In October of 2019, the Community Consolidated Schoold District 93 Birth to 5 Community Coalition, which serves the communities of Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, and Hanover Park, had a stroke of good luck: Our Savior Lutheran Church knocked on their door. Co-led by Rosary Horne and Michelle Scharinger, the Birth to 5 Coalition had always wanted to partner with faith-based organizations to deepen their connection with the community. Our Savior needed partners for their new Breakfast with Baby program and reached out to the Birth to 5 Community Coalition. Quickly realizing the mutual value in working together for the benefit of the children in their community, Our Savior joined the Coalition as an active partner. Since then, Breakfast with Baby has been operating with the assistance of Coalition members and various community volunteers.
Funded in large part by the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church and supported by community donations, Breakfast with Baby’s goal is to provide families with baby-care essentials. Every third Saturday of the month, families speaking Burmese, French, Spanish, and English come together to eat breakfast and listen to a five-minute devotion. Afterward, parents receive 50 diapers and one box of baby wipes per baby. Parents have an opportunity to “shop” in the donation closet with the help of a volunteer personal shopper while their children are cared for by other volunteers. They are invited to select up to three outfits for each baby, as well as other donated items that might be available. To date, Breakfast with Baby has had 12 to 20 families participate each month. Through word of mouth and vigorous outreach supported by Birth to 5 Community Coalition partners and numerous community entities, its popularity and attendance continues to grow!
Although still relatively new, CCSD 93 Birth to 5 Community Coalition’s partnership with Our Savior Lutheran Church has already proven to be powerful and mutually beneficial. In Our Savior Lutheran Church, the Birth to 5 Coalition now has an active partner that provides a unique connection to the community and that can use its insight to help inform the Coalition’s work; in the Birth to Five Community Coalition, Our Savior Lutheran Church has a partner that can help it develop important relationships with other Coalition members that will help further its mission.
If your collaboration is looking to partner with faith-based groups, Breakfast with Baby Coordinator Karen Farruggia has some words of wisdom: “Partnering with faith-based organizations is a key for any type of coalition any time you want to make a difference in a community… Everyone is trying to accomplish the same goal; we can all work together, [no] matter your faith background.”
“There’s a buzz in the air. Everyone is waiting to see what comes next, and how they can help,” said Anisha Grimmett, Executive Director of Alignment Rockford and lead staff for the Alignment Rockford–Ready to Learn collaboration. She is describing the energy and excitement in Rockford this fall after finishing the first phase of the Early Development Instrument (EDI).
The seed for this initiative was planted a couple years ago when the Rockford community learned that many third graders were not reading proficiently. Concerned by the implications of this reality for children and families, community members and organizations were determined to address this problem. The local community-based organizations Alignment Rockford and Transform Rockford, Rockford Public Schools (RPS), and community leaders set out to explore the issue. They soon learned that obstacles for children and families began way before third grade.
Identifying the issue proved to be a lot easier than pinpointing the root cause. The Rockford community was unsure how to proceed until they heard about the Erikson Early Development Instrument (EDI) pilot project at a birth-to-5 conference. They knew that the EDI pilot’s approach to collecting data and finding community-level understanding was just what they needed. Recognizing this need, Alignment Rockford, Transform Rockford, Rockford Public School (RPS), and The Erikson Institute partnered to launch the EDI pilot.
The Alignment Rockford-Ready to Learn collaboration was formed when the Rockford EDI leadership team recruited more than 40 stakeholders, including RPS District 205 and private and parochial schools to lead and support the pilot. The collaboration’s overarching goal is to prepare all Rockford Region children for kindergarten. During the first year of the pilot, the collaboration worked with the community to identify the targeted neighborhoods and train school staff on how to use the analysis tool. As a result, they completed more than 2,000 child assessments. After the first year of EDI assessments, trained ambassadors presented more than fifty data gallery walks to share their findings to the community and ask for their feedback on the data. They presented the data at community meetings, churches, community centers, meetings with elected officials and anywhere they could reach members of the community—always asking, “why do you think this is happening in your neighborhood?”
The data and community feedback revealed that children were thriving better in neighborhoods that had:
The community is now working to sustain the momentum, thanks in part to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, a local foundation which provided a three-year, $210,000 grant. Alignment Rockford – Ready to Learn is in the process of recruiting members for their three alignment teams: 1. Early Childhood Continuity, 2. Family Friendly Neighborhood, and 3. Coaching and Supporting. Each team is charged with developing and implementing a pilot initiative using the EDI community data to inform their issue areas and create conditions where children and families can thrive.
In addition, they have created a Community Connectors Team, to support and document how local stakeholders are using the EDI data in their own planning, services, interventions and work. Part of the Rockford EDI pilot action plan includes the development of relationships with elected officials to help them understand the importance of early childhood education. To further this work, the collaboration created a policy roundtable where policymakers will develop and advocate for a common plan for neighborhoods and use this to influence state legislation.
