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Early Childhood Initiative

Early Childhood Economic Development

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.

To date, the initiative has developed 90 early childhood coalitions in 300 communities across Greater Minnesota. The Initiative Foundation supports 20 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 Coalition is working to ensure that all families have access to the information and resources they need. For more information, visit the Thrive website.

Visit Other Initiatives to learn about the Foundation's supporting role in Central Minnesota's Inside-Out Connections project to address the needs of children with incarcerated parents.

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 project specific to Mille Lacs County 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 those who care deeply about childhood oral health. Through collaboration, 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 Mille Lacs County 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 Mille Lacs County 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!

This project was supported in part by the following generous funders: Otto Bremer Trust, Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, CentraCare Foundation, and Minnesota Dental Foundation. 

For more information, contact Linda Holliday 

For more information on West Central Initiative's Early Childhood Dental Network click here.



Initiative Foundation Early Childhood Dental Network Fact Sheet

Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative Fact Sheet

Moving to Mixed Delivery, Voluntary Preschool for Four-Year-Olds: An Approach
For Minnesota

Inside Out Connections Guide: How to Explain Jails and Prisons to Children

Preschool Tooth TipsTips for preschool oral care

Pregnancy/Infancy Tooth Tips: oral care tips for pregnant women and infants

Baby Teeth: Bring your child to the dentist by age 1! Dentists have special tools to remove germs before it decays the teeth. It is their job to keep mouths happy and healthy. 
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Three good reasons to see the dentist by age 1 
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Expanded learning activities for “Throw Your Tooth on the Roof” book: Literacy, music and hands on activities to enhance the child’s learning experience while reading, "Throw your tooth on the roof book," by Selby Beeler.  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Expanded learning activities for "The Tooth Book": Literacy, music and hands on activities to enhance the child’s learning experience while reading "The Tooth Book" by Doctor Seuss. Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Fun activities for the "Open Wide" bookGuidelines and fun activities and ideas to aid your child in learning the concepts shared in this book.  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Fun activities for the "Brush Your Teeth Please" book: Fun learning activities to aid your child in learning the concepts shared in this book.  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Back to School- for school age childrenChildren with healthy mouths are ready to learn! 
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Back to School- for preschoolers: Children with healthy mouths are ready to learn!
Somali Spanish  Hmong

Back to School- for infants and toddlers: Healthy mouths in young children is vital to their overall healthy development!  
Somali  Spanish  Hmong

Helpful Links

Child Care Aware
Dental Health Theme Free Preschool Curriculum
Video: Healthy Teeth for Children- English 
Video: Healthy Teeth for Children- Spanish 
Video: Healthy Teeth for Children- Somali
Minnesota Oral Health Coalition
America’s Tooth Fairy
Oral Health America
Sip all Day, Get Decay
Children’s Dental Health Project
Colgate: Infants and Children’s Resources

From Minnesota Compass ...

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May 4th
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April 28th
Presents state and national data on children's health. Indicators include: overall health status, asthma, socio-emotional difficulties, preventive health and dental care, early childhood experience, repetition of grade, reading, and attending religious se…
October 19th
Analyzes child care need and capacity by Minnesota region and discusses the implications of a child care shortage.


Tammy Filippi

Tammy Filippi
Early Childhood
Program Manager
(320) 632-9255