April Partner Plan Act E-Newsletter

September 29, 2022

“Our movements themselves have to be healing, or there’s no point to them.” – Cara Page

Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

Registration is now live for the annual Partner Plan Act conference! Find more details below or click here to register and learn more. For the first time, the full conference will be translated into Spanish. In addition, the conference is:

  • free to attend
  • Gateway Registry-approved
  • ISBE Professional Development hours-approved.

Help us spread the word by reaching out to Kristina Rogers, who can provide you with a marketing toolkit.

The CS3 team also recently published the 2022 Collaboration Directory, featuring the work of community collaborations across the state. You can find the latest version here.

Collaboration Highlight

Parent Perspective – Cheryse Singleton-Nobles

(photo description: head shot of Cheryse Singleton-Nobles, wearing a denim button-up shirt and a bright yellow statement necklace, with braids in her hair, smiling at the camera.)

This month, we had the privilege of hearing from Cheryse Singleton-Nobles, a Parent Leader from Chicago, about her parent engagement experiences for this newsletter. Cheryse is one of four parent leaders who are helping co-create and participate in the Partner Plan Act Conference Parent Roundtable Discussion on June 8, 2022. Make sure to register for the conference to hear directly from Cheryse and other amazing parents!

Cheryse is a proud wife, mother, foster parent, licensed minister, and member of the Illinois Family Advisory Committee—among the many other hats she wears. She is the parent of three adult children and is in the process of adopting a four-year-old. She sits on the Policy Council Committee and is on the Board of Directors for Early Head Start. She also currently serves as the Parent Committee President for Start Early Educare and is a member of the Illinois Family Advisory Committee (FAC)

  1. Can you give me a quick background on your parent engagement?  When and how did it get started?   
    “For my parent engagement, I first started many years ago, because now my oldest daughter is 32 years old.  I started volunteering with half day Head Start, which lead me to a position in teaching.  They paid for me to get a CDA credential. I said, “I really really like this”.  I liked being involved with the families and stuff.  I continued to go to school and volunteer with the programs.  It’s 32 years later, and I’m still volunteering for our children, especially for children with different disabilities. That’s my passion.  I enjoy speaking up for them, getting them the services that they need, the materials that they need and things of that nature.”
  2. How did your parent engagement role evolve from volunteering and teaching to more of an advocate role? 
    “Because I felt that my children were not getting the services they deserved and needed at the time.  My son, he has a mild developmental delay and needed speech and occupational therapy.  Getting things like that it’s kind of hard to get. I noticed it, because I sit with other parents in different parent meetings and we discuss things.  I noticed that I wasn’t by myself, and we didn’t really have anyone fighting for us in that capacity.  That’s what made me turn to that advocate piece.   Not just for me, but for other families.  When I worked with other families, I noticed that some needed wheelchairs, some needed glasses, some needed speech therapy, communication boards. I noticed that they didn’t have these things and I started researching.  Someone noticed and said, “Cheryse why don’t you try something?” And I did, and I’m still here.”
  3.  Can you describe your work with the Family Advisory Committee (FAC)?  
    “With the FAC, we are all assigned regions. I’m a part of region 1.  We get together and discuss things that we feel are important, that state legislators, the people that have power to do things for us and that will actually listen to us, need to hear. We come together and meet monthly, 2-3 times, depending on how severe the issue is.  We come together to make strategies and things of that nature to help our families, the children and families we encounter every day.  It can be children with disabilities, it can be access to free childcare, access to a health and dental van.  We get together to decide a plan as a team, we work with one another, we have an amazing time working with one another.  We have a board of directors.  Each of us play a vital part to what’s going on, I can’t do it alone.  We all work together. We also work with other things and we bring it to FAC to make us all better.”
  4.  Can you speak to the idea of parent only spaces?  How have you liked it? Do you think it’s a good idea?  
    “I think it’s a great idea to have a parent-only space, because we relate to one another, and there’s no downplay. It’s like, you are not intimidated by the families we are with.  You’re more open to discuss things, especially when you hear someone else’s story.  And that’s what FAC is all about, we hear each other’s story, and you can feel the person’s heartbeat for what it is… what they want, you can feel their passion and you realize that you are not in it by yourself.   

    Having a parent-only space, I think it’s great idea. I think it needs to continue because families are more prone to discuss family in their own spaces versus when we have people, I guess, I want to say the word people with titles and positions, I guess. Some families shy from away and won’t talk at all, others like mine won’t.  I don’t care what type of titles or positions you have, I’m going to say something.  So when you have the family only outlets, I think it’s great for all of us to communicate, be as one, and know that you are fighting together. There’s no “big I’s” or “little you’s”. We are all fighting for the same thing.”

  5. How did you get connected to the FAC?  
    “My director at my son’s school sent me an email when they were looking for families.  She said, “Cheryse, I don’t know if you’ll make it in, but just give it your best shot. “ And, I gave it my best shot.  I got a letter in the mail saying we had over 100 families apply, because it was an application process.  I got selected out of 100 applicants.  They said you are 1 of 16 parents who got selected.  It was a big deal!”
  6. What about the FAC appealed to you? 
    “Because it was talking about families and being able to advocate for families. I liked the idea of advocating, because it was all for families.  It talked about acting like a board, and it was all for families.  It gave a brief history of being able to discuss in your own environment, talk to state legislators, sit on panels to have your voice heard as a parent, that’s what drew me to the FAC.”
  7. What were some effective parent engagement strategies that worked well with the FAC? 
    “They done a lot of things!  They have allowed us the opportunity to be ourselves without training.  A lot of times, when you enter into these types of things it’s like “Oh My Gosh. I’m so scared or intimidated to say anything.”  They made it a very safe platform for parents with a little experience coming in and parents with a lot of experience coming in.  They give us trainings through COFI. They came out and trained us, and that’s a plus.   