Two years into the EDI pilot, the Alignment Rockford – Ready to Learn team reports that their process with EDI unified and focused their efforts to prepare all Rockford children for kindergarten. Anisha shares, “When we started this initiative, certain pockets of our community understood the importance of early childhood but now there is a movement to ensure everyone understands. We have kept this in their faces, inviting them to join us, and they know we are not going anywhere…more people are talking about coming together to support children and families. They are waiting and looking forward to the next results, and that’s why we cannot fail.”
For those communities interested in participating in the EDI pilot, Alignment Rockford-Ready to Learn collaboration has the following advice:
For more information on the EDI, read this month’s highlighted resource below, or visit https://edi.erikson.edu/. If you are interested in applying to be part of the EDI pilot project, email email@example.com.
The Palatine Early Learning Alliance (PELA) was part of the first cohort of early childhood community collaborations to participate in the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute. As one of the collaborations receiving Advancing Supports, PELA was tasked with understanding the problem that they were looking to address from the point of view of the community. They decided the best way to do that was to create a survey specifically for parents and child care providers, and the results were fantastic! They were able to collect 384 surveys that ultimately helped shape their strategy.
We asked the PELA team—Natalie Rodriguez, Kristen Ford, Jenny Garcia-Macko, and Gloria Perez—a few questions about their successful systems’ scan experience and here’s what they had to say:
Q: What did you want to find out through these surveys?
A: We wanted to do a few things:
Q: Who was your target audience?
A: For the parent surveys our target was all parents in Palatine School District 15 with children from birth to third grade. For the child care provider surveys we targeted the park district, Head Start, YMCA, and other non-profit centers.
Q: How long was your survey window?
A: Initially the window was two weeks, but we extended it to about one month to get as many surveys as possible. We also continued to accept them beyond the survey window.
Q: In what format or platform did you distribute your surveys?
A: A couple of people from our team visited licensed child care providers and did the surveys as interviews. Home visitors and other staff from our respective agencies took paper copies into the community in both English and Spanish, sometimes meeting with small groups of parents to complete it together. Electronically, QR codes to the survey were put on flyers in English and Spanish, Conyers Learning Academy in SD 15 emailed it, and it was available on the Bilingual Parent Advisory Council (BPAC) website.
Q: How did you analyze the surveys?
A: We entered data from every survey into Google Sheets and that provided a lot of charts and analytics. We also coded all the open-ended questions ourselves.
Q: What did you find out from the surveys?
A: We found out a lot:
Q: What were you particularly proud of with regard to your survey collection?
A: We were proud of the number of surveys we received and also by the diversity of people whose first language is not English, but who answered in English.
Q: In retrospect, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
A: We probably would’ve changed the timing of the surveys to fall or spring. We sent them out in the summer and it was difficult to reach child care providers. Also, there were no children with which we could send surveys home.
Q: How did the survey results guide the rest of your work in the Collaboration Institute?
A: It was great to have current local data, instead of relying on older data that is publicly available. The results of our surveys fueled us. We saw that every family we surveyed had some sort of problem with child care, whether with cost or just a general lack of knowledge. We decided we needed a place to make this information accessible to families in our community, which led to the creation of our strategy: to develop a website for parents that will centralize and simplify local child care resources.
The Elgin Partnership for Early Learning (EPEL) knows that not all children will be enrolled in an early childhood education program before the age of five. EPEL also knows that exposure to learning opportunities at an early age is crucial to kindergarten readiness. Together, the collaboration developed a strategy to address the disparity in kindergarten readiness by partnering with the local Elgin Laundromat, JetXpress, to create the “Language in the Laundromat” program.
. “Language in the Laundromat” is a way to bring learning to a non-traditional educational space. According to EPEL director Amber Peters, families spend an average of two and a half hours at a laundromat. In that time, children can have a meaningful learning experience by talking, reading, singing, playing, and sharing activities with their parents while they wait for their laundry. At the same time, community members have a chance to volunteer by reading to children in the laundromat.
. However, the benefits of the “Language in the Laundromat” program do not end with young children and volunteers. This initiative has allowed EPEL partners to reach and engage families that they might not otherwise engage in their current programs. Collaboration partners have also provided other services such as enrolling children in preschool, offering financial assistance, signing children up for physicals, providing glucose testing for parents, and offering food resources. Lastly, the owners of JetXpress also get the satisfaction of helping the community they serve by providing a physical space for children and families to learn together. In many ways, “Language in the Laundromat” embodies the spirit of community collaboration!
