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' task force on young children.
The mayor's Cradle to K Cabinet convened in May and was tasked with coming up with strategies to improve health, housing and child care 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 estimate 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 3 and find funding to develop 10 affordable housing units for poor families by the end of next year.
"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," Hodges said. "What happens with our youngest people in Minneapolis is important to every age of person in Minneapolis."
Carolyn Smallwood, co-chairwoman of the task force and executive director of Way to Grow, an early education-focused nonprofit, said the panel does not 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 3 is that everybody cares about children birth to 3," she said. "And so the conversation starts from a place of care and attention and agreement that those are important people in our world."