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Northland Foundation KIDS PLUS

Northland Foundation

Thrive logo

The goal of the Northland Foundation Thrive Initiative is to increase the capacity of community-based organizations that serve young children and their families and create a strong infant and early childhood mental health continuum of care from prevention to intervention in the communities of Duluth, Proctor, and Hermantown as well as the surrounding rural region. Key strategies to accomplish this goal are as follows.

  1. Provide a forum to encourage information sharing and exchange of ideas to support the healthy social and emotional development of young children;
  2. Cultivate opportunities to network and build relationships among and between the people serving young children and their families;
  3. Spur new partnerships, collaborations, and initiatives; and
  4. Offer local trainings focused on current information and research.

What is Early Childhood Mental Health?

One definition for early childhood mental health is the developing capacity of children birth to age five to experience, regulate, and express emotions; form close and secure interpersonal relationships; and explore the environment, and learn. Research has strongly linked social and emotional development to success in school and life – as important as literacy, language, and number skills in helping young children become ready for Kindergarten and beyond.

The Story of Thrive

Thrive was created by the Northland Foundation and the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations in response to Greater Minnesota communities calling for voiced a need for stronger resources in support of early childhood mental health – the social and emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families – and to help families to better access those resources. A pilot site was established in each of the six Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions, with Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown launched in January 2007 as the northeastern Minnesota site.  Over the three-year pilot phase, the Northland Foundation provided technical assistance and support to guide the Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Action Team through an organizing process to identify needs and opportunities, engage in dialogue, map local resources, create a vision, and develop a strategic action plan. 

Since then, professionals from medical and mental health, early care and education, social services, K-12 and higher education, and other sectors have joined together in an unprecedented way. 

Thrive Maintains Regional Momentum

The Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Action team has implemented numerous projects resulting in a stronger, more interconnected network of infant and early childhood mental health education, prevention, and intervention resources in the region.

Although the Minnesota Thrive Initiative demonstration project was completed in June 2010, the Northland Foundation remains commited to Thrive. With generous support frin Essentia Health, the Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Action Team has been able to continue advancing early childhood mental health throughout our rural region. The group meets monthly to learn, network, and collaborate to promote young children's social and emotional well-being.

Access the most current Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive meeting calendar.

Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive Projects and Outcomes

The following are just some of the projects successfully implemented by Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive.

  • Resource Directories of local programs and services have been developed to paint a more complete picture of what is currently available in terms of infant and early childhood mental health.
  • Local training sessions and community forums featuring top experts in the field have reached thousands of professionals and community members.
  • Early Childhood Mental Health Resource Team was launched in August 2009, to provide a forum for area service providers to consult with other professionals from multiple public and private agencies as an effective way to bridge the service gaps and to improve coordination for families with young children .
  • Reflective Practice was piloted at eight early care and education sites located in Duluth, Proctor, and Hermantown, engaging 60 staff members caring for 600 young children between birth and age five. Participating sites have reported that Reflective Practice has helped them create more nurturing environments for young children; improved their ability to manage difficult behaviors in a positive way; and increased retention of high-quality staff. This innovative project has been looked at as a model program in Minnesota.

Funding Partners

The Northland Foundation gratefully acknowledges Essentia Health and the Family Service Collaboratives of St. Louis County whose generous funding support will help continue the important work of the Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown Thrive action team in 2016-2017.

Past support of Thrive has been provided by Bush Foundation; Mardag Foundation; Medica Foundation; Miller-Dwan Foundation; The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children, a supporting organization of the Minneapolis Foundation; and The Sheltering Arms Foundation.