Early Childhood Development

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota works to ensure that every child has a Head Start and a Strong Start in life by ensuring access to quality early childhood and development opportunities. Children’s brains are developing rapidly in their first 5 years as they build a foundation for all future outcomes in school and in life. Research shows that investments in quality early childhood programs generate an average annual return of 7-10 percent on every dollar invested.

Despite what we know about the importance of high quality early childhood opportunities, far too many children in the United States lack access to quality care, especially poor children and other vulnerable children who stand to benefit the most. Access to high-quality early childhood opportunities is all too often determined by parental income and geography; and programs designed to support quality early childhood and development opportunities are too underfunded to serve all eligible children.

CDF-MN is working to change this situation by supporting policies that guarantee that all children have access to a high-quality continuum of early childhood programs that can comprehensively address their needs and the needs of their families. By working to ensure access to home visiting, Part C Early Intervention, preschool, and safe, consistent, quality child care during early childhood and beyond, CDF-MN is helping to ensure that all children have a strong start to life.

Home Visiting

Supporting access to voluntary professional services and support for mothers and families with young children

Early childhood home visiting programs provide voluntary, in-home services to expectant mothers and families with infants and young children. Trained home visitors, who may be nurses, social workers, early childhood education specialists, or other trained paraprofessionals, meet with families in their homes to advise them on their children’s health and development and connect them to community services and supports. Evidence-based home visitation services produce measurable outcomes for children and families, such as improved health, school readiness, academic achievement, parental involvement and economic self-sufficiency, and reduced child maltreatment, injuries, and juvenile delinquency. The 2015 state legislature included an additional $2.65 million (FY 16-17) and $4 million (FY 18-19) to increase access to evidence-based home visiting services.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota supports expanding investments in quality home visiting to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families. For more information on Home Visiting, please visit the Minnesota Department of Health Family Home Visiting website.

Part C Early Intervention

Supporting access to critical early intervention services for eligible children and expanding automatic eligibility to include young homeless children

Part C Early Intervention, which is coordinated and delivered through a child’s school district, is an effective program for infants and toddlers who have a developmental delay or a physical or mental condition that is likely to result in delay. Part C can include physical therapy, speech therapy, and family counseling. A 2009 MINN LInK study found that one-third of children who received Part C did not need special education by 2nd or 3rd grade.

Part C could be especially beneficial for young children who are homeless. Young homeless children experience delays at four times the rate of other children. Yet in 2014, the Minnesota Department of Education reported that only 8 homeless infants and toddlers were referred to Part C out of an estimated 840 infants and toddlers who are homeless on any given night (Wilder Research, 2012). One way to ensure young homeless children receive the services they need is to make them automatically eligible for Part C. Unfortunately, the state legislature failed to pass this legislation in 2013 and 2015.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota believes strongly in Part C Early Intervention and wants to ensure that children and their families, including those experiencing homelessness, can connect with critical early intervention services.

For more information, please visit the Minnesota Department of Education Early Learning website.


Promoting access to high-quality preschool opportunities for low-income 3-and 4-year-olds and others with special needs.

High-quality preschool programs for 3-and 4-year-olds improve school readiness and facilitate a range of positive outcomes in school and in life. These programs are especially beneficial for low-income children and other vulnerable children, including those who are homeless, in foster care, don’t speak English as their primary language or have disabilities. Unfortunately children’s access to preschool is often determined by their parents’ incomes and the lottery of geography, and quality varies widely. The 2015 legislature increased funding for school readiness and early learning scholarships, but additional investment is needed to reach all children. More than half (54%) of all children in Minnesota didn’t attend preschool according to American Community Survey 3-year estimates for 2011-13.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota is committed to working to ensure that all children, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, have access to a mixed-delivery system of quality preschool programs that prepare them for school and for life.

For more information, please visit the Minnesota Department of Education Early Learning website.

Data and Resources

Publications relevant to early childhood development and child care.


Child Care: A Two Generational Approach to Family Economic Security

Consistent, dependable relationships are the foundation for children to form secure attachment to the caregivers in their family. These stable and predictable relationships are also essential to children in child care settings.

April 23, 2015

2012 Early Report_CEED

2012 Early Report_CEED

January 1, 2012

Maternal Depression and Early Childhood

Maternal Depression and Early Childhood

January 1, 2011



January 1, 2010


Family Support Snapshot #1

October 15, 2006


Missed Opportunities in Child Care

June 15, 2006


A strong, productive society starts by ensuring our youngest children are in stimulating, nurturing environments where they can thrive and prepare for success in school and life. Quality early care and education can provide those settings to children of working parents, but too many of Minnesota’s working families cannot access affordable, quality care.

June 1, 2006


The Road Not Traveled: Universal Health Care Coverage

April 1, 2006


Early intervention and prevention programs have proven to be the least expensive and often most effective part of Minnesota’s child welfare system. They do what they are designed to do—prevent abuse and neglect of children. Yet as this report reveals, these were the programs that were first to be cut or eliminated as a result of Minnesota’s state leaders’ actions in 2003.

July 15, 2004