May 2021

May 11, 2021

IAFC Service Updates and Office Closures

“The more you benefit from supremacy, the more responsible you have to be to dismantle it.”

– Brittany Packnett Cunningham


Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

The fourth cohort of the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute launches in July 2021. Communities can apply as teams to receive coaching, consultation, and training over the course of a year from our CS3 coaches and trainers. Deepen your collective and individual knowledge on community systems, systems building, and systems change by participating in this free and unique opportunity! To apply and learn more, visit the Partner Plan Act website.

Our annual conference Equity from the Start: Reimagining the Early Childhood System will take place June 8-10, 2021. As we continue to understand the importance and impact of racial equity, remember to check out our Racial Equity Resources webpage to find assessments, tools, and resources.

Equity from the start

Collaboration Highlight

The Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership’s Family Liaison Program

The pandemic and subsequent shutdown this past year shook the world and devastated entire communities. Staying connected and hearing from those most impacted became more challenging at the time that it became even more important to be connected.

This month’s collaboration highlight features how the Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership rose to the challenge and launched their Family Liaison program in November 2020, as part of their effort to engage parents and other caregivers of children ages 0-5 years old. We interviewed their lead parent liaisons and parent leaders, Lettie Hicks and Gwen Kyle, to hear about their powerful efforts.

The parent liaisons’ first order of business was to discuss and decide how they wanted to engage other parents. They decided to carry out a series of virtual Sip and Discuss events, like the well-known Parent Cafes, “but under a different name.” It was important for Lettie and Gwen to create a space where parents and early childhood stakeholders could “give their different point of views from their different perspective.”

To date, the parent liaisons have held four Sip and Discuss events. More than 75 family members have attended the events to share their needs in conversations led by the liaison team. Although the guiding questions focus on early childhood needs, specifically the transition from early childhood to kindergarten, participants have found a space to speak honestly and “without being judged” about all their needs, including mental health, food, diapers, and other basic needs.

Through these Sip and Discuss events, liaisons found that families faced a lot of obstacles to getting their children into kindergarten. For instance, they learned that “some people skip kindergarten because they don’t know how to get their children into elementary school, or they don’t know what to expect, especially for first time parents.” Another parent who attended the Sip and Discuss event had just moved to the area and had left her support network behind. Other parents feared that child protective services would be called on them because they had landed on challenging times.

Through the Sip and Discuss events, both the liaisons and early childhood staff were able to answer questions, reassure parents and address their concerns, and begin building a community of support. Families were often able to get information on the spot about how to get their child ready for kindergarten or where to turn for support meeting their basic needs.

Lettie describes the emotional support the events provide: “We also offer resources for parents and familiarity, because some people feel that they are the only ones that go through certain issues. We were able to help people get through some situations. A lady kept coming because she had never had anyone to talk to and that was an out for her.”

The data from the Sip and Discuss events is still being collected and analyzed, but the liaisons are hopeful they can inform systemic change to better align the collaboration’s kindergarten transition work to community needs. Lettie and Gwen are members of the Early Learning Partnership and advocate for changes based on what they hear from the community events.

Gwen and Lettie have been leaders in their community for years by leading organizing and advocacy work that includes improved access to bus transportation and increased developmental screening among families. Lettie and Gwen are also a part of a team that will be building a Family Council, which will create new opportunities for families to lead across all the Early Learning Partnership’s activities.

If your community collaboration would like to be highlighted in a future e-newsletter, please email


Accountability Principles

The Puget Sound Cohort on Equity, Environment, and Infrastructure is composed of ten organizations that explored a fundamental question: how do multiracial coalitions hold each other, and themselves accountable in a way that advances racial equity? The cohort organizations generated a set of race-explicit principles for being in partnership with one another that elevate the historical power differential between people of color-led and historically white-led organizations. In partnership with Race Forward, those principles were then turned into a toolkit to assist organizations in self-identifying their current level of accountability, with concrete next steps to deepen this practice.

Collaborations may find the accountability principles helpful to examine their own relationships and dynamics. In addition, the different assessments listed below and are available in the toolkit, each of which contains “Next Steps” for how to deepen practice, may be useful for collaborations working toward racial equity:

  • Racial Equity Within Your Individual Practices

  • Racial Equity Within Your Organizational Practices

  • Organizational Practices in Working with Others and Building Authentic Relationships with Communities Most Impacted

  • Building Solidarity with People of Color-Led Organizations

The Social Change Ecosystem Map: Mapping Our Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem

Social Change

In our lives and as part of movements and organizations, many of us play different roles in pursuit of equity, shared liberation, inclusion, and justice. Yet, we often get lost and confused, or we are newcomers to ongoing social change efforts and do not know where to start. Or we are catalyzed into action amid a crisis in our community.

The Social Change Ecosystem Map is a framework that can help individuals, networks, and organizations align and get in right relationship with social change values, individual roles, and the broader ecosystem. You can find the full guide (containing the map, roles, and reflection questions) here as well as the map and the roles by themselves. You can also find additional information on their website. For additional information go here.

Attribution: Deepa Iyer, Building Movement Project. SM, © 2018 Deepa Iyer. All rights reserved. All prior licenses revoked.


Recently, RAPID-EC project released A Year in the Life of a Pandemic: What We’ve Learned Listening to Family Voices. This article provides a unique look at how families with young children weathered the pandemic, and highlights issues that are familiar to many of us—including the impact of existing inequities that were only exacerbated by the pandemic, and the challenges families faced. The article offers compelling arguments for why we need to continue to invest and support early childhood.

The RAPID-EC project launched in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim was to collect essential information from households and families with young children, and over the course of the year, the data has been used to inform key stakeholders and policymakers on immediate and long-term policy decisions.

Trainings and Events

Equity from the Start: Reimagining the Early Childhood System | June 8-10, 2021

The Partner Plan Act annual conference, designed to be a place for early childhood stakeholders to convene, learn, and grow will take place virtually on June 8-10, 2021. The conference spans three days with presentations from Vu Le, Professor john a. powell, and Lily Be. Attend one session or all three days! Registration is free and attendees will receive Gateways and ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) credits. Please share widely!