Two complementary sets of goals announced this week to improve the lives of young people deserve the attention and support of Twin Citians. Both programs are designed to address wide disparities that continue to plague low-income kids, especially those in communities of color.
The Cradle to K plan unveiled by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges recommends improvements to a range of services for children from birth to age 3, including affordable and stable housing, mental and physical health care, access to quality child care, and counseling for young parents.
After a year of research and public meetings, the Cradle to K Cabinet of community leaders and experts suggests programs that should be expanded or supported, including some current city efforts. But the plan does not offer cost estimates or identify sources of additional funding. That will come later, the mayor and her panel say.
Hodges said some parents expressed the concern that recommendations would make little difference if the city failed to address broader problems in the city, such as income and employment disparities.
Those issues are addressed more specifically by the second set of goals announced this week by Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. The mayors outlined their plan to participate in My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), a White House initiative that seeks to help young boys and men of color be more successful in school and work.
The two cities formally signed on for the program’s “community challenge” last fall and have spent several months designing the specifics of their plan. Minneapolis and St. Paul are among 145 communities that have signed up to participate in MBK.
The local MBK working group developed six general goals, the first of which encompasses what Cradle to K aims to do — make sure that babies and toddlers get a healthy start. The other goals are reading well by third grade, graduating from high school, and completing postsecondary education or training and eventually finding a job. The plan also stresses keeping boys and young men safe and offering them second chances.
It’s encouraging that the Cradle to K plan emphasizes the importance of fathers and strong families in early-childhood development, although both plans would benefit from a greater focus on parental responsibilities along with community support.
Since MBK’s inception in early 2014, foundations and corporations have invested more than $350 million in research and proven programs. And earlier this month, President Obama said that the work of MBK would continue after his presidency as the nonprofit My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
Both Hodges and Coleman made equity part of their campaign platforms, pledging to work on narrowing disparities. The challenge ahead is to build broad community support and enlist the backing of the many public-private partnerships needed to turn the their lofty goals into effective action.