How do you start to create PreK-to-Kindergarten connections when your community includes dozens of early childhood programs and schools? This is the story of the Evanston Cradle to Career's (EC2C) “Learning on Track” Action Team. Thanks to Carol Teske, Executive Director of the Childcare Network of Evanston and co-chair of the Action Team, and to Shelia Merry, EC2C Executive Director.
Very little was known about the early learning experiences of the 750+ incoming School District (SD) 65 (read key facts about District 65 and EC2Cs “Why Equity?” Statement) Kindergarten students in 2015 when the Action Team began its work. The need, however, was clear: little more than 50% of new Kindergartners scored as “ready” on the District’s Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy (ISEL) test.
To learn more, the Action Team created a few, simple supplementary questions that were added to the online kindergarten registration form. Using drop-down menus on the form, parents were asked to identify PreK experiences their child had after age 3, where they were enrolled, how often/how long they attended, and whether their child had received academic instruction in a language other than English. By February 2016, these supplemental questions were piloted, and a month later they officially became part of the Kindergarten enrollment process. (Special Note: School District 65 policy requires pilot programs before officially adopting initiatives.)
Through a data-sharing agreement, specially-deputized Cradle to Career members analyzed the de-identified data and learned that percent of incoming Kindergarten students had been enrolled in early childhood programs.
The Action Team also realized that developing a common definition of Kindergarten Readiness would be a powerful collaboration tool. District instructional leaders, together with a small cohort of early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers, created the Strong Start to Kindergarten-Student Goals for Educators, released in September, 2016. The Strong Start goals focused on five priority areas (domains) based on Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment and Illinois Early Learning Standards.
In February 2017, the Action Team’s work began to accelerate, beginning with the Strong Start PreK/Kindergarten Summit. The now-annual Summit brought together 110 teachers to learn more about the Strong Start Initiative, contribute to its development, and build relationships with each other.
To foster seamless transitions between PreK and Kindergarten, the Strong Start PreK & Kindergarten Educators Partnership Pilot was created to encourage PreK and Kindergarten teachers to visit each other’s classrooms.
The Action Team also successfully piloted the Strong Start to Kindergarten Feedback Form, enabling PreK teachers to share student progress on the Strong Start priority goals and insights about their “graduating” student with his/her new Kindergarten teacher. Preschool educators submitted 75 Feedback Forms as part of this pilot!
Now… and Next
In Summer 2018, principals and Kindergarten teachers received 400 Strong Start Feedback Forms for incoming Kindergarten students (out of approximately 800). PreK teachers are eager to learn more details how their feedback helped Kindergarten teachers support their students and families.
The Strong Start Classroom Partnership—also no longer a pilot—has kicked off with a fall orientation and the first of two PreK and K classroom visits. Early childhood teachers visit their partnered Kindergarten teachers first. In the spring, the process will be reversed. All teachers go to the district office immediately afterwards to debrief the visits as a group.
What’s next for the collaboration? The 2019 PreK/K Teacher Summit is already scheduled! A new Parent Activity Guide, aligned to the Strong Start to Kindergarten Student Goals will be published soon and includes fun learning activities for families of PreK students in early learning settings and throughout the community.
The Evanston Cradle to Career’s Strong Start initiative is now well on its way, having made new and vital connections between early childhood and District 65.
Let’s cheer them on as they work towards their ambitious, collective goal of 85 percent of children being kindergarten-ready by 2025!
If you would like us to highlight your collaboration’s work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Glenbard Early Childhood Collaborative (GECC) has made great strides in just two short years. Funded by a Bright and Early DuPage grant from the DuPage Foundation, and with the support of the Cooperative Association for Special Education (CASE), GECC identified a need for birth-to-three services and saw a great opportunity for local school districts to meet this need when the Illinois State Board of Education released applications for Prevention Initiative (PI) expansion funding and the Early Childhood Block Grant PI recompete.
.Unfortunately, elementary school districts that serve the Glenbard area were not able to take on either grant independently. District leadership knew that there was high value in programming for birth-to-three, but they chose not to write for PI funding since their focus was on strengthening and expanding Pre-K.
However, GECC felt strongly that with PI funding, they would be able to serve a population that was being overlooked. Conversations with stakeholders in their area, including the local health department, the county Home Visiting Network, Head Start, and the Regional Office of Education, pointed toward a strong need for home visiting programs. They understood the immense value to school districts in getting to know families in the community as early as possible..
csse_Dec.jpgAlthough home visitors focus on the infant, the infant might have siblings already in school. Additionally, the infant may eventually attend one of the five school districts. Because GECC strongly believes that home visiting needs to be embedded within the school districts for the greatest impact, they decided to take the lead in applying for PI on behalf of all five districts..
