A partnership between Help Me Grow MN and the Minnesota Act Early Project promotes awareness in diverse cultural communities about the need for early evaluation and intervention. This partnership helped connect more than 2,400 Minnesota families to resources in 2020, according to the Help Me Grow grant report, published in September 2020.
Pictured above, Ashwak Hassan, Parent Connector and former LEND fellow, distributes interactive story books and other developmental materials in Spring 2019. This was one of many in-person events in the Hmong, Somali, and Latinx communities around the Twin Cities in 2019 and early 2020. With the onset of the pandemic and social distancing guidelines however, project leaders pivoted to new outreach methods, social media, and online webinars, said Jennifer Hall-Lande (MN LEND Fellow, 2009-10, ICI's current MN LEND liaison, and the Minnesota Ambassador for the Act Early project).
"This year taught us that we have to do something different to reach families," she said. Several of ICI's MN LEND fellows, for example, were trained on the awareness initiatives and brought them back to the childcare centers, clinics, and other places where they live and work.
The Help Me Grow/Act Early programs also partnered with Ramsey County's Early Childhood Initiative and Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) to create an educational webinar series for parents and professionals from several underserved communities. It covered tips on getting children outside for play every day, dealing with challenging behaviors during times of stress, the importance of well-child visits, and other parenting topics.
As the partnership moves forward through 2021, Hall-Lande said, maintaining these relationships will be critical in getting young children and their families the supports needed to thrive. These relationships are key to effective outreach, especially to non-white communities. It takes time and ongoing connection with families and communities to build trust and meaningful partnership in collaborations.
Theses relationship are bi-directional. The MN LEND team and partners provide training on early developmental monitoring and resources such as the Learn the Signs, Act Early materials, and resources so that the Parent Connectors have the tools and resources to conduct community outreach around the importance of early identification/intervention. Parent Connectors in turn connect with the community and receive feedback about how they can better collaborate and provide support to families with young children.
"The common thread is the strength of families and communities," she said. "During the pandemic, it's more important than ever to have parents carrying the early intervention message in their own communities."