Purple hand with a smaller white hand inside announcing Early Childhood Advocacy Day 2024

We are excited to come together in person in Springfield with our partners Child Care for All, COFI, Illinois Action for Children, Latino Policy Forum, Raising Illinois, SEIU and We, the Village this spring to advocate for our state’s youngest learners!

While registration for Early Childhood Advocacy Day has now closed, all are welcome to join the waitlist to meet us at the Capitol building in the afternoon, and everyone is welcome to participate virtually! Please note that if you plan to join us at the Capitol for the afternoon you will need to make your own arrangements for lunch.

Whether you can join us in person, or will be participating virtually, we are pleased to present several tools and opportunities for advocates to support legislative advocacy efforts throughout the current Illinois legislative session. With our easy-to-use resources, you can call for increased investments and improvements to early childhood services in the state.

Agenda At-A Glance:

6:30-10:30 a.m. Morning Travel to President Abraham Lincoln, Springfield

10:30 a.m. Welcome

11:00 a.m. Legislative Session Overview & Early Childhood Education Priorities

11:15 a.m. Depart for the Capitol, or, Advocacy Training and Q&A

11:30-1:45 p.m. Legislative Activities at Capitol

1:45 p.m. End Capitol Activities

2:00 p.m, Buses depart

Early Childhood Advocacy Day 2024

United for Brighter Futures

Below, find information on how to participate in Early Childhood Advocacy Day in Springfield on April 16

Why Advocate?

Take Action Icon in RedAdvocacy: building support for a topic or issue. Advocacy allows you to use your voice and share your story on how an issue, policy or decision has or may impact your life or the lives of those you love. Each year, legislators make important decisions at local, state and federal levels that have real impacts, and you should feel empowered to contact your legislators to help them understand what their decisions mean for communities. For example, crafting a state budget is one of the most important things legislators do. Your advocacy can ensure they consider and priorities early childhood priorities in their decision-making. 


  • Grow, strengthen the state’s early care and education system through an FY24 budget that includes the funding levels outlined in Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois proposal
  • Support legislation to create a state family and medical leave insurance program.
  • Support legislation to extend the sunset re: staffing flexibility in state preschool classrooms.
  • Support legislation to codify the state’s existing IDHS home visiting programs in law.

View our complete Illinois Legislative Agenda to learn more about priorities Start Early supports during the Spring 2024 legislative session. 

Advocacy 101

As we gear up to gather in Springfield to advocate for early learning and care in Illinois, we’re pleased to present tools & resources to help you get ready! Our partners at Illinois Action for Children & Latino Policy Forum have designed an Advocacy Training below that will provide you with an understanding of state-level advocacy, budget, and the legislative process in Illinois. View the slides that accompany the Advocacy Training.


If you’re looking for more resources on how to advocate, check out our Advocacy Toolkit! 


What to Expect: Springfield

Getting to the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel

If you’ll be driving down to Springfield, parking will be at the Bank of Springfield (BOS) Center. The parking garage is located on the west side of the BOS Center, with entrances on 7th Street and Washington Street. The maximum height clearance for the garage is 6’6″.

Parking at the BOS Center is charged at a rate of $1.00 per hour, with a maximum charge of $7.00 per day. A lost ticket will result in an automatic charge of $25.00. You may obtain a Lost Ticket Voucher at any of the Pay on Foot stations by pressing the “Lost Ticket” button.

Complimentary Shuttle Service

Start Early and organizing partners offer complimentary transportation to and from several locations for Early Childhood Advocacy Day. Participants can sign-up for shuttles when completing registration for the event.

Confirmed Shuttle Pick-up/Drop-off Locations (as of 2/23/2024) 

  • Bus from Arlington Heights/Northwest Suburbs of Chicago – pick-up/drop-off location to be determined. 
  • Bus from Educare Chicago (5044 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60615) 
  • Bus from Peoria – pick-up/drop-off location to be determined. 
  • Bus from SEIU Healthcare (2229 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608) 
  • Bus from Start Early (33 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603) 


Additional Shuttle Locations: Arlington Heights/Northwest Suburbs & Peoria location shuttles will be provided based on the interest we receive from participants. Registrants indicating interest in taking shuttles from these locations will be notified via email by March 29 with more details.    

All registrants indicating interest in shuttle services will receive an email from the planning team with additional details at the beginning of April. Please email Events@StartEarly.org for support.

The Capitol

Advocates will go through metal detectors before entering any of the buildings in the Capitol Complex. In order to avoid going through security multiple times, there is a tunnel system to go between the Capitol, Stratton and Howlett buildings without going back outside. Volunteers will be stationed in the basement to help direct you to those buildings through the tunnels.

There is major construction happening at the Capitol Complex this year. Not only will this create some confusion outside, but one entire wing of the Capitol interior is shut down. We are sure it will be a great improvement in future years–but it us a challenge for us this year and may result in longer wait times to enter the building. We’ve been told that Capitol Police will be enforcing capacity limits in the Capitol. While we don’t know exactly what this will look like in practice, volunteers will be stationed to re-route advocates to a different building or entrance in the hopes of getting as many folks inside to see their lawmakers!

With patience & flexibility, we can all work together to make the day a success and ensure that advocates are able to have meaningful conversations with their lawmakers.

