City selected for national program addressing problem behavior among young children

The City of Minneapolis has been selected for a national initiative designed to help cities reduce behavioral problems among its youngest residents.

The National League of Cities has invited Minneapolis to take part in its City Leadership for an Early Learning Nation project. It will provide national experts to work with Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet to come up with a strategy to address behavioral problems among preschoolers and kindergarteners.

The strategy will involve focusing on emotional and social development and addressing children’s exposure to stressful and traumatic experiences referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), such as violence, emotional and mental abuse, neglect, mental illness and economic hardship.

One of the cabinet’s main goals will be to engage fathers and male caregivers in the earliest stages of learning for the children, according to the mayor’s office.

“The repercussions of adverse childhood experiences are greatest between the ages of zero to 3,” Hodges said in a statement. “Therefore the best way to really bring about change and ensure that children are ready and able to learn throughout their lifetime is to tackle these problems as early as we can. That is exactly what this initiative will help Cradle to K achieve.”

Mental health and behavioral issues are the number one reason children get suspended from school, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education. Nearly 30 percent of the students in kindergarten through 4th grade in Minneapolis were disciplined with-out-of-school suspensions, according to the mayor’s office.

Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet released its final report for addressing early childhood disparities in the city in May. It has three overarching goals for children ages zero to 3: 1) Access to early experiences that will prepare them for successful early education and literacy; 2) safe and stable housing; and 3) continuous access to high quality child development centered care.

Hodges met with Achieve Minneapolis, the strategic nonprofit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools, in mid-June to give them an overview of the plan, said Alexandra Fetisoff, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

In coming weeks, she’ll be sending the Cradle to K plan to key business and philanthropic leaders.