August Partner Plan Act E-Newsletter

August 15, 2022

“None of us shows up as a blank slate to anything.” -Priya Parker 

Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

The fifth cohort of the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute launched on July 14, 2022. We are pleased to announce this year’s participating communities: 

  1. Early Childhood Forum of Central Illinois 
  1. Jewish Early Childhood Collaborative 
  1. St. Charles Early Learning Partnership 

Congratulations! We are so excited to work alongside you to improve outcomes for children and families. 

Did you miss the deadline to participate in this year’s Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute? No worries! Consider completing a request for On-Demand Consultation. On-Demand Consultation is a support for early childhood community collaborations tackling a specific, short-term issue. Consultants are matched with communities based on the topic area requested and will provide up to 24 hours of consultation over the course of the fiscal year.  

Collaboration Highlight

Participating Local Collaborations at 2022 Partner Plan Act Conference 

The annual Partner Plan Act conference, Equity from the Start: Taking Action, Shifting Power, took place on June 7-8, 2022. The conference featured three presenters who represented collaborations in Illinois: Samantha Marcellis, previously from Plano Area Alliance for Student Success and now Birth to 5 Illinois, and Diana Merdian and Francis Barrios from ROE 47 and the Sauk Valley Stars region.  

Diana’s workshop titled A Regional Approach for Supporting the ‘Whole Child’ Through the ‘Whole Family,” took place on the first day of the conference. The purpose of the workshop was to explain the foundation and obstacles of “A Regional Approach to Supporting the ‘Whole Family,” to demonstrate the components of a Community Referral System and IRIS, in Sauk Valley and to inform attendees where they can go for guidance on how to implement this approach in their own communities. Among many crucial topics, Diana highlighted the fact that COVID-19 exacerbated the many needs that families had with regards to isolation, trauma, and poverty as a result of navigating complex systems with limited services and supports in schools. ROE 47 hit the ground running by starting the planning process for IRIS in January of 2021, with the help of local collaborations, neighboring counties, Kansas University, and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood.  

They had an original goal of launching the system with three Home Visiting Programs, but with the support of the community, they ended up launching it with 15 early childhood organizations in September of 2021. In 2022, they are continuing to work with ECE systems to help build enrollment and recruitment, getting community buy in for the IRIS Referral System, and presenting their work to other communities and schools across the state. Not even a year into their program, IRIS in the Sauk Valley has already produced over 450 community referrals. 

In addition, the NEXUS program took off in Sauk Valley which discovered that there were 77 percent of families affected by trauma and 44 percent of families experiencing homelessness. They’ve met over 300 goals with families in this region and have worked with families to be more informed about what they need. Nexus has had a significant impact on families according to data presented by Diana. Francis Barrios, a mother in the Nexus program, gave her personal testimony on how the program has impacted her and her family’s life. She is a mother of three children, 14, 13, and 5, who were her driving motivation in seeking support from Nexus. They’ve helped her with housing, food, and overcoming obstacles related to racism. Nexus is currently expanding (to school districts, Rockford, and Quad Cities) and will focus on shifting power back to families by ensuring their voices are heard within community and school systems.  

Samantha Marcellis presented on the second day of the conference, with her workshop titled Abuse Impacts Your Community: Start Assessing for and Responding to the Needs of Families Experiencing Violence. The topics Samantha covered in this session were statistics on violence and abuse, warning signs in children, handling disclosures, best practices with child survivors, and collaborations with anti-violence and survivor-serving organizations. Samantha’s presentation shed light on the reality that one in three children in the U.S. witness violence in their home between their caregiver and the staggering statistics that 20 percent of victims of sexual abuse are under age eight, 90 percent of individuals with a developmental delay or disability will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 children are abused before the age of 18. The point Samantha made in sharing these statistics was that providers need to be careful when interacting with children and should know how to identify signs of abuse and respond accordingly. While it is critical to view families through a trauma lens, it is as critical to frame their experiences through a resilience lens and acknowledge “how great is it that this family has survived XYZ.”  

Samantha also defined Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), as experiencing violence, abuse, neglect; witnessing violence in the home or community; having a family member attempt or die by suicide; growing up in a home with a caregiver with substance abuse issues. All of which have long lasting impacts on children such as mental illnesses, physical illnesses, and poverty. 1 in 6 adults have experienced four or more types of ACEs as a child. Samantha then explained how symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger/aggression, dissociation, re-experiencing, and hyper-alertness manifest in a trauma exposed child’s behavior. Creating environments of structure, empathy, routine, and safety help children thrive and heal. There is a critical need for the participation of antiviolence and survivor serving organizations to work in collaborations t due to the prevalence of trauma/abuse in early childhood and the impact that has on children Birth to Five. Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) and Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) are two major organizations in Illinois that provide survivor services. There are also 53 ICADV centers across all counties in IL and 81 ICASA locations across all counties in IL.  

The CS3 team wants to express immense gratitude to Diana, Francis, and Samantha for presenting their valuable work at our conference. While the presentations varied in nature, both had themes that led back to equity, taking action, and shifting power in early childhood care and education. The presentations demonstrated how critical it is to support all families in an equitable manner during difficult times, and the positive outcomes that will have on children at large.  

The 2023 Partner Plan Act Conference Request for Proposals will launch in the winter, and we hope your communities consider submitting an RFP! Additionally, please consider joining the conference advisory committee by contacting Kristina Rogers (   

For more information on these sessions and others, check out their recordings on our Partner Plan Act website. For any questions, please reach out to 


Explained: Racial Wealth Gap 

In this full episode of Explained, Cory Booker and others discuss how slavery, housing discrimination, and centuries of inequality have compounded to create a racial wealth gap. The racial wealth gap has an impact on the lives and day-to-day experiences of young children and families; it has a direct impact on early childhood work and understanding how it came to be provide useful context. 

On Being: Resmaa Menakem & Robin DiAngelo 

Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands, and Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, joined Krista Tippett for an episode of the podcast On Being. Separately and together, these two clarify the important work that those in white bodies need to do in themselves and with each other, in service to everyone else. The conversation is not comfortable, but it is electric, and it opens possibility. 

Training and Events

We are working to secure our 2022 – 2023 training calendar. Visit the Partner Plan Act website for the latest training information. 
Dominating White Ways | October 26 – 27, 2022

White supremacy ideology is perhaps the greatest barrier to achieving socio-political, economic, cultural, and ecological sustainability in the USA. It is critically important that community and institutional leaders grasp the widespread constancy of white supremacy ideology; their conditioned investment in the ideology, and begin to imagine how to collaborate with others to dismantle it. The CS3 Team contracted with Chicago Regional Organizing for Anti-Racism to provide this 2-part workshop. Please only register if you are able to attend both dates. Register here!