This week, President Joe Biden is expected to approve Congress’ final budget reconciliation package, the Inflation Reduction Act, which does not include one cent for early learning and care programs. This outcome is yet another senseless decision in our nation’s history that leaves countless young children without access to critical programs that can help ensure a brighter future.

This spring, the House of Representatives passed budget reconciliation legislation that included nearly $400 billion for child care and pre-K, which was among the largest proposed investments in the package. However, earlier this month, the Senate unveiled the details of its final package, which included no funding at all for early learning and care.

For a nation’s child care system that is at the brink of collapse, this investment would have considerably lowered child care costs for families, allowed parents of young children to return to work and supported an underfunded and understaffed early learning and care workforce.

Long before today’s ongoing pandemic and societal uncertainty, child care providers, disproportionately women and women of color, have had to bear the burden of an under-resourced child care system to provide critical, quality programs and services to young children.

So, now more than ever, it seemed apparent to finally prioritize American families and child care providers with historic investments. Congress’ failure to do so will result in long-range consequences for our child care system.

Start Early and the Educare Network, however, are and will continue to be constant and persistent champions for our youngest learners. We will:

  • Work with Congress, federal agencies and the administration, as well as state and local leaders, to strengthen early learning and care programs and drive advancements that impact on-the-ground practices and communities
  • Advocate for increased investments in and positive changes to federal early learning programs, including the Child Care Development Block Grant, Head Start/Early Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Maternal, Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting program
  • Educate and inform the field of provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act that may benefit families with young children

In addition, as co-chair of the Early Years Climate Action Task Force, Start Early President Diana Rauner will play a role in drafting the first ever climate action plan for early childhood in America. This will include recommendations to explore how the country can support young children to flourish, despite facing the impacts of climate change.

In response to this disheartening news, Start Early and Educare Network leaders issued the following statements:

Start Early

“Quality early learning and care in the first five years of life allows every child the opportunity to develop and meet their full potential. This week, Congress ignored common sense and science, allowing the child care system to continue deteriorating and leaving future generations behind.

Start Early stands ready to continue its work with local, state and federal leaders to elevate the dire, diverse needs of American families and ultimately make transformational change in access, quality and outcomes for all young children.”

Diana Rauner, president of Start Early

Educare Network

“Every child, in every community, deserves a strong start in life. This final reconciliation package entirely disregards what matters most: creating supports and systems that work for families, our youngest learners and early care and education providers. With our 25 schools and partner organizations across the country, the Educare Network calls on local, state and federal leaders to take immediate action that rights this wrong and drives transformational change to ensure all families, children and communities can thrive.”

Cynthia Jackson, executive director of the Educare Network

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Last month I had the pleasure of co-leading a session at the BUILD 2022 Virtual Conference: Building Systems, Improving Quality, Advancing Equity.

It was a joy to participate en una charla informal, a coffee talk, with my good friend, and colleague Miriam Calderon. We discussed and unpacked the strength and determination required to lift ourselves, our families, and our communities up in the unforgiving world of policy and politics.

BUILD has been a leader in providing spaces and opportunities for Latine professionals and leaders in the early childhood space to come together both informally and formally to talk and hear about what the Latine community wants and needs.

The Latine community is strong. We know that across this country it is Latinos and Latinas who pick, cook and serve our food, clean our houses and hotel rooms, care for our children, elderly and sick and are part of the backbone of the economy in countless ways.

As I joined with other Latine leaders throughout the week at BUILD and listened to their stories, I was stuck that today in 2022, many still talked about “imposter syndrome”, including me. I have had the privilege and opportunity to sit at many tables at the local, state, and national level but I am sure when I opened my mouth to share a recommendation or idea, there was some eye rolling in the room.

At Start Early, we share a commitment to racial equity and have been working diligently to provide individual staff with the support they need and want to grow and contribute to the early childhood field. For my part, I will be leading and providing a space for Latine individuals to participate in a mentoring circle where we will take time to understand our history as a community in the United States, our personal journeys and culture and how systems impact our progress as individuals and a community.

A common theme we explored was that we need mentorship – ongoing mentorship from people that look like us and understand our culture and values. As I have been reflecting on my own journey, it’s clear that each of has a responsibility to support and mentor the next generation of Latine leaders.

My hope is that through mentorship and in our daily work to change systems, Latine professionals and leaders will sit at any table and confidently speak their truth, represent the needs of their children and communities, despite the eye rolls.

