August 2020

August 5, 2020

IAFC Service Updates and Office Closures

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

—John Lewis

Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

The CS3 team has developed a new webpage to support collaborations interested in learning more about racial equity. There, you will find books, videos, reports, and assessments to help collaborations adopt more equitable policies, practices, and strategies.

The CS3 team also recently launched three new On-Demand Learning courses:

  • Shared Intake for Early Childhood Collaborations

  • Collaborative Developmental Screenings for Early Childhood Collaborations

  • Community Systems Development for Early Childhood Collaborations

In addition, we have partnered with The Center: Resources for Teaching and Learning to offer ISBE Professional Development Hours (PDH) and with INCCRRA to offer these as Gateways approved trainings.

Requests for Proposals for the Community Parenting Saturation Project Application is Open

Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) is pleased to announce the launch of the Community Parenting Saturation project. IAFC released a Requests for Proposals for communities to apply for funding to join this innovative new project.

The Community Parenting Saturation Project aims to launch an initiative in two communities – one in the city of Chicago and one outside the city of Chicago – that:

  • Demonstrates what a saturated approach to family engagement strategies within a community would look like; and

  • Tests whether this approach truly leads to measurable changes in parenting beliefs and skills as well as prepares children for kindergarten.

  • Priority will be given to applicants that demonstrate a strong and compelling need for this project in their community and have an existing early childhood community collaboration.

Please visit our website to learn more about this exciting Community Parenting Saturation Opportunity.

You can also download the Grant Application Narrative and the Grant Application now, for more information on eligibility and grant program details. View the webinar recording detailing the application process.

The deadline to apply for this opportunity is Friday, August 28, 2020. Completed applications must be submitted electronically to

Apply to Receive a Complimentary Enterprise License to Ages & Stages Questionnaire

Illinois Action for Children’s Community Systems Statewide Supports Team (CS3) is pleased to offer the opportunity to provide 3 communities with an Ages & Stages Questionnaires® Enterprise license for one year, at no cost! 

Early Childhood collaborations have expressed interest in implementing a community systems development approach to conducting developmental screenings. However, many have found the cost and logistics of maintaining a shared database to track screenings to be significant barriers.

The selected communities will receive access to:

  • Annual subscription for Enterprise for five sites for 1 year*
  • ASQ-3 English Starter Kit
  • ASQ-3 Spanish Starter Kit
  • ASQ-SE English Starter Kit
  • ASQ-SE Spanish Starter Kit

*After the first year, the collaboration will have to cover the annual subscription fee and any and all other costs.


  • Download and complete the application.
  • Submit the completed application, including required attachments, to Grace Araya no later than 5 p.m., Monday, August 31, 2020.
  • Applicants will be notified whether they have been selected by September 7, 2020.

Collaboration Highlight

Adapting in the Age of COVID-19

This month we had the pleasure to talk with Rarzail Jones to find out how the North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration is faring in these unprecedented times. The North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration is currently receiving supports through the second cohort of the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute. Rarzail’s answers to our questions showed a collaboration that can readily adapt to the world around it.

  1. What was the collaboration working on before the Coronavirus pandemic started?

    Before the pandemic began, the collaboration was focused on three projects. The first was direct participation in a Learning Landscapes project. Learning Landscapes creates play installations for children and families that focus on math, social-emotional development, and parent engagement in non-traditional community spaces. The Collaboration provided input that determined the design and placement of these play installations.

    The Collaboration’s second project was to prepare to take a deep dive into community data and stakeholder engagement by hosting a community data walk. The focus of the data walk was to make a visual comparison of the number of open slots in early childhood education programs per census tract against other community factors such as the number of working families in the community, the number of families that qualify for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), and the number of families at or below 185 percent of the poverty level.

    The Collaboration’s third project was a reworking of their charter and mission and vision statements.

  2. What needs arose in the community as the pandemic developed?

    The needs of the community were pressing. The pandemic brought to light a lack of basic necessities such as personal hygiene products, baby care products, groceries, and feminine products.

  3. How did the collaboration pivot its work as a result of the pandemic?

    In response to the community’s immediate needs, various collaboration partners came together to gather donations. Through the work of the North Lawndale Community Coordinated Council, North Lawndale Cares, and Cradles to Crayons, families were able to secure baby formula, diapers, wipes, groceries, hygiene kits, feminine products, books, and schools supplies every Wednesday during the months of May and June.

    Also, the Collaboration adjusted its original plan for their community data walk by turning it into a virtual event. On July 21, community members came together via Zoom to analyze data, to learn about the Chicago Early Learning application, and to discuss what they can do to ensure that families are enrolling children in early learning programs.

  4. What have you learned about your collaboration during this time?

    The Collaboration has remained connected despite being physically apart since March. Multiple partners have reached out to both offer and seek resources, and they all continue to show mutual care and accountability.

    “I learned that even though they are not physically connected, the collaboration was still attentive to the needs of the community. They stood up, they stepped up, and they showed up.”

  5. What is the future of the collaboration and its work in this “new normal”?

    This is the first year that the collaboration has had a core team, which has been instrumental in continuing their work. Until they can meet again in person, the collaboration will connect virtually as much as possible. They will continue to listen and respond to the needs of the community, whether they are sharing resources or ensuring that priority families are enrolled in early learning programs.

    Rarzail reminds us, however, that “Nothing about this is normal!”

If you would like your collaboration’s work to be highlighted in the Partner Plan Act Newsletter, please email us at


Guidelines for Daily Systems Thinking Practices

Understanding community systems development as a concept is one thing, but applying a systems thinking mindset to your everyday work is another. Because systems thinking relies on the use of a powerful set of tools and often counterintuitive perspectives, it requires lots of practice. Linda Booth Sweeney’s produced a one-pager of guidelines for making systems thinking a habit for life-long learning. Collaborations may find it helpful to use these guidelines as they approach their daily work.

We have an extraordinary opportunity at this moment in human history to pause and feel our human connectedness – and to consider how we might respond to both the suffering and the possibility of the moment in ways that create communities of belonging and care. – Kathleen Osta, National Equity Project

National Equity Project COVID-19 Resource List

National Equity Project (NEP) believes that every child has the right to a quality education and supports people to become the leaders who make good on that promise. In response to COVID-19, NEP has created a Rebel Leadership & COVID-19 resource list. While many entities have created resource lists, this one focuses on how applying an equity lens to the global pandemic is crucial as communities move forward. Some resource topics available include:

  • Rebel Leadership

  • No New Normal: Redesigning Our Collective Future

  • Adaptive leadership in the Age of the Coronavirus

  • Political Analysis & Social Commentary

  • Self-Care, Family & Community Well-being

  • Academic & Social Emotional Learning Resources for Educators

  • Tools, Tips and Strategies for Humanizing Online Learning for Adults and Young People

  • Resources for the Heart

Trainings and Events

None at this time, but make sure to check the Partner Plan Act website for the latest event information!