Expanded housing for poor families, additional home visits for new parents and more spots in "high-quality early learning programs" are among the recommendations released Tuesday by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges' cabinet on young children.
The mayor's Cradle to K Cabinet was convened in May and tasked with coming up with strategies to improve health, housing and childcare opportunities for the city's youngest residents. The group of academics, nonprofit and health leaders and parents drafted a 37-page preliminary report, posted on the city's website Tuesday.
The plan offers a handful of key goals, along with suggestions for expanding funding on some programs and researching new ways to pay for others. It does not provide an estimate of how much it would cost to meet the goals, or which portion could be the responsibility of the city, rather than another government agency or private group.
Among the suggestions: increase the number of clinics participating in an early childhood screening program, develop a plan to identify mental health needs in children under age three and find funding to develop 10 affordable housing units for poor families by the end of next year.
The group will now take comments on its plan, both online and in a series of public meetings, before releasing a final report this spring.
Hodges said the process "puts some meat on the bones" of child-focused work already underway in the city. Because stepping up those efforts will require the help of outside agencies, she said it's important to have a specific plan in writing.
"I want to make sure that everybody has buy-in to what we're doing, that everybody has investment in what we're doing and that it is a call to action to our entire community," she said. "What happens with our youngest people in Minneapolis is important to every age of person in Minneapolis."
Carolyn Smallwood, co-chairwoman of the cabinet and executive director of Way to Grow, an early education-focused nonprofit, said the panel doesn't intend to replace or duplicate the work of other organizations. She pointed to home visiting programs as an example of something that should be expanded. One of the group's recommendations calls for added funding for "evidence-based and culturally relevant home visiting practices and standards."
"There are other initiatives going on throughout the state and in the city that certainly can complement this," she said.
Hodges said she expects she can find support for the goals among state legislators -- even those with very different political leanings.
"I would say one of the benefits of talking about children (ages) birth to three is that everybody cares about children birth to three," she said. "And so the conversation starts from a place of care and attention and agreement that those are important people in our world."