A Year to Never Forget
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the longstanding pandemic of racism, 2020 has seen much suffering but it has also brought forth a reckoning of our institutions and systems

Policies that center on the white dominant narrative have perpetuated the health disparities we see in the mounting COVID cases in Black and Latinx communities and they have, heartbreakingly, contributed to the countless murders of Black men and women at the hands of police officers.

These policies also show up in educational strategies that push children back into classrooms during a pandemic or assume that remote learners have all the supports they need to engage virtually—not fully acknowledging the emotional toll this disruption has on children.

This year has only pushed our feet harder on the pedal to drive action that ensures our systems and policies apply an anti-racist framework and provide equitable access and opportunity for all young children and their families. 

Our department has seen a high volume of engagement in initiatives and coalition work in response to these pandemics and, while we can’t list them all, we wanted to share a few highlights.

Our work is far from over but this year has shown us promise in the commitment of our colleagues, alumni, community partners and advocates to safeguard early childhood supports and reimagine our systems. We look forward to working with you all in 2021.

In partnership,
Erikson’s Policy & Leadership Team
2020 Highlights
Activating Our Base of Leaders
We are working with alumni from the Early Childhood Leadership Academy (ECLA) fellowship programs, providing coaching and consultation to center their work around young children and racial equity. We partnered with Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton to provide a childhood trauma-focused program to a cross-sector of leaders working with the state’s Justice, Equity and Opportunity (JEO) Initiative.

This effort resulted in our staff consulting on 11 other justice reform projects initiated by alumni, helping them to incorporate an early childhood and racial equity framework. To name a couple, we are assisting with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s 21st Century Illinois Transformation Model and developing a childhood trauma-focused workshop for Chicago Police Department detectives.

Other alumni projects focus on expanding and supporting high-quality, home-based providers in Lake County, piloting a comprehensive family support center focused on coordinated intake with birth to three services, and piloting a state-wide virtual community of practice for preschool and kindergarten teachers.   

Additionally, during this year's Policy Pitch, the 2019-20 cohort of the Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows put forth early childhood policy recommendations to address systemic issues (watch their two-minute pitches).
Deepening Data Literacy, Moving it into Action
We created a Decolonizing Data and Language webinar for BUILD Initiative's QRIS Conference. The webinar has been a popular request from organizations wanting to move away from using deficit language when advocating for children and families. The webinar also helps focus on data points that illuminate structural and institutional barriers as well as solutions for achieving racial equity.

Through the Early Development Instrument (EDI) Project, we have been working with community partners in the Greater East St. Louis, Kankakee County Area, the Village of Oak Park, City of Rockford and Central Skokie-Morton Grove Neighborhoods to support their community movements centered around early childhood data. Learn how they are using data to drive community change.

East St. Louis and Kankakee completed their second-wave EDI data collection this year—the start of trend data that will help them understand how children are developing as they reach kindergarten and the community supports needed to help them reach their fullest potential.  

We are providing technical assistance and coaching to communities using EDI data to strengthen their grant proposals that request support for childhood mental health, food distribution and transitions from preschool to kindergarten. With our team's help, Rockford's Ready to Learn movement was awarded a $500,000 Community Saturation Parenting Grant to saturate the community with early childhood supports and test how that leads to changes in parenting beliefs and skills as well as improved outcomes for kindergarten readiness.

Using data from the Illinois Risk and Reach Report, we provided a deep dive into health disparities, the conditions that contribute to them, the high rate of COVID-19 cases experienced by communities of color, and state investments in early childhood health programs and services. Plans are underway to release a second iteration of the Risk and Reach Report in 2021.
Enhancing Awareness of Early Childhood Issues
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we created a series of webinars to support emergency child care providers on behalf of the Illinois Department of Human Services and Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development. The webinars provided guidance on reopening, classroom safety precautions and addressing the developmental and social emotional needs of children during a pandemic.

We held Census workshops to help organizations encourage families with young children one of the most undercounted populations—to complete the Census during this critical year. We also developed an extensive social media campaign to provide our followers with resources and quick tips.

Additionally, we have been involved and have recruited our network of alumni and community partners to engage in systems building through the Early Childhood Funding Coalition, Prenatal to Three (PN3) Agenda, Early Learning Council, Every Child Ready Chicago and many others—serving as thought partners and field experts.
For More News, Follow Us and Download the App
See more highlights from the year as we countdown the Final 20 Days of 2020 on Facebook and Twitter.

Also, Erikson's Policy and Leadership app provides news on all of its initiatives, media articles, resources, and a Fellows in Action section to track alumni initiatives. Download at the Apple Store and Google Play Store.
We are grateful for the generous funding we receive that supports all
of the initiatives housed under the Policy & Leadership Department.
The John and Kathleen Schreiber Foundation
Policy & Leadership Team

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