Early Learning Insights
Newsletter of the Illinois Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development
In This Issue
About OECD
Alignment. Quality. Access.
OECD leads the state's initiatives to create an integrated system of quality, early learning and development programs to help give all Illinois children a strong educational foundation before they begin kindergarten.  Learn more.
Upcoming Events
5/16/2017  Community Systems Development Subcommittee Meeting

5/24/2017 Quality Committee Meeting

5/31/2017 Family Engagement Subcommittee Meeting

See calendar for more events and details.
New Resources
Supporting Immigrant, Refugee, Undocumented, or Mixed Status Families
CDC Child Obesity Fact Sheet 
Infant Immunizations
OECD Initiatives

Additional Resources
Contact OECD
Stay Connected
May 11, 2017
Dear Early Childhood Community,
The May edition of Early Learning Insights includes highlights and resources of interest to all of the sectors that encompass the Illinois early childhood system. Below, you'll find updates on ExceleRate for all of our early care and education professionals, a new universal home visiting pilot, our state cross-systems InterAgency Team, and much more.
As we continue our work together to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families, I encourage each of you to reach out and learn from your colleagues across sectors, and to strengthen collaborations and partnerships. Each of us brings an important perspective to the table, and we are stronger when we learn from each other and develop shared solutions.

Best Regards,
Cynthia L. Tate, Ph.D.
Executive Director, OECD
Top Stories
ExceleRate Illinois and Gateways Credentials-Important Updates

Deadlines for compliance with credential requirements in ExceleRate Illinois will be extended until July 1, 2018 due to multiple circumstances beyond the control of programs and staff.  The primary purpose of this extension is to enable all providers and their staff to focus on the more urgent priority of completing the CCDBG trainings before the upcoming deadline, and ensure that Illinois remains in full compliance with the federal requirements.  A contributing factor is the fact that many staff have lost a semester or more of college coursework this past year due to limitations in financial aid and scholarship resources.  Click here for additional information. 

For the past 4 years, Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding has offset the cost of Gateways Credentials.  The reduced price of $30 remains in effect until June 30, 2017 and is likely to rise after July 1.  If you are ready to apply for a Gateways credential, we encourage you to submit your application by June 30, 2017 to take advantage of the lower price.  

Do you have questions about Gateways Credentials ? As an applicant or Director looking for resources and answers, please use and share the Gateways Credential Flowchart and Director's Credential Toolkit. These resources are available and help to answer questions about the Credential process and supporting those that are considering or pursuing a Gateways Credential. From these documents, get a clear idea of what to expect when applying, from beginning to end.

Illinois Family Connects: Illinois' Newborn Home Visiting Program

Having a new baby affects many areas of a family's life. Babies don't come with an instruction manual, so it's natural for families to feel overwhelmed when a newborn arrives.Federal, state, and private funds are being used to create a universal system in Illinois to reach all newborns and their parents, offering them a home visit to provide information, supports and resources to strengthen parent's capacity to meet their children's needs. Based on each individual family's level of need and personal resources, assistance will range from providing information on how to care for newborns, to offering assistance with breast-feeding, to finding appropriate child care, to referring families to parent support groups, and to making referrals to high-intensity services such as home visiting.

Stephenson County and the city of Peoria will pilot this program, which is called Illinois Family Connects. Each site will use the Family Connects curriculum, and nurses will serve as the home visitors. Illinois Family Connects nurses are trained to answer all kinds of questions, and they are knowledgeable about the wealth of resources in the local community. Research shows that when families use the Family Connects program, mothers feel less anxious, they learn about the available quality childcare options, and their babies need less emergency care at hospitals. In addition, when the program was implemented in other communities, every dollar invested in the Family Connects program saved $3.02 in emergency health costs. This all adds up to an enormous, positive impact on the community.

The Stephenson County pilot has recently started to offer services. Through the pilot, all families who deliver a baby at FHN Memorial Hospital are eligible for a free in-home nurse visit, courtesy of Illinois Family Connects. For more information, please contact 815-801-4435 or ILfamilyconnects@aeroinc.net , or visit www.ILfamilyconnects.org .

This project is a partnership between the Stephenson County Health Department, FHN, Illinois State Board of Education, OECD, and the Ounce of Prevention Fund. The pilot was created through the work of a dedicated subcommittee of the Home Visiting Task Force, led by Deb Daro from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Andrea Palmer from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

State Systems Building: The Early Childhood InterAgency Team (IAT)

One of the best kept secrets in state government is the Early Childhood InterAgency Team (IAT), a coordinating body of public agencies whose purpose is to strengthen early childhood policymaking and service delivery in Illinois.

