What is Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE)?

Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) is a program available to all children ages 0-5 together with their parents. Its goals are to strengthen families and to help children develop to their full potential. A variety of classes and activities are offered during the daytime and evenings. Special activities include drop in playgroups, field trips, speaker nights for parents, and home visits.

What happens in Early Childhood Family Education classroom?

A weekly session for parents and children together.

-Parent/child time- Begin with thirty minutes of activities for you and your child. Centers are designed to provide children with guided learning experiences and to provide parents with ideas for home activities.

-Children's classroom- While parents are in a nearby room for discussion, the children have a chance to interact with others their age and to experience a variety of activities, which promote overall growth. This class is taught by a licensed Early Childhood teacher.

-Parent discussion- While your child is in the classroom, you will have the opportunity to meet with other parents to discuss joys and concerns in an informal setting, with a licensed Parent Educator. Parent topics are determined by you and the other group members at the beginning of each quarter.

Who participates in Early Childhood Family Education?

Parents and children participate together. Participation by families is voluntary and services are offered on a sliding fee. Early Childhood Family Education is committed to universal access for all families.

Recognizing that families have different needs, the Family Center offers sessions for families with specific concerns. It is the goal of Early Childhood Family Education to serve a representative cross-section of families with young children in each community.

What about care for my other children?

ECFE provides safe, supervised, activity enriching sibling care up to kindergarten during daytime classes while you spend time with your child in class. Sibling care fees are based on a sliding fee scale.

Why start at birth?

Brain research confirms that the first three years are an extremely critical period in a child's development, especially in the areas of language, social skills, and the roots of intelligence. An infant's daily interactions with caregivers actually determine the structures of neural pathways in the brain. Informed parents who have friends and positive connections in their communities are better equipped for the challenges of caring for infants and toddlers. These early years are also a time when most parents are receptive to information and support.

Why involve parents?

Research shows that early childhood programs involving both parents and children are more effective than programs focusing exclusively on children. Educators and psychologists contend that it is vital for early childhood programs to assist parents in their role as primary educators of their children.

Involving families prior to kindergarten enrollment encourages parents to play an active role in their children's learning from birth into the elementary years and beyond. And research confirms that children whose parents are involved in their education and learning are more successful in school.

How is ECFE funded & what does it cost?

Early Childhood Family Education was developed through a series of pilot programs funded by the Minnesota Legislature and coordinated by the Minnesota Council on Quality Education from 1974 to 1983. In 1984, the legislature made it possible for any school district with a Community Education program to establish an Early Childhood Family Education program. The programs are financed with combined local and state funding, which may be supplemented with registration fees and funds from other sources.

The basic program includes parent education, early childhood education, and parent-child interaction and families typically participate weekly throughout the school year. Costs to deliver the program vary with extent, intensity, and location of services. At any average cost to the program of 0 per participant, ECFE costs less than many programs focusing primarily on children. Parents pay only nominal fees that are reduced or waived upon request.

What do I do if I am concerned with my child's development?

While all young children grow and change at their own rate, some children experience delays in their development. If you have concerns about your child's talking, playing, behavior, ability to learn new things or interaction with other people call (651) 982-8300 for help.

What do parents say about Early Childhood Family Education?

"ECFE provides the support system many parents need at a crucial time in their life. Raising children has never been easy, but today our society makes extra demands on all of us. If we are aware of our children's needs and our own feelings, life can be a lot more enjoyable."

"I learned the difference between discipline and punishment- discipline is teaching and punishment is being mean to them. I learned different styles of parenting. Being a dad that your child is going to like a lot, but still be firm."

"Raising children is a wonderful, awesome, and sometimes overwhelming experience. It is a shame that a job so important is generally without adequate preparation. ECFE provides some of that preparation, knowledge, and support that is so vital to being a good parent. It is not a frill. It's a necessity."