The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides Minnesotans with a variety of services intended to help people live as independently as possible.
Minnesota does best when every child in the state has an opportunity reach their highest potential. That’s why Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson recently visited a top-rated child care center in north Minneapolis. On a tour of Northside Child Development Center Friday, Dec. 7, she learned about its work to prepare children to succeed in school and life and talked about the role DHS plays in addressing disparities.
Operated by Catholic Charities, Northside serves children ages 6 weeks to 15 years with early education, preschool, school readiness and school reinforcement experiences, as well as health care and parent education services. Nearly all children attending the center receive support from DHS’ Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income parents pay for care while they go to work, look for work or attend school. Each month, this program makes quality child care affordable for approximately 35,000 children in Minnesota.
While research shows that at least half of the educational achievement gaps between poor and non-poor children already exist at kindergarten, children who attend early childhood education programs are more likely to be ready for kindergarten, stay in school and succeed later in life, including those at Northside. Children who attend the center consistently score higher on kindergarten readiness tests than other kindergartners in Minneapolis, according to Catholic Charities.
Northside has a four-star rating – the highest possible – from Minnesota’s Parent Aware quality rating system based on its staff training, teaching materials, parent involvement and other factors. It works to detect and remediate developmental challenges, promote school readiness and engage parents in their child’s learning to overcome educational achievement gaps. Its programming includes an Infant and Toddler Parents
Group that engages parents of children up to age 3 in their education and social experiences, providing them with a better understanding of all facets of childhood development and the opportunity to share questions.
DHS supports the work of Northside and other centers like it by encouraging parents from low-income communities to choose child care providers that stress early education. Along with the departments of Health and Education, DHS works through the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet to increase opportunities for the more than 190,000 poor children in Minnesota — 80,000 of them living well below the poverty line.