The Birth to Age Eight Collaborative Initiative assures children reach key developmental milestones from birth to age eight by bringing together schools, nonprofits and Dakota County Community Services. Download and share a one-page handout.
The initiative is endorsed by the Dakota County Board of Commissioners.
Who is involved?
A Sponsor Group provides overall leadership for the project. Members consist of school superintendents, nonprofit CEOs, and senior managers from Dakota County Community Services, Public Health and Social Services.
Project Steering Committee
The committee consists of members from each of the organizations in the Sponsor Group, along with other well-positioned program managers. This committee guides project operations.
Four school districts in Dakota County are involved with the Initiative: South St. Paul (6), Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (191), West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan (197), and Inver Grove Heights (199).
Identifying at-risk children and families and connecting them to resources
The initiative aims to identify more at-risk children and families early with the vision that 100 percent of identified children meet the state proficiency reading target by the spring of third grade.
The initiative also works to connect entire families to the necessary supports to succeed.
Research shows that third grade reading proficiency is strongly linked to the likelihood of graduation, economic success and socioeconomic mobility and stability. It emphasizes the importance of improving academic readiness and outcomes early in life, which leads to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Read more about the initiative in 2017 NACo national report
A new Futures Lab report, Counties Care: County Service Sharing for Early Childhood Development, by the National Association of Counties (NACo) Counties, shows how counties provide high-quality services to children and families by sharing service provision with partners. Read the full report or jump to Dakota County’s section online.
Ensure that all eligible children receive preschool screening
To improve the rate of 3-year-olds being screened, the initiative is tracking data across the four school districts, sharing best practices, developing common branding and communications, and promoting screening within Public Health using key messages.
Implement a collaborative referral process and consent form
An innovative referral process between the County’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and local school districts was implemented and has been successful. A consent form allows WIC to share family contact information with school staff, who then connect with parents to provide resources and services as needed.
In 2016, WIC staff made a total of 364 referrals to the four participating school districts. Of these families, 75 percent would not have been contacted by the school without the referral.
Identify and track risk indicators for strategic intervention
Key developmental milestones have been identified which will create a risk score for children, indicating a level of need. Upon receiving the indicator results, our collective service delivery system can then respond with the right resources to meet the child and family’s needs.
An award-winning initiative
Dakota County has received the following awards for this initiative:
2018 Model Practices designation from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO): This means the initiative demonstrates exemplary and replicable qualities in response to a local public health need and reflects a strong local health department role, collaboration, innovation, and has demonstrated its value through evaluation.
2017 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo): The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that enhance services for residents.
2016 Local Government Innovation Award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs: The awards recognize the creative ways counties, cities, townships and schools are making Minnesota better and doing things differently.