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The Challenge

At Child Care Associates in Texas, the central office team noticed that, after a period of gains, its CLASS evaluations of childcare and Head Start/Early Head Start providers had plateaued.

System leaders decided it was time to change how they approached outcomes improvement and they made three important decisions:

  • Shift ownership of CCA’s education vision from the central office to campus instructional leaders.
  • Recommit to using family experience as a critical performance measure.
  • Implement The Essential 0-5 Survey across 25 campuses to provide leaders with a unified framework to move program improvement forward.

Read Full Case Study

Improving CLASS instructional support scores was important to CCA – but our goal in using The Essential Survey was to focus on how supporting leaders will drive improvement in the classroom.

Karin Scott, Chief Performance Officer, Child Care Associates
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The Impact: Energized Leaders Re-shaping Daily Practice to Improve Outcomes and Equity

Karin Scott, Chief Performance Officer, outlines four key outcomes the CCA team experiences with their annual Essential Survey implementation:

  • Outcome One – Our entire team now uses a common framework to talk about improvement.
    “We transformed campus director meetings to bring people together who are working on common problems of practice – to share out what’s working, lift up people getting better outcomes, and talk about pivots when something doesn’t work.”
  • Outcome Two – We are reducing leader & teacher overwhelm by focusing on where they CAN have impact.
    “It can get overwhelming when you’re dealing with deep root causes to early childhood issues, like a national labor shortage or systemic racism. The Essential Survey toolkit’s root cause analysis allows us to dig down to root causes and build strategies to affect the most change with limited resources.”
  • Outcome Three – Staff at all levels are making proactive, positive changes in daily practice.
    “The Essential Survey got teams into the practice of reviewing data. They’re taking it into their own hands to make easy, accessible processes for people. They’re rethinking how they use their time.”
  • Outcome Four – We have more data to help us drive equity for families of color.
    “There is a huge equity piece to the Essential Survey work. We serve majority families of color and we need to know how they’re feeling about the services they are receiving, as well as how we can improve. This is a great tool to do that.”

We want staff to feel like they are valued and cared for while they’re here – and make sure they keep doing this work because it’s important for our community.

Karin Scott, Chief Performance Officer, Child Care Associates
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Looking Ahead

The Child Care Associates team is committed to implementing The Essential 0-5 Survey annually to sustain a culture that values and supports leaders. “It was important before the pandemic, but now more than ever we need to know how people are feeling,” says Karin Scott. “Our long-term hope is that our staff are supported and feel motivated to do their best work, which in turns leads to better interactions with children and teachers and better outcomes for families.”

Read Full Case Study

Complete this form to read our case study about the Child Care Associates’ rollout of The Essential 0-5 Survey across 25 early childhood campuses.

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On Friday, May 28th, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law legislation that will make it easier for many families involved in the child welfare system to access critical early care and education services, like the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and Early Intervention (EI). Public Act 102-926, formerly HB4242, was sponsored by Representative Lakesia Collins and Senator Julie Morrison.

“Children under the age of six make up nearly half of all kids involved in the DCFS system,” Ireta Gasner, Vice President of Illinois Policy at Start Early said. “Because early exposure to trauma, abuse and neglect can damage the architecture of the developing brain, the state must provide access to comprehensive, high-quality early childhood services, which research show can help mitigate the effects of trauma on our youngest learners.”

Among other key provisions, the legislation extends automatic eligibility to the state’s child care program for Youth in Care who are themselves parents.

“Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Law Project is excited to see this important legislation signed. For thirty years, we have heard from our clients about the importance of child care in ensuring the success of their families post-emancipation from the child welfare system,” said Niya Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Several of the policy proposals included in PA 102-926 were developed by a special working group of the state’s Early Learning Council, which produced recommendations for how to enroll more young children and families with child welfare involvement in high-quality early care and education programs. The working group, supported by staff from Illinois Action for Children and Start Early, included researchers, early childhood professionals, public agency staff, and parents. The committee’s recommendations, developed over the course of a year, included proposed changes to policy and procedure, improvements to data and research, enhanced and expanded supports to families, and strengthened cross-system collaboration.

“We want to thank the Early Learning Council, and especially those from the All Families Served subcommittee of the Council. The working group gathered input directly from parents regarding their experiences accessing critical early childhood services for their children; this engagement with families was instrumental in highlighting opportunities to improve and expand the Child Care Assistance Program and Early Intervention services to more families in the child welfare system,” said April Janney, President & CEO of Illinois Action for Children.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Children’s Home + Aid, Illinois Action for Children, and Start Early applaud the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker for approving such consequential legislation.

