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Blandin Foundation doubles its commitment to early childhood

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“The program has made a huge difference in my kids’ learning and socializing skills. I can’t imagine my them going anywhere else. The teachers know my kids. They know me. It’s like I’m leaving my children with friends, not providers.” – Melanie Trunt, mother of three Invest Early children

Blandin Foundation trustees made history last week when they voted to double-down on early childhood programming for at-risk children and their families. Making its largest grant commitment ever, Blandin Foundation has extended support for the Invest Early initiative by 10 years and $21 million.

Invest Early is a rural early childhood collaborative that serves at-risk children ages 0-5 and their families in specialized classrooms throughout Itasca County.  In addition to early childhood education, Invest Early services also include parent education and health services.  Invest Early wraps entire families in support, providing transportation, family development, extended day services and mental health support.

“Real possibilities for Minnesota’s workforce live in the ability and willingness for leaders at every level to bring together systems, to braid support, to collaborate so that every child has the best shot at success—just like Invest Early,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, Blandin Foundation president and CEO.

“As they considered what our commitment might be beyond the initial 10 years, our trustees agreed that Invest Early is one of the best investments we have ever made.  They could see a direct link between what Invest Early is able to accomplish and the economic vitality of this region.   We all are very proud to stand with the long-term, high-impact work being propelled by Invest Early and Minnesota’s broader ‘Start Early’ initiatives.”

After close to nine years of operation, Invest Early has quantifiable evidence that children are entering Kindergarten ready to learn, that low-income participating families are better supported and educated, and that lasting systems change has taken place with regard to how families are served by local providers and Head Start.  The Invest Early experience has been a prominent reference point for policy debates on early childhood at both the state and federal level.

“The accomplishments of Invest Early could only have been attained by combining the resources of the Foundation with the ideas, passion and commitment of multiple community partners,” said Blandin Foundation Trustee and Chairman Dr. Michael Johnson.  “From Head Start to local school districts to mental health providers—Invest Early focuses us all on the possibilities in our youngest learners, and strengthens communities.  There is growing evidence that early childhood education reduces placement of children in special education, increases high school graduation rates, reduces crime and delinquency, lowers rates of teen pregnancy, leads to more stable families and greater employment and higher wages as adults.  With another 10 years of Invest Early, we will have the opportunity to witness its impact on rural resilience, vibrancy and health.”

For more on how the Itasca community came together to create Invest Early and stories of impact, visit our website.


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