Early childhood leaders from Illinois state agencies have been meeting regularly for many years. In 2011, the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge application process elevated and formalized the IAT. Today, the IAT includes representatives from the Children's Cabinet, Head Start State Collaboration Office (HSSCO), Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and OECD.

Through the IAT, state agencies discuss and coordinate implementation of early childhood policies from individual agencies and the Children's Cabinet, and address issues and recommendations raised from the Early Learning and P-20 Councils. IAT strives to identify and act upon opportunities for system integration as well as understand and work through compliance issues.  "We at ISBE have been able to use the IAT's expertise in helping us think through our plans and initiatives.  It has been incredibly helpful to get advice concerning how we can coordinate our initiatives with other state agencies also providing high quality early childhood services to children birth through age 5 years," said Lynn Burgett, Early Childhood Division Supervisor at ISBE.

OECD convenes and staffs the IAT, which meets monthly and operates within a framework of collective impact. Major coordination strategy priorities identified by the IAT in 2016 are: delivering comprehensive, streamlined services for whole-child outcomes; and building family capacity and engaging families. Important coordination process priorities are to: determine shared outcomes; collect, share, and use data to drive collective decisions; identify evidence-based effective strategies that promote child outcomes and are sustainable.
Some of the IAT's recent accomplishments include:
  • Implementation of cross-agency initiatives:   Implementation of Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants (creating staff positions at OECD, contracts with intermediaries, etc.)
  • Maximization of early childhood program resources:  Identification of common areas of commitment among participating state agencies
  • Remediation of system integration barriers and gaps:  Improving access to Preschool for All/Head Start for children in DCFS custody
Projects underway include:
  • Developing a shared early childhood framework that includes cross-system and cross-agency goals, strategies, and infrastructure
  • Creating a shared 0-3 vision, unified 0-3 outcomes, and a pathway to measure progress over time
"The IAT has been a great opportunity to start building stronger connections between early childhood and public health," said Andrea Palmer, Title V Director and Chief of the Division of Maternal, Child and Family Health Services at IDPH. "This is a high priority for both IDPH and the Early Learning Council, and this is a great venue to carry the work forward collectively."

Stakeholders Recommend Developmental Screening Systems Improvements

As reported in the January 2017 edition of this e-newsletter, more than 50 public and private stakeholders gathered in December to collectively explore positive change within developmental screening processes and systems in the state. 
The report from this meeting, written by consultant Elizabeth Cole, includes recommended action steps and priorities in the following four areas, for which work groups have been created:
  1. improving the collection and use of child-level data (work group co-chairs Karen Berman, the Ounce, and Sally Szumlas, American Osteopathic Association)
  2. strengthening systems for screening and referral (work group co-chairs Lisa Betz, DHS, and Andrea Palmer, IDPH)
  3. supporting parents in understanding and accessing screening and services (work group co-chairs Janet Patterson, MD, and parent leaders from COFI)
  4. supporting the diverse sectors of the workforce that have a role in developmental screening and referrals (work group co-chairs Kruti Acharya, MD, Illinois LEND, and Alli Lowe-Fotos, the Ounce)
These temporary work groups are in the process of meeting to affirm short-term priorities and to identify existing avenues (such as committees, task forces, and councils) through which the work can be advanced. 

This initiative would not have been possible without the dedicated work of Diane Carasig, OECD's graduate intern from Erikson, to whom our office is deeply indebted.  For more information, or to get involved, please contact Joanna Su at OECD.

OECD Staff Transitions

In May, OECD is bidding farewell to two members of our team.
Diane Carasig finished her Erikson Institute field placement--and earned her Master's degree! Over the course of Diane's internship, she played an instrumental role in bringing together dozens of key stakeholders to begin planning for a systemic developmental screening initiative.  Diane was also the primary author and editor of this newsletter through the spring.

Claire Strubel , who joined the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge team over the winter, will be leaving OECD to purse an exciting opportunity--leading campers through the Rockies!  In just a few short months, Claire contributed immensely to our office, including a film-making project to document the incredible stories of programs that achieved Awards of Excellence.  

We will miss them greatly, and wish them all the best in their next adventures!

Policy Corner
Children's Cabinet Launches Cross-Agency Focus on Lead Reduction

Lead poisoning is one of the most prevalent, yet preventable environmental health hazards that can affect young children. Childhood exposure to lead has been linked to developmental delays, short and long term health problems, and academic failure. Children exposed to high lead levels tend to suffer from life-long complications that affect their ability to think, learn, or behave.

