Laura Bowman, president of the local United Way, talked about the effort of several groups to help prepare kids for kindergarten. She said the First Step collaboration is different than how various groups approached the problem through different programs in the past.
“We recognized that our system was somewhat broken,” she said. “We were waiting until kids or families were in some trouble before we helped.”
Now, physicians and clinic staff assess needs of women who have just become pregnant and try to get them the prenatal counseling and help they need.
Other organizations such as Head Start and county home visit programs are also involved in a more unified approach to helping families and kids be prepared for kindergarten. (In 2006, just half of kids were prepared for kindergarten; the figure already has risen to 67 percent.)
She said all the groups involved have the same training so that they are all giving compatible help to families. “We have shared, measurable goals to hold all the groups accountable.”
Workplace Wellness Awards were given to the eight groups and businesses that have been involved in expanded wellness programs: Blue Earth County, city of Mankato, Mankato Clinic, Mankato Area Public Schools, MRCI WorkSource, Peoples State Bank of Madison Lake, Schwickert Co. and the Dotson Company.