Taking Action

Program coordination and implementation are carried out by the Coalition’s Action Teams and ad-hoc committees.

Each Action Team focuses on a different priority. Participation in Action Teams is open to the public. We welcome all new members. Small contributions can often make BIG differences.

We appreciate the time and effort all the Coalition members invest into building stronger, brighter futures for the children and families in Southern Illinois. 

Our current Action Teams include School Readiness, Screening, Strong Families, and the Early Childhood Workforce

Child Centered Communities

Ongoing research continues to highlight the importance of early childhood and the fact that the first five years of a child’s life will have the biggest impact on their overall development and future success. More than one million neural connections per second will be made in a child’s brain up to the age of six, creating the foundation for all future behavior, health, and learning It’s a time when they are open to learning about themselves and others and are keen to explore and understand the world. 

The Problem

Despite the research, the needs of young children and their families are not a high priority in local policymaking, planning, and funding.

Common Agenda/ Goal

Increase community leader’s knowledge and understanding of the importance of early childhood education and care, leading to a culture shift that prioritizes children and families in a systemic way empowering them to support children and families better 

Objectives/Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Act as An Impact Accelerator for Birth to Five Illinois.

Be a Field Catalysts for developing community-based initiatives to improve and increase local focus on the needs of young children and their families.

Educate stakeholders about policy and funding needs to meet the needs of children in the region.

Desired Results

Communities demonstrating more commitment and investment to the needs of young children.

Coalition members are engaged in Birth to Five Illinois Regional Councils.

More opportunities exist to educate stakeholders and policymakers about the importance of addressing the needs of young children.

School Readiness

Early school readiness can lead to better grades and lower dropout rates, as well as better health and lifestyle habits. Parents, family members, teachers, physicians, and community members are all important in helping young children be ready for school.

Common agenda/goal

All children arrive at school ready to learn and there is a community-wide commitment to supporting this goal.

Objectives/Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Create and promote a school readiness definition and readiness checklists based on research for uses by all stakeholders

Help Connect Families to Early Childhood programs in their community.

Create systemic opportunities for early childhood and kindergarten teachers to meet, share strategies and align efforts.

Support transitions between preschool and kindergarten that are seamless with support for both children and parents.

The Problem

According to ISBE KIDS data, too many children do not have the readiness skills necessary to be successful when they enter kindergarten.

Desired Results

The region uses a consistent definition of school readiness.

A universal readiness checklist is available for use by stakeholders.

Resources and tools are available to help children acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for success.

Kindergarten teachers and prekindergarten teachers have opportunities to align efforts.

More school districts have expanded transition models

Screening Collaborative

Screening is the first step in identifying children at risk for cognitive, motor, communication, or social-emotional delays. When these delays are addressed early, screening can often occur in various settings.

The Problem

The region lacks effective coordination of screening efforts resulting in both duplication of efforts and screening gaps.

Common agenda/goal

Coordinate a well-integrated community-wide screening and early detection/children find the system so that all children in southern Illinois will be screened for developmental and social-emotional delays with appropriate and available resources to support the next steps.

Objectives/Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Increase public and professional awareness of the importance of child development. screening, referrals, and follow-up.

Coordinate a cross-sector region-wide screening effort that increases the rates of developmental and social-emotional screening of all children and a central repository/database for tracking screening history and results.

Ensure providers have the tools and skills to recognize children who may be at risk of a developmental delay or behavioral issue and know how to provide the appropriate referrals. Referrals are successfully made to appropriate programs and services for further screening and intervention.

Desired Results

More opportunities exist for families to learn about child development milestones.

There is an increase in the number of children screened for developmental delays.

There is an increase in the number of children screened for social-emotional delays.

Professionals have a wide variety of tools and resources that support best practices in screening and referral practices

Strong Families

Children have a better chance at success when they have strong families.  Strong families give children a safe, secure place to live and grow. It helps them build the confidence to explore and learn new things. And they can overcome a setback or face a challenge because they know they have strong family support.

Common agenda/goal

Families will be strong, knowledgeable, and engaged with access to resources and support that empower them for success.

Objectives/Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Collaborate with resource and service partners so families can be better linked with the needed programs, services, and resources that empower them for success

Coordinate a region-wide network that supports services providers who connect families with resources.

Empower and Strengthen Families by connecting them to opportunities that promote parent leadership and elevate the family voice.

Collaboratively create and administer a region-wide family needs assessment.

The Problem

Families’ need for support has significantly increased. Family Resource workers and Family Navigators need more tools, resources, and support to connect them with resources

Desired Results

Active engagement in the website and sifamilies social media pages.

Active participation in network meetings, training, and events.

Information is easily shared between agencies to connect with families.

More families are participating in leadership opportunities.

Comprehensive needs assessment is executed, and results are available to identify gaps and inform future work.

The Problem

The pandemic exacerbated the already existing shortage of qualified early childhood professionals to a crisis level.

Early Childhood Workforce

Even before COVID-19, the region saw a shortage of qualified early childhood teachers. Low wages, lack of benefits, and high stress increased turnover rates.  A 2019 staffing survey showed that as many as 32% of teachers in licensed childcare centers leave their job every two years.  The number of professionals leaving the field for other jobs or professional opportunities continues to increase.  At the same time, higher education Institutions report there are fewer students enrolling in early childhood classes. The state has responded by investing in several strategies and initiatives designed to mitigate the shortage.  While these programs yield positive results,  more must be done to ensure an adequate supply of qualified teachers.

Common agenda/goal

Southern Illinois has sufficient high-quality candidates to meet staffing needs in the region’s early childhood education and care programs.

Objectives/Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Develop and strengthen relationships with area high school, adult education, and workforce education staff to connect with individuals interested in working in the early childhood field.

Explore the possibility of developing an early childhood workforce database to be used as a clearinghouse of ‘ready-to-work individuals with the necessary paperwork and fingerprints completed.

Create a marketing campaign that speaks to the impact of the early childhood workforce to change the public perception through strategic education.

Desired Results

Increase in the number of high school students taking early childhood classes, entering the field.

Increase in the number of applications received by early childhood programs from qualified individuals.

Reduction in the number of teacher/ staff vacancies in early childhood programs.

Professionals have a wide variety of tools and resources that support best practices in screening and referral practices