Building on the established relationships between the districts and CASE, GECC convinced all five districts to jump on board. They decided to come together on behalf of the community at large, and in doing so, demonstrated some of the qualities essential to systems-building: strong relationships, collaborative thinking, and openness to new ideas. It is no surprise, then, that GECC applied for and received both grants, and has since seen significant change in the community as a result..
.If your collaboration has a highlight that you would like us to recognize, please send an email to email@example.com.
. The Stephenson County AOK Network and its parent organization, the Stephenson County Health Department, are making great strides to establish a comprehensive, coordinated continuum of developmental screenings and family supports.
A new link in the continuum is Illinois Family Connects (IFC), a free, universal newborn support program. All new parents, regardless of income, receive information on the free supports. Families are eligible if they live in Stephenson County and if the newborn was born at one of the IFC partner hospitals, FHN Memorial or SSM Health Monroe Clinic..
.While still at the hospital, nearly all new parents opt into IFC. Three weeks later, a registered nurse visits the newborn and family at least one time (and up to three times). Designed as a compassionate and non-intrusive visit, the nurse does an infant and mother’s health assessment, assisting with breast/ bottle feeding, safe sleep, diapering, and more.
.When connecting IFC families to community services to meet the family’s unique needs, the AOK Network is indispensable. IFC nurses make “warm referrals” to other service providers, resulting in greater utilization of community services. The collaboration uses SCORE4U, an online “community needs” group that allows service providers to post specific material needs (beds, clothes, etc.) of families and faith and service-based groups can respond.
Another exciting expansion of the screening/supports continuum is in the works. Soon there will be a coordinated ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire ) screening initiative, using an online hub, for children aged 2-5. Together, these early learning supports work to mitigate barriers for families by meeting families where they are..
Stephenson County is keeping its eyes on the prize—ensuring that all families and children have access to the services and supports they need beginning from birth—and demonstrating what is possible through cross-sector partnerships and an active early learning collaboration..
Thanks to the Julia Marynus, Director of the Division of Family Services/Stephenson County Health Department; Becky Moore, RN and IFC Team Leader, and Dana Keim, AOK Coordinator for their great work, and for contributing to this article..
If you would like to begin a conversation about an IFC program in your community, please email Nick Wechsler or Laurie Roxworthy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund..
.Southern Illinois Coalition for Children and Families (referred to as the Coalition), an early learning collaboration serving the 15 most southern counties, is incorporating a new focus on trauma and building resilience for young children and families. These issues were identified as top priorities for the 127 coalition and community members during their three-year agenda-setting meeting in April 2018. Leveraging the community's current infrastructure and relationships built to through previous efforts to address healthy child development, the Coalition hit the ground running and now has exciting progress to report in several key parts of their early childhood supports, from awareness/education to screening to treatment and intervention.
A community-wide awareness campaign (print and online) to educate parents and other stakeholders on trauma/resilience will be integrated in The More You Know, The Better They Grow initiative that promotes child development awareness/a>. To train early childhood teachers, centers, and schools to incorporate a trauma-informed lens, the Coalition is working with the B-6 Resilient Southern Illinois initiative (part of Resilient Southern Illinois ). This trauma-informed approach developed by the Illinois Teachers Association and the Partnership for Resilience, is already being implemented in southern Illinois K-12 schools..
Screening to identify social-emotional development is another component of the Coalition's new initiative. Their revised FY19 goal is: "All Children in southern fifteen counties, aged birth to five, are screened for developmental and social/emotional delays." The Coalition estimates more than 20,000 children from birth through five live in the 15 counties that could be served..
.Partnering with the Coalition's Screening Collaborative, first launched in Williamson County to coordinate developmental screening approach in 2015, the Coalition is now encouraging its members in all counties to use the ASQ-SE tool to screen for social/emotional delays often caused by trauma, in addition to the ASQ. Partner agencies, including early learning programs and county health departments, enter their screening data for both the ASQ and ASQ-SE into the ASQ Online screening hub. Additionally, the Collaboration developed a way for partners who use different developmental screening tools to also create unique child profiles online and enter data. There are 6,788 unique child profiles in this screening hub-nearing the Coalition's new goal of 7,500 children receiving screening.
During this roll-out phase, the Screening Collaborative is learning about who is doing social-emotional screening, collecting baseline data, and recruiting new Screening Collaborative participants. They expect that several health systems will be joining the Collaborative, which will increase the "engagement points" for developmental and social/emotional screening dramatically. Only 20 percent of children from birth through five are enrolled in early learning programs that are mandated to screen children. Therefore, the participation of the medical community is critical to reaching more children in development screening..
The Coalition is partnering with the Healthy Southern Illinois Delta Network to identify and share resources specifically for young children so that parents, agencies, and the community can access treatment resources..
