August 2019

August 12, 2019

“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”

– Michelle Obama

Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

On July 17, 2019, CS3 hosted orientation for the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute’s second cohort of communities. The event marked the start of a year-long commitment to working with six collaborations on improving local early childhood systems.

In addition to the Collaboration Institute, the team has begun planning On-Demand Consultation for communities with a specific technical assistance need. The On-Demand Consultation will provide collaborations the opportunity to talk to an expert on specific elements of their work that need strengthening or improvement quickly. We expect launch this in the fall and hope that communities will take advantage of this additional support. Stay tuned!

Now is the time to sign up for the new Partner Plan Act online community forum, WeConnect! It is a great opportunity to stay connected with other early childhood systems-thinkers across the state and share questions, strategies, and resources.

Collaboration Highlight

DuPage Early Childhood Collaboration – Strategic Planning Yields Results

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:

  • A deeper understanding of DuPage’s early learning assets and challenges, as described in the Early Childhood Profile report. DECC created an ongoing gap analysis to understand how many early childhood program slots existed and how many eligible children were not being served because of the “slot gap.”
    • Currently, an estimated 10,000 eligible children, birth-to-5, are not being served despite efforts to increase the number of available early learning seats. School districts and other entities have applied for (and received) funding to address the “slot gap” but it remains a challenge. A root cause is that there is little to no space to hold additional programs.
    • In the next year, DECC will examine how the recent passage of a new $100 million capital fund initiative in Illinois might help close this gap.
  • An established regional collaborative infrastructure, which includes an 11-member, cross-sector Steering Committee and eight local collaborations. This is four times more partners than in 2015.
    • A quarterly collaboration meeting draws social service providers, school districts, local government, and community organizations. There are currently eight early childhood collaboration directors who meet regularly in a Community of Practice.
    • The eight local early childhood collaborations are situated in the following school district communities: Addison, Bensenville/Elmhurst, Bloomingdale/Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn/Glendale Heights/Lombard, Naperville, West Chicago, Wheaton/Warrenville, and Willowbrook.
  • DECC developed the “Ready Child Equation,” a unifying approach to kindergarten-readiness and high-level outcomes (“Ideal State”) for ready health systems, ready schools, ready early care and education, ready communities, and ready parents.
    • The five stakeholder groups are critical for ensuring success in kindergarten, in life and beyond. The Ready Child Equation draws on the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative, a 17-state effort to create school readiness measures.
    • The Ready Child Equation also positioned DECC to partner with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and ISBE to work on implementing the strategic planning objectives of the recently-awarded federal PDG birth-to-5 grant. Specifically, DECC received a planning grant to partner with multiple DuPage school districts to examine the 2018 Kindergarten Transitions Advisory Committee report recommendations, determine which recommendations will be feasible to implement, and identify opportunities to improve existing best practices.
  • A DECC public policy agenda, thoroughly vetted by all DECC collaborators, to inform relationship building with state legislators. DECC held in January 2019 an inaugural legislative lunch that gathered 35 state legislators and school district superintendents to learn more about early childhood policy issues.

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

If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email


A Path to Authentic Community Engagement

Early childhood collaborations recognize the need to engage parents, community organizations, and community members in their work, but doing so in ways that are genuine, meaningful, and long-term requires training and resources. It also takes collective determination to pursue authentic community engagement and transfer decision-making power to parents, community organizations, and residents. Living Cities created a checklist of Guiding Questions, adapted from RTI International, which collaborations could use as they think about how to engage their broader community. Some of the questions include:

  • Are all racial/ethnic groups who are affected by the policy/practice/decision that you are working on at the table?
  • Do we host meetings in community spaces that are accessible to the community, instead of asking community members to come to us?
  • Do we treat community members as “producers” and “actors” that have insight and knowledge of their community and are in mutual and two-way engagement with each other, rather than “subjects” or “passive recipients” that are to be studied or knowledge extracted from without further engagement?

Child Care in State Economies: 2019 Update

The Committee for Economic Development released an update to their national report that examines the child care industry’s effect on parents’ participation in the labor force. There is a full report and executive summary, as well as state level fact sheets, infographics, and talking points that collaborations could use to educate stakeholders about the economic impact of child care in Illinois. A few facts about child care usage and cost in Illinois include:

  • About 582,345 children under age 15 are in paid care – 251,465 (32.5 percent) under age 5 and 330,879 (20.5 percent) between the ages of 5 and 14.

  • About 59.1 percent of children birth-to- 5 in Illinois are in non-parental care for at least 10 hours every week.

  • The average annual cost of child care for an infant is $13,474 in a child care center and $8,442 in a family child care home.

Upcoming Trainings and Events

We are in the process of analyzing the Training Needs Assessment Survey results so that we can plan trainings that are responsive to early childhood collaborations’ needs. There are no upcoming trainings at this time.

Previous events like the Partner Plan Act Conference materials or recorded webinars, like the Ounce of Prevention Fund’s four-part series on systems alignment and integration strategies, are available for viewing.

Join WeConnect to access other resources and tools in the Partner Plan Act Community library – available to WeConnect online community members.