Dakota County, Minn.
The Birth to Age Eight Collaborative Initiative brings essential public and non-profit community service providers in Dakota County, Minnesota, together to assure children reach key developmental milestones from birth to age eight. The members of the Initiative include school districts; Nonprofits; and Dakota County Community Services, Public Health, and Social Services. The Initiative aims to identify more at-risk children and families early, with the vision that 100 percent of identified children meet the state proficiency reading target by the spring of third grade. The Initiative also works to connect entire families to the necessary supports to succeed. Research shows us that third grade reading proficiency is strongly linked to later likelihood of graduation, economic success and socioeconomic mobility and stability. It emphasizes the importance of improving academic readiness and outcomes early in life, and breaking the cycle of poverty through greater educational attainment. Aspects of the Initiative include a collaborative referral process and innovative consent form, legislative action, and identifying and tracking key risk indicators for strategic intervention. Key developmental milestones have been identified which will calculate a risk score for children indicating a weighted level of need (red, yellow, or green). An initial analysis was successful in the application of the weighted scoring of indicators identifying children needing some level of interventions to meet developmental milestones. Upon receiving the indicator results, our collective service delivery system can then respond with precise intentionality with kids and their families. One early success of the Initiative has been the creation and implementation of a referral process between the county’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and school districts. The consent form allows WIC to share family contact information with school staff, who connect with parents to provide resources and services as needed. This addresses the issue of children missing from school district census, thus not accessing early childhood opportunities. In 2016, WIC staff made a total of 364 referrals to the four participating school districts. Of these families, 75% would not have been contacted by the school without the referral and thus showing up their first day of school potentially being at risk of not “learning ready”.
Ms. Debbie Formanack
Principal Administrative Assistant to County Administrator