Of the approximately 270,000 Illinois children tested in 2014, more than 18,000 had blood lead levels above the CDC-recommended level for public health intervention. This places Illinois as the state with the second highest lead burden in the country, after Pennsylvania.

Based on this need, the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Youth has adopted Reducing Childhood Lead Burden as one of its three inaugural Cabinet projects. The team is led by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and includes representatives from DCEO (Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity), DCFS, DHS, ISBE, OECD, the Chicago and Cook County Departments of Public Health as well as other public and private stakeholders.

The team will primarily target children who are 6 years of age or younger, (one year longer than the national target age). Starting with these youngest children, the Children's Cabinet team will work on the following five strategies: improve case management of affected children; ensure safe homes to remediate past exposure and prevent future exposure; improve the quality and management of collected lead data to support data driven decision making; connect lead prevention and case management strategies with additional social service supports; and drive lead prevention and education initiatives. As the first step in the team's efforts to create more intentional and systematic connections between lead prevention and home visiting programs, a survey is now being developed for county health departments' lead program staff.

For more information, please visit the   Cabinet's Lead Reduction webpage  or contact Ken McCann  from IDPH.

Updated Early Childhood Two-Generation State Policy Profiles

The  National Center for Children in Poverty   has just updated its  Early Childhood Two-Generation State Policy Profiles . The profiles provide a two-generation view of current policies affecting children birth to age 8, nationally and state-by-state, in the areas of early care and education, health, and parenting/family economic supports. We regularly update and add policies to these profiles. This update includes three new policies identifying states that keep copayments for child care subsidies at or below 7% of family income for families of three at 150% FPL, states that reimburse center-based care at the highest quality QRIS tier above the 75th percentile of current market rates, and states that require one teacher for every 12 students in kindergarten classrooms. 

Please visit NCCP's website: www.nccp.org  to view these profiles and other NCCP resources that can inform efforts to help America's most vulnerable children. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at  ito@nccp.org .    

Partner Spotlight
South Suburban Innovation Zone in the News

O ne of Illinois' Innovation Zones was  featured in a Daily Southtown column today that also ran on the Chicago Tribune website. For this piece, Columnist Ted Slowik spoke with Carlos Patton and Leah Pouw from Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) to understand the broad scope of the Innovation Zone work as well as the specific methods and results in the South Suburbs. As part of this piece, Mr. Slowik also visited IAFC's new Dolton Head Start site.  Here is his column.
Partner Plan Act Conference

Partner Plan Act Conference
June 13, 2017
Illinois Wesleyan University
Bloomington, Illinois
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Join colleagues from around the state for the annual "Partner Plan Act" Conference focused on supporting local early childhood collaboration as a means for sustainable systems change that improve services and supports to children and families.
What to Expect
  • Gain a deepened understanding of how partnerships can transform people, communities, organizations, advocacy, policies and systems
  • Build connections, share ideas and develop a peer group for continued learning
  • Reflect on concrete and specific actions collaborations can take upon returning home
Who Should Attend
  • Leaders and active stakeholders in early childhood collaborations focused on building a strong local system to support young children and families
  • Professionals working in state systems of support for early childhood programs/resources at the local level (such as Child Care Resource and Referrals, Early Intervention, Regional Offices of Education, Departments of Health, All Our Kids Early Childhood Networks, Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting, etc.)
  • Professionals interested in collaboration and systems building
Conference Agenda
  • 9:00 a.m. -  Registration
  • 10:00 a.m.- Welcome and Opening Remarks
  • 10:30 a.m.- Breakout Session
  • 11:45 a.m.- Break
  • 12:00 p.m.-Peer Networking Lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. - Breakout Session II
  • 2:00 p.m. - Plenary
  • 3:00 p.m. - Closing Remarks
Questions? Please email partnerplanact@actforchildren.org

In the News
Illinois Business Leaders: Workforce Increasingly Needs Critical Social-emotional Skills

This new report from ReadyNation Illinois, underscores the great and growing need for developing social-emotional skills (such as communication, collaboration, and perseverance) in our workforce. It highlights the  vital significance of preschool and related efforts to help our youngest learners - the workforce of tomorrow - get off to the best start in life, today.

The report - "Help Wanted: Must Play Well With Others" - focuses on what are known by such names as "character," "employability," or "social-emotional" skills. The so-called "soft skills" seem hard to find, compared with technical skills - but they're increasingly important to employees' success. According to a recent Zogby Analytics poll of 300 business executives across the nation:
  • 88 percent of respondents noted a growing need for these social-emotional skills among employees and job applicants, as our economy changes;
  • 62 percent reported greater difficulties recruiting employees with adequate character skills than they did finding workers with good technical expertise; and
  • 55 percent said they're spending more to recruit workers with soft skills than they had in the past.
To help meet business and workforce needs, nearly nine out of 10 executives said they back public investments in young children's development to help them better acquire foundational, social-emotional skills such as good communications, collaboration, and perseverance in tasks.