    “They give us the opportunity to break up into small groups with group discussions – that’s pretty good even for the shyest of the shyest person can participate.  You get into your two group and three group and share out. We salute and congratulate one another.  If you come in shy, we say, ‘You did it – you got it, yes!’ That process is great.  They give us awards and certificates when we finish milestones and projects.  That’s a plus.  Being able to share and connect to other regions, it’s not just your region.  You’re grouped with a person you don’t know who is a part of your region is too.  They should keep that.  They have great resource materials – if it’s something that we need even outside of FAC, they make sure that we get it.  They also allow us the opportunity to do things like this [being highlighted in the newsletter].  We show up for each other! We like to share what we have going on.  Even if we can’t make it because we are at work, we send messages on a thread to say, ‘We know you got it! We are rooting for you!’”

    “They provided a safe space.  So when you’re first entering somewhere, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into? What do I expect, what are their expectations of me?’  Then you see another person that is ‘a you’.  You got to connect with ‘a you’.  Being afforded the opportunity, because they already set the tone – there is no wrong answer and no wrong way to approach, we are diving head first and we will make our mistakes and have our wins together. We’ll have our disappointments together.  That’s the kind of tone for the FAC.”

  8. What difference has the FAC made for you and your family, community? 
    “The difference for my family and I, because this is an all-parent group, that’s the big difference in itself. Being able to discuss things we face as a family, overall, not just one family but a big parent group, being able to discuss things that we face as families.  Overall, having a place to talk about what challenges they are having, combine resources, having that extra support for my family that’s what makes it all worth it.  We share personal things as well. I do look at them as other parts of my family.  Just having that extra support and that team because it’s a team.”
  9. What difference has the FAC made for young children and their families in the state? 
    “We are able to let state legislators know that it’s difficult because some people don’t understand the enrollment process.  We keep asking to please shrink down all those pieces of paper to enroll in Head Start and childcare. We discuss the importance of inclusion, of getting to know what the child needs.  Also, the break between IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) and the IEP (Individualized Education Programs).  There’s a Long break between both service plans.  We were able to help families, instead of waiting until your child turns three, start the process 6 months before your child turns three to make it a smoother transition.”
  10. Is there anything else you want to share that I have not asked you about? 
    “We are our families, our children’s first, first, first, first, first face and by us being that, we have to make sure that we continue to stand in the gap, on the front line, to make sure that all families not just ours, that all families get the quality care that they deserve regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of any barriers, any disabilities. “ 

    “We have to make sure that we continue to stand with one another to make sure that the state hears what we need.  That they hear our voices and that they know that we are serious. We want a proper education and proper materials. We want a fun, loving, environment and we have to keep pushing.  [Parents] have to know that they are not there by themselves and that there is a gang of people that are rooting for them and waiting for them at the finish line.”


(photo of an illustration of a diverse group of individuals in a circle below a starry night and the text, “Turning Towards Each Other, A Conflict Workbook.”)

Turning Towards Each Other: A Conflict Workbook

Individuals in community systems work, community building, and social movement work can experience difficult interpersonal conflict with partners or colleagues, too. This workbook offers exercises for self and group exploration to build collective self-awareness and conflict resilience. These tools will help resolve interpersonal tensions and increase the capacity to work together to dismantle oppressive systems and create regenerative ones. This workbook was published in 2020 by Jovida Ross and Weyam Ghadbian.

(Photo of a still from Jay Smooth’s video, featuring him speaking and the text, “What they did” and “What they are.”)

How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist

This three minute video with Jay Smooth quickly distinguishes between what someone does versus who they are. Calling out racism is difficult, and it helps to know what will automatically shut down a conversation.

Trainings and Events

Practical Strategies for Engaging Parents in Your Collaboration

Most people agree that parent engagement is critical. But HOW do collaborations engage parents in a way that takes into consideration their community needs and resources?! Join us for a four-part workshop series that delves into practical strategies for engaging parents in each of the four collaboration parent engagement roles – Family and Community Expert, Collaboration Parent Leader, Outreach Ambassador, and Advocate.

How to Engage Parents as Advocates | April 20, 2022, 10am-12pm

Intro to Systemic Racism | June 29 – 30, 2022

It is impossible to talk about systems-change without recognizing the insidious nature of racism and its role within systems. For this reason, the CS3 team contracted with Chicago Regional Organizing for Anti-Racism (CROAR) to provide trainings on this important subject. This event will take place virtually over the course of two days, June 29th from 9:00 am -12:30 pm and June 30th from 9:00 am -12:30 pm.

Equity from the Start: Taking Action, Shifting Power | June 7 – 8, 2022

The annual Partner Plan Act conference will take place virtually from June 7- 8, 2022. The theme of this year’s virtual conference is Equity from the Start: Taking Action, Shifting Power. Over the past few years, we have explored why we should center race in community systems development conversations and last year, we reimagined what the system could look like. This year, we hope to show how we can shift power in our sector to the on-the-ground providers, community members, and parents, especially those who have been historically left out of these conversations.

To help us take action, Sociologist Dr. Eve Ewing will join us for an opening fireside conversation. The conference will also feature several opportunities to hear from parents directly, through workshops, storytelling, and an all-parent panel. Dr. Dana Crawford, Pediatric and Clinical Psychologist, will provide the closing keynote session.

For the first time, this conference will be fully translated into Spanish with the hope that we have a broader reach than ever before. And as always, this conference is FREE to attend and Gateways Registry-Approved.