Community Parenting Support Saturation Project

Community Parenting Support Saturation Project

In Illinois, the jarring reality is that 29 percent of our children enter kindergarten prepared*. In helping children learn, grow, and stay healthy, we know that families and primary caregivers are an important part of supporting children’s growth.

The Community Parenting Support Saturation project’s overall goal and outcome is to ensure the families are embraced and supported as the most important influences in their children’s early learning, and every child starts kindergarten thriving, ready to learn and excited about school.

Working with three communities, Illinois Action for Children will provide support in their design and implementation of a community saturated approach. Leveraging our expertise in community systems development, we will support the community collaborations, spearheaded by local organizations, to implement parenting interventions and identify policy barriers families face in accessing early care and education services.

Through this project, we intend to inform and contribute to the growing research on family and community engagement and community systems in the early childhood field.

What is a Saturated Approach?

Communities will identify and design a "community saturation" approach to providing family and parenting interventions that ultimately prepare children for kindergarten. Saturation is an array of interventions that collectively address multiple levels of parenting needs and is available to all parents of young children (ages birth to 5) in a community. Such interventions might range from high reach/intensive approaches (e.g., home visiting), to low reach/universal strategies (e.g., public awareness campaigns, parenting apps, etc.).

About the Communities

We are partnering with organizations to implement this innovative project in Aurora, Rockford, and the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. The communities will design and implement a ‘saturated approach’ to provide parenting interventions to support primary caregivers in their parenting skills and knowledge. The three communities are unique in the families that they serve and in the experience and expertise that they bring to this project. Over the years, we are excited to learn and adapt this project to make sure all families receive the supports that the need for their child’s learning and growth.

SPARK program (Strong, Prepared, and Ready for Kindergarten) is an education initiative of the Fox Valley United Way and leads an early childhood community collaboration in the Aurora and Kane County region. SPARK helps ‘underserved Aurora families with children age birth through five connect to early education and childcare that will prepare their children for success in life.’

Through this project, SPARK will implement several new parenting initiatives. Some of the strategies they are looking to implement include parenting apps, marketing efforts, parent cafes, and training parent leaders to provide the Incredible Years workshops. SPARK will also leverage its Universal Family Interview strategy to support families in enrolling in early care and education programs and its Play.Learn.Connect program to offer families comprehensive supports.

Alignment Rockford provides backbone support for the Ready to Learn collaborative in the Rockford region. The Ready to Learn collaborative will design and implement parenting interventions to reach all of its families with young children. Ready to Learn will offer opportunities for families such as building the skills and knowledge of caregivers through The Basics and conducting general outreach and family engagement. This project will build upon existing initiatives such as the Early Development Instrument (EDI) project and Opening Doors to strengthen their saturated approach for families and build a larger movement for early learning.

Carole Robertson Center for Learning (CRCL) will be partnering with community stakeholders to develop parenting interventions to families in the North Lawndale community. CRCL will provide several opportunities for families to deepen their own skills and knowledge, including trainings through Circle of Security and designing learning kits for families to provide educational content for their children at home.

Advisory Committee

The project includes an external advisory committee of community leaders in the early childhood field. The committee advises us on implementation and offers feedback on the work.  

  • John Borrero, Executive Director, Collaboration for Early Childhood (Oak Park)
  • Iris Hildreth, Family Engagement Manager, Governor’s Office of Early Childhood
  • Nancy Plaskett, Consultant
  • Nick Wechsler, Director of Program Development, Start Early
  • Dana Suskind, Founder and Co-Director of Thirty Million Words Center for Early Learning and Public Health; Professor of Surgery at University of Chicago, Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program
  • Yolanda Lawler, Steans Family Foundation

Additional Background Information

The project emerged from conversations held by a small group of philanthropic partners that were interested in how to engage primary caregivers to increase the number of children ready for kindergarten in 2017. The following year, this group engaged with Start Early, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and Family Focus to conduct a series of focus groups with families to understand and develop the Community Parenting Support Saturation project vision. Illinois Action for Children was selected as the Lead Anchor organization in 2019-2020. Communities will be planning and piloting the project through Spring 2023.

The Community Parenting Support Saturation Project is generously funded by our philanthropic partners: Crown Family Philanthropies, J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and Steans Family Foundation.

* ISBE’s 2019 KIDS Report: 29% of Illinois Children Developmentally Ready for Kindergarten

Community Parenting Saturation Tiers

This graphic is adapted from a concept paper produced by Start Early, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and Family Focus.