Materials for Advocates

Capitol Maps & Directories

Fact Sheets & Talking Points

What to Expect: Virtual

talk bubbles icon in redCan’t be with us in person on April 16 but still want to participate in Early Childhood Advocacy Day? Below find a list of ways you can advocate for our state’s young children & families virtually!


We’ll update this space regularly, keep checking back for more ways to participate virtually!


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there any cost to attend Early Childhood Advocacy Day?
    • No! This is a free event, open to all!
  • Can I bring my child(ren) to Advocacy Day?
    • We ask you to consider the accessibility statement when deciding to bring children/minors to the event. Early Childhood Advocacy Day will be a long day, especially for little ones. If you think your little one is up to it, they are welcome to attend, but keep in mind the trip from Chicago to Springfield is approximately 3.5 hours, and there are no activities for children at the capitol building. Start Early and organizing partners will work to provide a safe and accommodating space for all participants. Parents/Caregivers who plan to bring children to the event should include this information when registering for the event. Finally, we ask you to read the accessibility statement and agree to follow the parent/caregiver agreement (see below). For questions and details, contact Events@StartEarly.org.
  • Can I register a group of people all at once?
    • Yes! The group registration feature provides group leaders with the ability to register up to 50 group members on their behalf. To add a group member during the registration process, select the Add Group Member button at the bottom of the Registration Summary page. Once group registration is complete, each member of your group will receive a confirmation email and be added to the event email list to receive future event-related communications. 
  • Will I be able to speak with my lawmaker?
    • We hope so! Some lawmakers might be on the legislative floor, in hearings, meetings, or other appointments while others may be in their offices. We highly encourage you to contact your lawmaker to schedule an in-person meeting. Let them know you are available to meet between 11am-1:45pm. If you are unable to speak with your legislator, you can always leave materials with their administrative staff. We encourage you to follow up with them. Not sure how to contact your lawmaker? Check out our informational videos below.
  • Will there be other people/groups at the captiol?
    • The state capitol is a busy place. There is a chance that other groups may present also for their interests during the same time.
  • What will be provided during the day?
    • We will provide transportation (first come, first serve), snacks, lunch, training and materials. If you do not wish to receive training, you can proceed to the state capitol to meet with your lawmaker.
  • If I want to register a large group, who do I contact?
    • To register a large group, please send an email to advocacy@theounce.org. We will send you a follow-up email with additional details on registration.
  • I have never advocated before so I’m nervous about speaking with my lawmaker.
    • Don’t be nervous. Lawmakers made it to the legislature because they were voted in by people like you. Therefore lawmakers represent their constituents—you! And you probably have advocated before, but didn’t realize it. Advocacy means building support for an issue. You advocate when you speak up and educate someone on a topic. Anyone can advocate by simply sharing their personal stories.
  • Why do we have to leave so early?
    • On Early Childhood Advocacy Day, we want to allow as much time as we can for you to meet with your lawmaker, so we take into consideration traveling time, rest stops, lunch and training.
  • Information About Security at the State Capitol Building
    • Bags are subject to search and backpacks are discouraged. Metal detectors may be used. Pocket knives, pepper spray and mace will be confiscated.

Accessibility Statement

Start Early is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all participants. The event requires sitting for long hours (travel to Springfield, IL, and 90-minute conference room meeting/lunch). While in Springfield, attendees will walk or take a shuttle from the meeting location to the state capitol (0.6 miles). The Illinois State Capitol Building and Stratton Building require walking. The buildings are handicap accessible, please note both buildings are currently under construction. After several hours at the Capitol buildings, the event ends with participants free to leave. Attendees who took organized travel or parked at the meeting location will return (walking or shuttle 0.6 miles) to the meeting location (DoubleTree Hotel) before departing home. Advocates should plan to be back at the meeting location by 2 p.m. when the buses will depart. Please view the event website for the event agenda and a list of accommodations provided by the meeting organizer.  

If you have any questions about access or if you would like to request any reasonable accommodations that will facilitate your full participation in this event such as food options for individuals with dietary needs, etc. please include this information when you register for the event or contact the Start Early Event Planning Team at Events@StartEarly.org.

Early Childhood Advocacy Day: Creating an inclusive community 

  • Handicap-accessible meeting location and transportation.  
  • During formal sessions live simultaneous English-to-Spanish interpretation will be available.  
  • Designated nursing and medical necessities spaces located at the DoubleTree Hotel 
  • Gender-neutral bathrooms located at the DoubleTree Hotel  
  • Contributing to a fragrance-free event. Scents and chemical products may exacerbate the symptoms of a person’s medical condition. Please refrain from wearing colognes, perfumes, or other scented or chemical products to the event (including attire exposed to smoke). 
  • Inclusive meal selections to accommodate dietary needs.

Stay Connected

Is your community group interested in hosting a dialogue with your state legislators about the  importance of early learning and care? Or do you have questions on the legislative session or the resources offered? Contact us at Advocacy@StartEarly.org and follow us on Twitter @EarlyEdIL.

Take Action

Urge Your Legislators to Prioritize Early Intervention in the State’s FY 2025 Final Budget

Act Now

Advocacy in Action Resources

Our advocacy how-to- graphics and short videos offer step-by-step overviews on ways you can be an advocate for early childhood programs and stress the importance of investments for the state’s youngest learners.