Finally, the Coalition is developing an Early Childhood Mental Health Consortium, which will oversee all components of this new initiative to promote be trauma-informed and build resilience-from awareness through treatment. This consortium will also serve as a platform for developing a community of practice for early childhood mental health practitioners..
.Congratulations to the Southern Illinois Coalition for Children and Families for a successful launch of this new trauma/resilience initiative. Their current successes demonstrate the power of leveraging previous investments in community systems building to respond to the evolving needs of the community. We make the road by walking!
.Thank you to Lori Longueville, CCRR/Southern Illinois Coalition for Children and Families, for contributing to this highlight. For more information, please contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If your collaboration has a highlight that you would like us to recognize, please send an email to email@example.com..
Cicero All Our Kids Early Childhood Network (Cicero AOK), the early childhood component of the Cicero Community Collaborative (CCC), takes parent and community engagement very seriously. The collaboration believes its work should be guided and decided by the community, believing that parents and community members are change agents. This frame of thinking contributed to the creation of the Parent Ambassador program.
Currently comprised of 10 Cicero parents and community members, the Parent Ambassador program serves a dual purpose: to collect and share information with the community, and to ensure that the community’s voice is actively heard by the collaboration. To ensure parent and community voice, Parent Ambassadors are also voting collaboration members.
To fund the program, Cicero AOK was fortunate to benefit from a community improvement grant awarded to the CCC by the United Way of Metro Chicago. The funding helps provide parents with a stipend of up to $1,500 per year and support general public awareness initiatives
On the surface, the program is simple. Parent Ambassadors commit to working 8-10 hours per week and receive a stipend to compensate them for their time. They are trained about various parent and community programs, building on personal knowledge to help them conduct targeted outreach. Primarily Spanish-speaking, the Parent Ambassadors canvass door to door in neighborhoods that are largely Latino to engage families. They also attend community events to promote the importance of early childhood programs and bring public awareness to free community events such as early childhood trainings, workshops, developmental screenings, and AOK/CCC events. They work together in small teams across six geographical sectors, and have the flexibility of creating their own team schedules.
At the collaboration level, the Parent Ambassadors’ work is complex and priceless. When not engaging directly with community members or leading their own meetings, Parent Ambassadors attend both Cicero AOK and CCC collaboration meetings. They also participate in work groups that shape the collaborations’ future. This is parent and community engagement to be proud of!
Wheaton/Warrenville Early Childhood Collaborative (WWECC) recognized the challenges families with young children face in accessing affordable dental care and follow-up treatment after initial visits. The WWECC, in partnership with Dr. Eric Jackson, DDS of the Oral Healthcare professionals, LLC, wrote a grant through the Chicago Dental Society Foundation for $5,000 to offer a free dental health screening day for families and a professional development event for early child care providers.
The Little Youth Dental Health Day took place at Metropolitan Family Services in Wheaton in July 2018. Dr. Jackson and his team brought dental screening supplies, a portable dental chair, and dental giveaways for families. A total of 59 children from 29 families received an oral dental screening, tailored dental education, and resources including age-appropriate toothbrushes, toothpaste, tooth timers, and an activity board book to encourage brushing. WWECC leveraged this event to provide additional early childhood services and supports to families. They registered 32 children for Early Head Start and 23 children received health screenings for hearing and vision.
Additionally, through this grant, WWECC and Dr. Jackson held a professional development event in June 2018 for more than 40 early childhood providers — including those in Prevention Initiative, Head Start, and Early Head Start. The training focused on how to talk to families about the importance of dental care, finding a dentist, and seeking additional treatment after their initial visit.
The Little Youth Dental Health Day demonstrates the positive impacts that can be made when different stakeholders work together for the benefit of children and families in their community.
Share your story! If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org .
Since its inception in 2012, the Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Coalition has been committed to the success and well-being of children and families in their community, leading many efforts to be proud of. Recently, they saw a unique opportunity to advance their work by applying to be part of the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute (PPACI). That is how Artishia Hunter, Ethiah Williams, and Deborah Daley became one of the 10 teams that comprise the Institute’s inaugural cohort. This is what one of the team members shared about their experience in the Institute so far:.
Participating in the Institute is providing structure and useful tools and strategies to engage the Coalition as a whole and to propel it forward. The training has been helpful in grounding the Coalition in a framework that leads to good practice. The content is not just theoretical — it’s actionable..
At a Coalition meeting, the team used a facilitation method they learned in the Institute’s first training to arrive at a consensus about what community problem to address. The process allowed everyone in the Coalition to be heard and feel heard. It was interactive and engaging, and it made Coalition members excited about offering thoughts and ideas. They now have direction and momentum that they can continue to build on. “We had a chance to try something and it worked. We had a process and a flow. It feels good to build on something and have momentum.” .