More than ever before, workers must be collaborative; so much work is shared among employees today, and so many assignments are handled in teams. They have to be able to listen and communicate, while managing their emotions and impulses.

The ReadyNation report also cites the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who analyzed the Perry Preschool study of the long-term benefits of high-quality pre K. Dr. Heckman noted that improvement in character skills - such as motivation - explain a large proportion of positive outcomes in adulthood, such as higher educational attainment and reductions in crime. Plus, early efforts to support kids' development can reduce the corrosive and lasting effects of what are known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) - experiences such as poverty, parental divorce, domestic violence, and living with someone who suffers from addiction issues.

ReadyNation members called on state leaders to continue these new investments in early learning, and to strengthen other early childhood services that are similarly crucial to the workforce of today and tomorrow.  Examples include "coaching" programs for the new parents of at-risk infants and toddlers, as well as child care assistance for low-income, working families - initiatives that have felt the brunt of the state's budget impasse .
Pre-K: Decades Worth of Studies, One Strong Message

NPR recently published an article with one strong message: children who attend public preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don't. Check it out  here !

Available Resources
The Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) has a number of new tools available for parents and professionals

The  Spanish versions of ECE Credential Level 1: Modules 1, 2a, 2b, 2c are now available online.   As with all i-learning courses, a Gateways Registry Membership is required to access the training.  Additional modules will be added as the translation process is completed.  The new training modules can be found by selecting Entrenamiento en español (Training in Spanish), the CCAP Provider Required Trainings, and using the category link below the colored blocks called "Nivel de Credencial ECE 1 en español."  Please visit courses.inccrra.org to review any available online training.

There's an App for That!   ExceleRate Illinois released an app that makes it easy to search for a quality early learning program right from your phone.  Visit the App Store or Google play store and search for "Illinois Early Learning".  Using this app you can quickly search for programs in your community and view their Circle of Quality recognition.  Download the app today!

Gateways to Opportunity launched its redesigned website in mid-March.  Work began a year ago surveying users about what they were looking for and how easily the information could be accessed and understood.  The new website can now be quickly navigated on a mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer.  If you have not had a chance to look around visit www.ilgateways.com today!

Gateways Registry members can access a new report that will show an individual's progress toward meeting the new DHS requirements for Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) providers.  The Illinois Department of Human Services announced over the past few months new health and safety training requirements that must be met by September 30, 2017.   If you are a Gateways Registry member you can login to your Member Dashboard at https://registry.ilgateways.com/component/wsuser/login and click on My Registry and then the Plan Section.  Click on the Reports tab and choose the  Completion of IDHS CCAP Training Requirements

Upcoming Mental Health Webinar
Upcoming Webinar:

T he Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Toolbox -  
An Introduction for Early Care and Education Programs and Providers

Date and Time : Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 from 2-3 ET

Description : This webinar will introduce early care and education providers to the first-of-its kind Toolbox for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). The toolbox offers over 60 free interactive planning tools, guides, videos, PDFs and other resources to support IECMHC efforts in states, tribes and communities. Participants will leave with a more comprehensive understanding of how to apply these vast resources to efforts to develop and enhance IECMHC services to better support children's healthy development from infancy through the transition to school. The Toolbox offers information about the latest research and best practices for IECMHC in infant and early care and education settings.

Who Should Attend : This webinar is intended for early care and education providers and administrators working in IECMHC programs, as well as state or tribal leaders in child- and family-serving agencies who are interested in learning more about the Center of Excellence's new resource and how it can be used to improve outcomes for children in early care and education programs.  Please feel free to forward this invitation to anyone who might be interested in attending.

*Neal Horen, Technical Assistance Director, Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
*Amy Hunter, Technical Assistance Specialist, Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation

Waiting for Health Equity: A Graphic Novel 

Across the United States, a history of oppressive policies and practices has led to significant, persistent, and preventable health disparities or differences in health outcomes. In order to tackle these injustices, we must understand their root causes. The Center for Health Progress created a  graphic novel   for Colorado that aims to start new conversations about the complex challenges that we face in working towards health equity. 

Illinois Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development | earlychildhood.illinois.gov
160 N. LaSalle St. Suite N-100
Chicago, IL 60601