Early Childhood Community-Based Navigation Hub Grant and Research Findings

Early Childhood Community-Based Navigation Hub Grant and Research Findings

By: Rachel Liechty, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

In February 2021, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, with collaborative support from primary community partners: Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Cook County School District ISD 166 and Cook County Public Health and Human Services, and with the support of many other local organizations, was awarded the 2-year Community-based Navigation Model, Local Community Resource Hub grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).


Year 1 (2021) is dedicated to capacity building, needs assessments and research with Wilder Research Foundation, as well as ongoing collaborative relationship building with community partners and families. Year 2 (2022) transitions into full model implementation, as informed by Year 1. The development and implementation of a Local Community Resource Navigational Hub Model ultimately seeks to increase relationship-based, universal and equitable access to programs and services for families with young children, prenatal to 5 years of age. The model must include virtual, mobile, and physical supports that are locally-driven, alongside the community and family voices, to promote sustainable collaboration among the systems who serve families, and respect their evolving needs throughout our communities. The Hub grant goals are to:


  1. Make it easier for families to get what they need. Develop universal access for families, paired with culturally appropriate, relationship-based navigation of programs and systems.
  2. Increase access to services. Collaborate with state agencies to test and evaluate Help Me Connect paired with culturally appropriate, relationship-based navigation.
  3. Grow community engagement and support community developed solutions. A community-based, whole family approach so families have what they need to thrive. This will look and feel different in every community.


Recently, SMC Hub Projects Leaders alongside Wilder Research Foundation presented the Cook County and Grand Portage Early Childhood Needs Assessment, Key Findings, Opportunities, and Recommendations to primary community partners in support of this grant including Cook County Public Health and Human Services. Wilder conducted key informant phone interviews with 21 community partners representing 19 agencies; a web-based survey of 32 parents with children age 5 and under; and analyzed demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Minnesota’s Center for Health Statistics. One focus group with three parents was also held virtually, however additional groups were cancelled due to lack of participation. Specifically, Wilder Research assisted the SMC Hub Team in determining:


  • Needs and assets related to communication and learning from families of young children (infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children) living across rural Cook County and Grand Portage who may be experiencing isolation, homelessness, marginalization; families who feel disconnected or unsupported, have limited to no access to providers or system supports that meet their needs;
  • A family communication and engagement strategy that is created with the help and input of families themselves.
  • Diverse, collaborative, integrated and sustainable programs and services of Cook County and Grand Portage organizations in support of existing resources in order to more comprehensively and effectively serve families and their strengths.


Looking forward to year 2, in 2022, the SMC Community Hub Grant team is prepared to begin implementation of the navigation model serving young children and families across Cook County and Grand Portage. You can learn more about the recent Hub presentation online by viewing a recording of the December 21 Cook County Public Health and Human Services Board Meeting at

Learn more about the PHHS department and resources to support families with young children online at or follow us on Facebook @CookCountyPHHS or in Instagram  @cook_county_phhs.

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