The Risk, Reach, and Resilience project provides county-level data on 12 economic, family stability, and health measures of potential risks to the well-being of young children. It also identifies the reach in each county of 11 publicly-funded programs serving the early learning, health, and basic needs of young children. It is intended to provide useful county-level information about the development of young children in Minnesota to counties, agencies, and other stakeholders in order to strategically work together for the benefit of children and families.
Reporting information on the experiences of young children at the county level in Minnesota is useful because our state is one of 9 states that deliver services through a "state-supervised and county-administered" system. That is, state agencies set the rules, distribute state and federal funds through competitive or formula grants, and monitor county performance. The 87 Minnesota counties are responsible for delivering social services, public health, and other services.
Counties also raise additional revenue through property taxes, sales taxes, and fees. In counties with low property values, high levels of poverty, and limited economic activity, less revenue is available for service delivery, which contributes to uneven availability of programs and services across the state. By identifying and comparing indicators of risk and reach of services to support children and families at the county level, the report highlights regions of greatest need and opportunities for collaboration and integration of services across departments and geographic areas.
The information is based on the 2018 Minnesota Early Childhood Risk, Reach, and Resilience report produced by a partnership of Wilder Research; Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Departments of Education (MDE), Health (MDH), and Human Services (DHS). It updates a 2015 version of this report, which was inspired by a similar report for Louisiana published in 2012, co-sponsored by Tulane University and Louisiana State University and led by Geoffrey Nagle.
The 12 risk indicators measure several dimensions of the potential risk to the well-being and quality of life for young children. The selected economic, family stability, and health indicators were chosen in consultation with the advisory committee.
Each risk indicator is presented as a standardized measure to allow county-by-county comparisons. For example, counties are not compared on the number of children living in poverty; instead they are compared based on the rate of poverty among children. Level of risk is based on a comparison of counties within Minnesota only. For every indicator, each county was assigned to one of four risk categories, based on comparisons to the statewide average. These comparisons were based on z-scores, which represent the number of standard deviations that an individual county-level indicator falls above or below the statewide average. Risk category assignments were made as follows:
There is also a composite or overall risk score for each county, which combines information on all of the risk indicators. (Three counties lacking data on four or more risk indicators are excluded). The composite sums the z-scores for each county across all individual risk indicators, calculates the average and standard deviation, and then assigns each county a new z-score based on this composite. Based on this composite score, counties were assigned to one of the four overall risk categories. Counties averaging at least one standard deviation above the mean on all indicators were assigned to the high risk category, and those averaging at least one standard deviation below the statewide average were assigned to the low risk category.
Data for the reach indicators come from the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, and Human Services. Specific notes on each indicator, including the benefits and eligibility of each program, and the details of how the extent of each reach indicator was calculated, are included in their respective sections. Similar to the risk indicators, each county was assigned to one of four reach categories, based on comparisons to the statewide average for every reach indicator.
Risk and reach indicators are limited to data available at the county level. The lack of an integrated statewide data system and standards for data collection and reporting limits the reporting to individual risk and program indicators and our ability to assess cumulative risk and the comprehensiveness of service reach. Calculating the number of children eligible to receive services (the denominators in the reach equations) is challenging because program eligibility requirements vary and are usually based on different levels of household income as well as other factors of need and circumstances, and county populations and income levels are based on multi-year samples. The results, while inexact, are still useful for comparisons across counties. The data provided by the state agencies are not always inclusive of all services or all populations served. For example, the Minnesota Family Investment Program does not include extended cases with caregivers with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and chemical health issues; the screening data are limited to education services and do not include developmental screening by health care providers. Tribal data, moreover, are not always included within state agency data. Finally, data are not routinely collected or available at the county level regarding potential protective factors for children, such as the extent to which they have secure attachment and nurturing relationships within their families.
The Minnesota Early Childhood Risk, Reach, and Resilience Report was funded by a grant from the Irving Harris Foundation to the University of Minnesota and inspired by the Louisiana Early Childhood Report.