. The team feels very supported by their coach. They feel that she provides clarity, and that she is able to synthesize the team’s thoughts in order to help them come together. More importantly, they feel that she is a good listener and facilitator, and that, instead of imposing her opinions on the group, her powerful questions help the team find its own way.
Share your story! If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org. .
The Early Childhood Forum of Central Illinois: Fifteen Years of Legislative ’Happenings’ For the past 15 years, the Early Childhood Forum of Central Illinois has held an annual spring event—a Legislative ‘Happening’ Hour—to promote relationship-building between state and federal legislators and its members. The Forum covers all of central Illinois, including Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford Counties.
This is an impressive track record for a collaboration that started in 1998 as a STARNET initiative to form an agency collaboration to support inclusion and IEPs. With a membership that now consists of more than 30 agencies and organizations, the collaboration operates with no paid staff— instead, they use a shared leadership model. Different agencies take turns serving in leadership positions, and serving on three sub-committees — Preschool for All Directors Group, Peoria Education Partners, and a Birth-to-Three Committee.
To plan the Legislative ‘Happening” Hour, a small committee is formed well in advance of the annual spring legislative event to ensure that the event can be scheduled around the legislative calendar and the needs of the legislators. A creative and timely theme is chosen, with consideration given to pressing legislative issues. An important takeaway for the legislators is a “book,” which includes information about each Forum member and Forum initiatives. If a legislator is new, the Forum meets with the legislator in advance to introduce the coalition, brief him/her on the event, and dialogue about how the legislator can support early childhood programs and initiatives in their district.Seven (of eight possible) state and federal legislators have attended the event in the past 15 years, and many have attended multiple times. Attendance has ranged over the years from 50 to 100 guests.
When a state budget crisis affected CCAP funding, Early Intervention, and other early childhood programs, the theme of the Happening Hour was “The Domino Effect,” educating legislators about how this these funding cuts had cascading effects throughout the community. During an Olympic year the theme was “Going for the Gold,” and attending legislators received award to recognize their support of early childhood programs.
This year’s theme, in a nod to the State of Illinois’ 200th founding anniversary, was “The Next 200 Years.” Legislators were asked to share their thoughts about what the new Governor’s recent budget (and budget address) would mean concretely for Peoria County. Two legislators attended this year: Representative Ryan Spain (R-IL House District 73) and Representative Keith Sommer (R-Il House District 106).
Congratulations to the Forum! This is an excellent example of how collaborations can engage in advocacy efforts locally and develop new advocates for early childhood!
For more information, please contact Erin Stout, Past President, Early Childhood Forum of Central Illinois.
If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org.
. Great things are happening in Will County! On May 23, 2019, the Will County All Our Kids Network (AOK) hosted its free, 12th annual Early Childhood Mental Health Conference. The Conference was held at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, and drew more than 125 participants who are deeply invested in the mental health of young children and their families. They represented a variety of sectors including; licensed counselors, teachers, Early Intervention providers, nurses, social service providers, state agencies, childcare centers, and higher education institutions.
The idea for an annual mental health conference came from an identified need in the county. In 2008, Will County AOK realized that there were not many local mental health resources available to providers or families. Knowing that mental health is essential to a child’s well-being, they decided to create an opportunity for mental health professionals and others interested in early childhood mental health to come together annually. This annual conference now serves as a way to provide new skills and learning opportunities to local providers who work with families in Will County. In addition, it allows Will County AOK’s partners to continue to work together for the benefit of children and families; partners participate in the planning process and graciously provide in-kind donations and educational credits..
. In the years since its inception, the Early Childhood Mental Health Conference has grown in attendance and popularity. With a timely theme of “Attachment,” the conference sold out within a week. There was great interest in learning from respected experts in the field and in attending sessions such as:
.In addition to acquiring new knowledge and practical, real-world ideas, participants were also awarded Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or Certified Professional Development Units (CPDUs).
.The planning committee for the Will County AOK Early Childhood Mental Health Conference will soon start working on next year’s conference, and it’s bound to be even better! Make sure to keep an eye out for it!
If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org.
The DuPage Early Childhood Collaboration (DECC) was formed in 2015 from the generous support of DuPage Foundation’s Bright & Early DuPage Initiative, with the goal of addressing the needs of DuPage County’s youngest learners. The collaboration is supported in joint partnership with DuPage Regional Office of Education and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. With 42 school districts and nearly 1 million residents, the complexity of this county’s school system makes such a collaboration particularly necessary. DECC’s vision is to ensure that each and every child enters kindergarten safe, healthy, ready to succeed, and eager to learn. An estimated 17,351 of 67,519 children under 5 years old were under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) in 2017.
Four years later, DECC has much to celebrate as they reflect on their accomplishments and embark on another three-year strategic planning process.
