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Project for Babies

The Project for Babies began as a special initiative of the Minnesota Community Foundation, supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation. The goal is to improve the health and developmental outcomes for very young children with special attention to the impact of early experience on the "life course."

This project aimed to raise the importance of infants and toddlers (prenatal to three) at a policy level in three states (MN, North and South Dakota) and to integrate current scientific knowledge about child development into programs, practice, and sustainable systems change.

The Project for Babies organized its investments according to a "theory of community change" map designed by the Aspen Institute. It used a collaborative and catalytic approach to include communities of color, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners by investing in building blocks to improve health and developmental outcomes for very young children.

The Project partners included the Children's Defense Fund, Council of State Governments, Frameworks Institute, Early Childhood Resource and Training Center, the University of Minnesota, Wilder Research, tribal entities, and consultants David Cournoyer and Sheila Kiscaden.

Project for Babies and its partners designed and conducted Legislative Leadership Institutes on Child Development Research and Policy; conducted studies and prepared reports on such topics as maternal depression, and the wellbeing of infants and toddlers in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota; and convened state, county, philanthropic, tribal, and community leaders to learn about neuroscience, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and effective interventions.

The Project for Babies moved to the College of Education and Human Development in July 2011. Jane Kretzmann, director of the Project for Babies, was a Senior Fellow in CEHD, housed in CEED. The Project turned over its work to various other initiatives at CEED when Jane retired in 2014.


In 2012 the Project for Babies developed an educational video on the Importance of the Early Years featuring Regents Professor Megan Gunnar, Director of the Institute for Child Development. The video consists of four sections, each five minutes in length.

The Project for Babies is grateful to Greater Twin Cities United Way for providing financial support to develop the video, and to Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child for the use of visual images and other content. Thanks also to Vox Pop Video and Cliff Dahlberg for their work on the project.

Core Story Part 1 thumbnail


Core Story, Part 1: Brain Architecture

CEHD YouTube | (6 minutes)


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Core Story, Part 2: Serve and Return

CEHD YouTube | (5 minutes)


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Core Story, Part 3: Stress

CEHD YouTube | (6 minutes)


Core Story Part 4 thumbnail


Core Story, Part 4: Pay Now or Pay Later

CEHD YouTube | (4 minutes)


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Core Story, Part 5:Resilience

CASCW YouTube | (6:59 minutes)

2014 Legislative Leadership Institute on Child Development Research and Policy Resources

Megan Gunnar, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight Professor in Child Development, international expert on the effect of stress on brain development, and member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Harvard University. Dr. Gunnar provided a brief overview of basic neuroscience and the latest research.

Geoffrey Nagle, Ph.D., LCSW, MPH, President of the Erikson Institute, Chicago. Dr. Nagle, who lectured at the May 2013 UMN Harris Forum, until recently was a professor at Tulane University and director of the state’s Early Learning Council in Louisiana. Dr. Nagle expanded on current research and policy options.

Aaron Sojourner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota. Labor economist, Dr. Sojourner provided results from a new study on 0-3 investments in closing the achievement gap.

Funded by: Project for Babies, University of Minnesota; Harris Program, University of Minnesota; Start Early Funders Coalition


Jane Kretzmann talks about the project


Jane Kretzmann talks about Projects for Babies

QuickTime | Audio only | (9 minutes)


Project Staff

Jane Kretzmann


The St. Paul Foundation and Bush Foundation

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Last modified on February 21, 2013.