Baby feet.

In typical times, new parents talk to their pediatricians at well-child visits about developmental milestones. Or they might come across literature about spotting signs of autism, for example, at a community event.

But with some families putting off medical visits for their young children due to the novel coronavirus, and with most in-person events cancelled, families could be missing important signs that their children could benefit from early intervention.

A partnership between Help Me Grow MN and the Minnesota Act Early Project to promote awareness in diverse cultural communities about the need for early evaluation and intervention helped connect more than 2,400 Minnesota families to resources in 2020, according to the Help Me Grow grant report , published in September. Jennifer Hall-Lande (MN LEND Fellow, 2009-10, and ICI's current MN LEND liaison) is the Minnesota Ambassador for the Act Early project.

After distributing interactive story books and other developmental materials at several in-person events in the Hmong, Somali, and Latinx communities around the Twin Cities in 2019 and early 2020, project leaders pivoted to new outreach methods, social media, and online webinars, said Hall-Lande.

“This year taught us that we have to do something different to reach families,” she said. Several of ICI’s MN LEND  fellows, for example, were trained on the awareness initiatives and brought them back to the childcare centers, clinics, and other places where they live and work.

The Help Me Grow/Act Early programs also partnered with Ramsey County’s Early Childhood Initiative and Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) to create an educational webinar series for parents and professionals from several diverse communities. It covered tips on getting children outside for play every day, dealing with challenging behaviors during times of stress, the importance of well-child visits, and other parenting topics.

As the partnership moves forward through 2021, Hall-Lande said, maintaining these relationships will be critical in getting young children and their families the supports needed to thrive.

“The common thread is the strength of families and communities,” she said. “During the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to have parents carrying the early intervention message in their own communities.”