DECC has reached several major milestones in the past four years:
DECC’s second strategic planning process is just now getting underway. One critically-important new theme, racial equity, will be examined as they move forward in an increasingly diverse DuPage County. DECC will also integrate a new component, Results-Based Accountability (RBA)— this is a data-driven, decision-making process to help communities and organizations get beyond talking about problems to taking action to solve problems.
Congratulations to DECC! For more information, please contact Fakelia Guyton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No one likes going to the dentist, but what if you couldn’t access one—and you were in pain? What if most people in your community—regardless of income or education—didn’t know that good oral health is a key factor to lifelong overall health? What if the number of children that needed emergency dental care skyrocketed so much that the local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping them access emergency dental care was facing financial crisis?.
. That was the situation facing the Wabash/Edwards Counties All Our Kids Network after they completed their needs assessment in 2017. These counties, located in far southern Illinois, have a total population of 18,000 people (6 percent of residents are under age five). Farming, coal mining, and manufacturing comprise their economic base. Established in 2000, the AOK Wabash/Edwards Counties membership includes local service providers, early learning programs, the local hospital, law enforcement, the public transportation agency, and more.
. In 2017, after completing a five-year strategic plan, this AOK Network selected oral health as the top issue to address in their community. Their work to address the issue intensified when the local emergency dental program for children, Wednesday’s Child, found itself unsure of program sustainability. Working together, AOK Network assessed the issue of lack of access to dental services, both preventative and non-preventative.
By looking comprehensively at the situation from a community systems perspective (not program-by-program), the AOK Network partnered with Wednesday’s Child to identify critical changes that would be needed to give more children who needed preventative and emergency services access. For instance, with the support of the Wabash County District #348 and local Head Start programs, the Dental Safari mobile van will be expanding services to Wabash County to provide local children with needed dental services at least once per year. The mobile van, if demand and interest rises, may increase visits to include a 6-month follow-up visits for children..
In addition to Dental Safari expanding services to Wabash County, the dentists in Wabash County agreed to deepen their partnership with Wednesday’s Child by offering supports and services for children at little- to no-cost to the program. This partnership would increase Wednesday’s Child’s capacity to serve children in Wabash County that need emergent care. Wednesday’s Child and the Wabash/Edwards Counties AOK Network are hopeful that the partnerships and service coordination strategies will significantly improve oral health conditions and support the emergent dental needs of children in their community over time and across generations..
.Likewise, the AOK Network is looking to address additional root causes of poor oral health outcomes. They plan to work with a variety of community stakeholders to create common messaging regarding best practices for preventative dental care, focusing on dental care for babies and toddlers, to ensure families receive correct and consistent information about how to best support their children’s oral health.
. For more information, please contact Mariah Barber, AOK Network Coordinator at email@example.com
If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org. ..
Good things are happening in DuPage County! Bensenville’s early childhood community collaboration, Bensenville Early Learning Supporters (BELS), combined forces with community organizations in Elmhurst this year to create a new bigger and stronger collaboration: Bensenville/Elmhurst Early Learning Supporters!
The original BELS, headed by Christy Poli from Bensenville School District 2, was already well-established. BELS formed in 2014 and was funded by a Bright & Early DuPage grant from the DuPage Foundation. However, no early childhood collaboration existed in the adjacent community of Elmhurst. Parent educator, Michele Marvucic, (bottom photo) from Elmhurst School District 205 recognized this need. She considered starting a collaboration in Elmhurst but realized that some families attending Elmhurst schools were actually residents of Bensenville. Michele realized it would make more sense to organize cross-community support by approaching BELS to create one, broader collaboration that serves all families with young children in both Bensenville and Elmhurst.
This broader collaboration now consists of 35 early childhood partners in the areas of education, child care, health, and additional community programs that provide support to families with children ages birth-to- five. With a wider and stronger presence, Bensenville/Elmhurst Early Learning Supporters hopes to make it easier for families to access supports and activities in both communities interchangeably. BELS is a great example of how joining forces together across communities can be powerful and effective in meeting the needs of all families. We look forward to hearing more about their efforts in the future!
If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org.
For several years, the Oak Park community has been engaged in a dialogue around equity and the ways in which resources can be leveraged to improve the quality of education. In 2018, they held a village-wide dialogue centered on America to Me: a documentary that outlined potential issues around equitable access to educational opportunities for children in high school. That conversation led to organic discussions around early childhood. .
Oak_Park_Picture_1.jpgOne year later, the Oak Park Collaboration for Early Childhood is facilitating similar conversations in the context of No Small Matter: a documentary and national engagement campaign bringing attention to the value of quality early childhood education for children, families, and communities. The film explores issues around the impact that can be achieved through early learning efforts, and the supports that families and teachers need to provide quality care. The 75-minute documentary poignantly interweaves personal stories, brain science, and research to paint a picture of the social and economic costs of failing to provide a quality early learning experience for every single child. .
