Birth to Five Illinois hopes to amplify community voices in child services – Alton Telegraph

A new infrastructure is trying to address Illinois’ early childhood needs at the local level.

Birth to Five Illinois is designed to bring community, family and provider voices to the forefront of both local and state policy decisions.

The group was founded in February 2022 by the state and the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, after the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding recommended the creation of a formal way to receive community input.

Birth to Five Illinois has more than 56 regions. Each region has formed two councils — an action council for community members with a personal or professional interest in speaking up for young children and their families and a family council through which parents and other caretakers can share their thoughts about their needs and how to improve programs.  

Region 40’s councils — which cover Calhoun, Greene, Jersey and Macoupin counties  are managed by Keppen Clanton, a former public school administrator and science teacher.

The action council analyzes region-specific data for children ages birth to 5, while the family council looks at the information from “a family perspective” and sees if it matches up with their experiences, Clanton said.

Birth to Five’s current short-term goal is completing a survey analyzing the demographic, programmatic, workforce and facilities landscape in all of its regions, as well as looking at what early childhood services in each place need, English said. The analysis is being based on the findings of each region’s councils, Clanton said.

The survey is expected to be completed around June and sent shortly after to the governor’s early childhood education office, legislators and local stakeholders. Each region then will make a few key recommendations for its counties based on the survey’s findings.

Region 40 had 5,000 children ages birth to 5 but only 2,000 slots available in publicly funded programs and childcare services, with some counties having no childcare available whatsoever, Clanton said. Early intervention services also are in low supply in the region, she said, and the interventionists that are there are being stretched thin.

The portion of the state between Interstate 72, near Jacksonville and Springfield, and Interstate 70, south of Alton, had been described by some as a “wasteland,” Clanton said.

“We don’t have collaborations, not only in early childhood, but we don’t have big business collaborations,” she said. “We don’t have technology collaborations. We have become kind of a wasteland and our region is suffering because of that.”

Birth to Five officials said they want to address kindergarten readiness as one of its goals. Other issues it is seeking to address include health, nutrition and housing insecurity, but there is not enough room in the current survey to address those, she said.

Region 40 currently has no early childhood collaborations, though there has been talk about working with higher-education institutions, Clanton said.

Once the statewide survey is completed, Birth to Five’s councils will remain in place, though there will be more work to be done after it is finished.

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via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader

February 3, 2023 at 09:14AM

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