Impact team:

Want to join us for a future event? Learn about upcoming Giving+Together events.

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