On November 4, more than 240 members of the community came out on a chilly Monday evening to watch No Small Matter and the panel discussion immediately following the screening. John Borrero, the Executive Director for the Oak Park Collaboration for Early Childhood moderated a discussion with No Small Matter Producer Rachel Pikelny, No Small Matter Co-Director Daniel Alpert, Illinois State Senator Don Harmon, and District 200 School Board President Dr. Jackie Moore..
There were distinct moments of the event that felt like victories. First, the ability to host a community event and lead an impactful dialogue represented a key strategy in changing community perception around this issue. Second, the panel makeup, consistent with the movie, presented an opportunity for cross-sector dialogue. On the stage, panelists talked about being parents; being teachers; working in media production and leading thought from within the Illinois legislature. They openly and honestly discussed issues of equity, potential root causes for systemic barriers to early childhood education, and strategies for state and local action!. ..
The Collaboration will host a total of four viewing and discussion events throughout Oak Park. They held the first event in October at Lincoln Elementary, and will hold the last two later in November at Wonderwork’s Children’s Museum and West Suburban Medical Center. (For more information on the November screenings, go to www.collab4kids.org.) .
Collaboration staff and volunteers worked to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for rich conversation and a re-examination of systems and assumptions in the Oak Park community and beyond. They consider the public conversations around the documentary to be vitally important, as well as the opportunity for the Collaboration for Early Childhood to engage in the larger conversation around the importance of the 0-5 years. “Every opportunity to bring the needs of children into the public dialogue is a success for us. We are grateful to have had the support necessary to bring the event to fruition,” said Executive Director John Borrero. .
The Collaboration joins a movement of No Small Matter screenings and discussions around the country. If your collaboration is interested in booking a screening, you can find more information at: https://www.nosmallmatter.com/host .
The Addison Early Childhood Collaborative (AECC) acted swiftly three years ago when ISBE offered new funding to support summer enrichment programs. Addison School District 4, as a leading member of the AECC, applied for the ISBE funding to create a Kindergarten Camp (K-Camp). AECC staff and its Parent and Family Engagement Committee developed a parent relationship-building component, entitled Coffee and Conversation. This effort steadily grew in size and responsiveness to parents’ interests, acting as a dynamic example of the community systems development principle of continuous quality improvement.
Each year, between 300 and 400 new students enter Kindergarten in seven elementary schools in Addison School District 4. The AECC hoped to support kindergarten-readiness by enrolling children in K-Camp who did not have any previous Pre-K experience. The student demographics for this school district are: Hispanic (63.3 percent); White (25 percent); Asian (4.3 percent); Black (2.3 percent); Low-Income (63.4 percent); and English Language Learners (40.4 percent).
To recruit families, AECC utilized spring kindergarten registration, school outreach, and special events. K-Camp is free-of-charge and transportation is provided. AECC also gives each child a free Kindergarten transition backpack with fun learning activities from Lakeshore Learning to promote learning at home.
Last summer, K-Camp ran for three weeks for three hours daily— 75 children attended, of which approximately 70 children did not have any Pre-K experience in the district. Further, most children were Latino, many of whom spoke English as a second language.
Coffee and Conversation breakfasts were offered two days each week for families while their children attended K-Camp (6 sessions total). In these sessions, parents were given the opportunity to chat informally with other parents and collaboration staff. The goal was to help parents form relationships with each other and strengthen their support network. As AECC staff and partners listened, they heard common questions and themes emerging, so two Assistant Superintendents attended the last session to answer parents’ questions—building the relationship between parents and the district in the process. In total, 107 parents attended at least one session, with 46 attending two or more sessions.
The second K-Camp ran for four weeks this summer and 100 children (up from 75) attended. Coffee and Conversations continued, now offered once a week. The number of parents who attended at least one of the four sessions increased to 126.
The format changed slightly; the sessions combined informal conversation and question-asking and answering. Parents’ questions were often focused on how to navigate the school system and how to get their children ready for the Kindergarten. Because district staff attended the sessions, they were able to directly answer questions and also share what they thought was important. For instance, staff stressed the importance of routines, sharing how they are important at school and could be helpful at home too.
The Coffee and Conversation culminated with a special session with the District 4 Superintendent and several elementary school principals. Mary Haley, AECC Project Director, described that session this way:
“The last session was the most heavily attended by parents. It was exciting and gratifying to see so many parents committed to helping their children be ready for kindergarten. It was also a fun, good way for parents and school leadership to begin to connect, get to know each other, and start their partnership in support of the new Kindergarteners!”
We can’t wait to hear about the 2020 version of K-Camp.
For more information, contact Mary Haley, Project Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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