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Early Childhood Initiative

The Initiative Foundation believes that nurturing young children is the responsibility of parents and communities.

The Initiative Foundation advances this belief by providing support for community-based coalitions to develop a vision and a strategic plan that focuses on quality early childcare and education. 

The Initiative Foundation in partnership with the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative strives to ...

  • Educate citizens about the first five years of rapid brain development that forms lifetime personalities, social skills and learning capacity.
  • Promote parents and families as the primary and most important caregivers of young children and fosters the concept that nurturing and educating children should be embraced by entire communities.Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative
  • Help community coalitions create a shared vision and plan of action around the care and education of young children and their families.
  • Provide training, financial and technical assistance and resource/referral services to implement quality community-based opportunities for young children.
  • Connect with other early childhood-focused communities statewide.
  • Promote and advance local, state and national public policy to support quality care and education for our youngest citizens.
  • Create and promote "one voice" around the issue of early care and to speak for those who cannot.

There are now 80 early childhood coalitions across Greater Minnesota. The Initiative Foundation  supports 16 early childhood coalitions in Central Minnesota. Visit the grants page to learn how the Initiative Foundation could help you in your efforts to support healthy children, healthy families. 

Promoting healthy social, emotional development

Statewide surveys reveal that an alarming number of Greater Minnesota children struggle with mental health issues and a striking lack of access to professional help.

These surveys paired with national studies prompted the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations to launch the Minnesota Thrive Initiative in 2007. The Minnesota Thrive Initiative goal is to build powerful community action teams that work to increase awareness, early intervention and prevention efforts among families, childcare providers and healthcare professionals.

In Central Minnesota, the Greater St. Cloud Area Thrive group is working to ensure that all families have access to the information and resources they need. For more information about the St. Cloud Area Thrive Coalition, contact Jane Ellison at (320) 258-1103.

Early Childhood Dental Network

The Initiative Foundation believes that, working together, we can make a difference in the lives of young children.

The Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN) is a 14-county collaborative project and an outgrowth of the Early Childhood Initiative in Central Minnesota. Its purpose is to increase awareness and education about the importance of oral health and to increase access to dental care, specifically to the 0- to 5-year-old population who are uninsured or served by the Minnesota Health Care Programs.

Strength in numbers

The greatest strength of the Early Childhood Dental Network lies in our partnerships with communities, organizations and individuals who care deeply about childhood oral health. Through these collaborations, the ECDN will ...

  • Bridge gaps in services
  • Work on the strengths of each partner agency
  • Build the capacity of current providers
  • Make a difference in the oral health of our communities

ECDN goals

The ECDN’s main focus is to make a difference in the lives of young children in Central Minnesota by ...

  • Providing education to make oral health in young children a priority.
  • Raising general awareness regarding the need for early childhood dental hygiene. 
  • Reducing barriers to dental care for young children and all cultures close to home.
  • Establishing a network/coalition where collaborators can exchange ideas and best practices while sharing resources.
  • Supporting childhood dental initiatives with modest grants and helping connect families to resources.

There are two primary goals of the Early Childhood Dental Network: to increase access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care with a focus on children aged 0-5, and to educate children, parents and families about the importance of good, early oral health care and the bearing it has on a child's overall health and wellbeing

What’s the issue?

Childhood tooth decay is the most chronic, and yet preventable infectious disease in children:

• Dental problems are five times more prevalent than asthma and seven times more than hay fever.
• 50 percent of tooth decay in low income children goes untreated.

They’re just 'baby teeth'

Baby teeth lay a foundation for permanent teeth. If not taken care of, problems in baby teeth can lead to a lifetime of health problems:

  • Acute pain and tooth loss can lead to dysfunctional speech patterns, space loss, crowding and diminished facial appearance.
  • Living with untreated pain due to tooth decay can be associated with poor school performance and disruptive behavior, affecting both the child’s ability to learn and others.

How can we prevent this?

  • Daily brushing and flossing
  • Proper nutrition
  • Regular check-ups
  • Fluoride

The Initiative Foundation and the Early Childhood Dental Network will focus on up to four pilot areas where poverty, transportation, culture or language have created barriers to access. Healthy children with beautiful smiles are ready to learn, have decreased behavior problems and happily share their smiles with others!

For more information, contact Terri Konczak, Early Childhood Dental Network Specialist, or Tammy Filippi, Early Childhood Associate.


Title Date Added Description Size Type
Preschool Tooth Tips
Mar 26th, 2014 2:28 pm Tips for preschool oral care 549KB PDF
Pregnancy/Infancy Tooth Tips
Mar 26th, 2014 2:27 pm Oral care tips for pregnant women and infants 520KB PDF



Tammy Filippi
Early Childhood Associate  |  (320) 632-9255


Terri Konczak
Early Childhood Dental Network Specialist  |  (320) 632-9255