The Starting Line

The Starting Line 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

“From the moment of conception to the initial, tentative step into a kindergarten classroom, early childhood development takes place at a rate that exceeds any other stage of life” (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine). It’s no secret that women who receive prenatal care in their first trimester of pregnancy (up to 12 weeks) tend to have healthier babies. But with just 78% receiving adequate* care across the state and Hennepin county, that leaves over one in five expectant mothers un- or under-served (Minnesota Department of Health).

So who are the mothers who fall in this category? Statistically, young, low-income mothers within certain racial and ethnic groups and with fewer years of formal education are far less likely to receive prenatal care. Taking one case study for example, in 1988, Minnesota had the fifth worst record for early prenatal care in the country. Delving deeper, researchers found that only 16% of Hmong women sought prenatal care in the first trimester and nearly a third delayed care until the final three months of pregnancy (Minnesota Medicine).

Though today, the rate of Hmong women accessing prenatal care has improved, we continue to see African American, Native American, and Latino populations remain in need of greater prenatal attention. Both Latino and Native American populations in Minnesota, for instance, have a teen birthrate that is more than three times higher than that of white teens.

It is no secret that under-serving these families now lead to even greater disparities down the road. Healthy pregnancies and full-term births are the first step in ensuring infants and toddlers are reaching developmental milestones from the moment they are born. Recognizing that prenatal care is critical to preparing children for a successful future, Way to Grow incorporates prenatal education into our holistic home visiting model. Last year, we served 157 expectant parents in Minneapolis by monitoring and encouraging attending prenatal appointments, providing nutritional education, and offering support groups for both teen and new parents.  Through these methods, we are able to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and ensure each infant’s health and development is on track.

Prenatal Education“Way to Grow recognizes that the earlier support is provided to families, the more successful the intervention,” Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Health Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health says. “Way to Grow was built on proven interventions that have promoted and maintained health, making them a wonderful resource for families and communities in creating opportunities and promoting healthy children in Minneapolis.”


*Defined as receiving nine or more prenatal visits during pregnancy and being seen in the first trimester.

Breaking ground on the new PALS classroom

Breaking ground on the new PALS classroom Way to Grow

We broke ground on our new P.A.L.S. classroom at Urban Ventures in the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center with sponsors, families, friends, staff and – of course – cake on Wednesday, April 9. The Redleaf Family Foundation is funding this new partnership, so Rhoda cut the ribbon with a shiny pair of yellow children’s scissors before everyone toured the beautiful classroom.

Here’s lead classroom teacher Meredith Skalko reporting on how the program is going so far:

“(The south side) P.A.L.S. is off and running! We have started Family Fridays programming while we patiently await our license application to be approved by the City of Minneapolis. We have had a really great response so far – 16 participants at our first Friday class, 23 at our second, and 26 at our third. It is really exciting to see the parent-child piece of the program underway. Parents and children are playing together, talking together, and learning together, which is really what Way to Grow is all about. I am looking forward to discovering the best ways to tie the preschool and parent-child components of the program together and to see how involving parents in their children’s learning first-hand can help foster school readiness and success.”

Assistant teacher Craig Allen thought the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was enjoyable, but added that “the real magic happened two days later” at the third parent/child class. He is impressed and pleased that the kids have already grasped sharing, self-control, quiet voices and playing nicely with their new friends – all important skills for school success.

The next exciting endeavor for the preschoolers and their families – 59 of them, in fact – is a field trip to the Minnesota Children’s Theatre on April 25 to see “Balloonacy.” We can’t wait to hear how that goes. For now, click here for a full Facebook gallery of photos from the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

With a Little Help from our Friends

With a Little Help from our Friends 150 150 Way to Grow

On Friday afternoon, a group of volunteers helped install our new Preschool PALS location on the campus of Urban Ventures in South Minneapolis. It was tough for everyone not to get distracted by all the fun books and games, but we managed to assemble, sort, and install most everything we’ll need. Thanks especially to the young gents from the Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity at the University of Minnesota.

This preschool, titled P.A.L.S. (Parent-Child Activities Lead to School Readiness), will have a particular focus on getting parents involved in their child’s preschool education. The room next to the preschool will be home a lending library for books and other resource geared toward parents.

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