Power of Partnerships to Enhance Impact: MN LEND and MN Act Early

May 24, 2022

Partnerships have the power to transform our work. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have a robust partnership between our MN LEND and MN Act Early projects. MN LEND and MN Act Early share a common mission to connect young children (birth to 5) to early developmental screening and critical early intervention services. These two programs have developed a strong and lasting partnership by identifying and supporting shared goals and seeking opportunities to advance a strategic vision for the field of early intervention.


 LEND Community Connectors


The Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental (MNLEND) Program's (https://lend.umn.edu/) mission is to develop the next generation of knowledgeable, interdisciplinary leaders in the neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) field. A primary goal of the MNLEND program is to train culturally competent, family-centered interdisciplinary leaders who will improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with or at risk for developmental disabilities. The aims of the MNLEND program are: (1) Advance the knowledge and skills of  LEND trainees in pediatric health, allied health, social service, and education to improve health care delivery systems for children, youth and young adults with developmental disabilities through provision of high-quality interdisciplinary education in clinical and community settings; (2) Provide trainees with the skills needed to foster community partnerships and leadership; (3) Promote innovative practice models that enhance trainees’ cultural competence and leadership skills. Related to this goal is supporting our young children and their families through promotion of developmental screening and early intervention. During the LEND year, each fellow, along with their mentor, designs and completes a project to address a critical community-based need related to the NDD field.


Minnesota Act Early Project (https://addm.umn.edu/ltsae)  is a public health outreach campaign which aims to educate families, communities, and organizations on healthy child development, the importance of early developmental screening, and early identification of potential developmental delays, including autism.  MN Act Early is part of the CDC’s national “Learn the Signs. Act Early” (LTSAE) Project, which works to promote early identification so children and families can get intervention and support services they need. The LTSAE project provides a wealth of free resources and materials to support developmental monitoring (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html).


Shared Goals, Shared Vision: MN Act Early LEND team


MNLEND and the MN Act Early projects share common goals and a collaborative vision to support young children and families to access early intervention services. They work in concert to promote understanding of healthy development and of the early signs of developmental delays in children. MN Act Early LEND fellows also inform communities about current rates of autism in Minnesota and promote access to early intervention. Both projects recognize persistent inequities in access to early developmental screening and early intervention, particularly in traditionally underserved communities.


Thus, a primary shared focus of the two projects is to share and promote LTSAE resources  for early developmental monitoring and screening in culturally and linguistically diverse and underserved communities. MN Act Early also uses autism prevalence data from the MNADDM (Autism Developmental Disability Monitoring) project to guide outreach work (https://addm.umn.edu/), including work to lower the age of identification of autism and reaching communities with delays in identification of autism and other developmental disabilities.  


Community engagement is an essential ingredient to this partnership. Both the MNLEND and MN Act Early projects recognize that communities have the knowledge to best understand and  address needs in their own communities. The importance of community leadership and parent/family empowerment are key components of both projects.  Further, to improve child well-being and developmental health outcomes, both projects work to engage families and the broader community in meaningful and innovative ways. LEND fellows serve as community connectors and leaders, linking families with early childhood systems and LTSAE developmental resources and materials. Our MN Act Early LEND team aims to build community relationships in new and diverse communities, share valuable developmental resources, and provide communities a shared voice in the early intervention and referral system.




In this MN Act Early/LEND Team collaboration, MNLEND fellows devote their project time and the MN Act Early Project provides training, resources, and free LTSAE developmental materials for families. Each LEND fellow, along with mentor Dr. Jennifer Hall-Lande (MN Act Early Ambassador), work together to identify a community informed need in early /intervention and develop a community-based project reaching out to families in the community or within early childhood systems. MNLEND community connectors serve as family educators on healthy child development, developmental milestones, and acting early with on developmental concerns. Training and mentoring of LEND fellows as well as free LTSAE developmental materials are provided by the MN Act Early Project, including:


  • Community outreach strategies
  • Understanding of developmental milestones
  • Promotion of early developmental screening
  • Awareness of Early Referral System
  • Use of LTSAE materials and resources


Each year, between 3-6 MNLEND community fellows complete MN Act Early projects. To date, over 35 LEND fellows have completed community-based MN Act Early/LEND projects totaling more than 2,500 hours of devoted LTSAE outreach in communities. LEND fellows have reached thousands of families directly in communities with LTSAE materials and messages. Once the fellowship year concludes, fellows sustain the work through the integration LTSAE materials and messages into their ongoing work in the community. Examples of MN Act Early LEND projects include the integration of LTSAE materials into large, community-based healthcare clinics, a large metro library system, rural community outreach, outreach in local culturally and linguistically diverse communities (e.g., Hmong, Somali, Latino/a, Oromo, African American), family- based organizations, WIC clinics, child protection services, county early childhood programs, county community health worker curriculum,  LTSAE social media outreach, and LTSAE You Tube videos in multiple languages.


Moving Forward


Complex problems require innovative solutions, collaborative partnerships, and shared use of resources. The MNLEND and MN Act Early partnership recognizes the transformative power of partnerships to address needs within our communities and improve access to early developmental screening and early intervention for young children. By leveraging the combined strengths and resources of both the MNLEND and MN Act Early Project, this partnership has achieved results that could not have been accomplished independently and outcomes have been enhanced for children in MN.  As we move forward in our field of early intervention, future advances in the field will depend on continuing to leverage today's most innovative collaborative work and partnering together for the best outcomes for young children and families.

 Woman smiling with pamphlet

Woman smiling with children's' books

 Man smiling next to poster reading

 For more information, contact:

email: [email protected]