New State Division Focuses On Supporting Early Childhood

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Department of Human Services has launched a new division that focuses on early childhood.

The Early Childhood Division will align programs and resources dealing with early childhood experience and child care, officials said.

“Ninety-five percent of brain development occurs before age 5, so supporting quality early experiences is extremely important,” Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones said.

Jones said the new division will help ensure that more North Dakota children enter kindergarten ready to learn, and that more early child care providers participate in a quality rating improvement system, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The state has awarded grants totaling $2.7 million to 26 early childhood programs across North Dakota which will serve children in 32 classrooms. Human Services this fall will offer grant funding aimed at boosting the quality of child care.

North Dakota also received more than $100 million in federal coronavirus pandemic aid that is specifically for early childhood and the child care sector.

Kay Larson will lead the division, which includes child care licensing, provider training and technical assistance and family support and engagement among other areas.