Below is an overview of the key provisions included in the new law:

  • Makes parenting youth in care and families on the DCFS Extended Family Support (EFSP) program automatically eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), regardless of income, employment, or education status. The extension of eligibility to the CCAP program for parenting youth in care and those on the EFSP program will make child care more accessible. (This provision becomes effective in July 2023.)
  • Makes infants and toddlers involved in the child welfare system automatically eligible for the Early Intervention (EI) program. Expanding eligibility to EI services for infants and toddlers involved in the child welfare system will ease the pathway into the program for a population of children and families who experience structural and situational barriers to services.
  • Requires DCFS to reimburse child care providers at the same rates paid to providers by IDHS for the CCAP program. Requiring parity in reimbursement rates between IDHS and DCFS will encourage more child care providers to accept reimbursement from DCFS, thus expanding the number of child care options for families involved in the child welfare system.
  • Requires DCFS to report out information on its child care program. The sharing out of data on the child care services provided by DCFS will help policymakers improve programs for families and providers.

Teacher burnout, under enrollment, workforce retention and well-being – we know many programs across the US are struggling with multiple problems of practice. Addressing these problems of practice can be overwhelming. How to build trust with staff? How to encourage collaborative practice? How to embed these solutions into our ways of working?

Decades of study by the University of Chicago and Start Early reveals that program conditions at the organization level are more closely linked to child outcomes than what’s happening in individual classrooms. The Essential 0-5 Survey, developed in partnership by Start Early and the University of Chicago, is a measurement system that provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of organizational climate for programs.

At this year’s Shared Services Technical Conference, hosted by Opportunities Exchange, Start Early co-presented with Pre-K 4 San Antonio (Pre-K 4 SA) to share the amazing work Larrisa Wilkinson, Director of Professional Learning and Program Innovation, and her team are doing to make impactful changes in their community.

Data & Goal Setting

The Essential 0-5 Survey data elevated two Essentials as areas for improvement in Pre-K 4 SA’s program – Effective leadership and Collaborative teachers. After completing their first root cause analysis, the leadership team came up with a shared goal: to improve their organizational culture of growth and learning by starting the year developing stronger relationships with educators at both the personal and professional level. Using what they learned about their teachers (interests, needs, etc.), the idea of collective problem solving became integral to moving forward with organizational change.

Our process and what was really integral to that process was making sure that we carved out a dedicated time for reflection and collaboration. So that is really difficult as we all know in organizations where you never have time to sit and reflect but [its] critical.

- Larrisa Wilkinson, Director of Professional Learning and Program Innovation, Pre-K 4 SA
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Small Action Steps

The PreK-4 SA leadership team begin to implement 30-day Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) improvement cycles. Initially, they implemented a “getting to know you” tool with teachers. Directors and Assistant Directors started classroom walkthroughs during the first 30 days of the program year. They looked for and celebrated strong teacher practice and positive classroom environments. Both the South and East Centers dedicated time for peer learning communities (PLCs) to reduce staff meetings. At the South Center, they established a Campus Leadership Team and read receipts to improve two-way communication. The East Center, in addition to increased staff collaboration time, added need-to-know information for staff to their newsletters.

First cycle came and went and we felt so accomplished.

- Belinda Gonzalez, Director of the South Education Center, Pre-K 4 SA
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Results

When staff were asked directly, the overwhelming response was it was an effective practice:

  • Staff felt more ownership in meetings
  • Staff felt increased responsibility and accountability towards continuous organizational improvement;
  • Staff felt connectedness and agency, which strengthened trust with leadership
  • Transparency was key for Pre-K 4 SA leadership to build trust during the PDSA cycles of improvement

Key Takeaway

Start small. You cannot solve every problem in the world at once. Use the Essential 0-5 Survey data and toolkit to build common language, guide your efforts and identify areas that will have the most impact. When staff see even small amounts of progress, they are motivated to keep trying and start to trust that change is possible.

I want to do so much because I want to make all these big changes…that was the hardest part was to narrow it down.

- Tonda Brown, Director of East Education Center, Pre-K 4 SA
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Are you interested in making organizational improvements but are not sure where to start? Contact us to learn more about how Start Early can help focus your efforts to ultimately improve child outcomes.

Today more than ever, positive mental health is being challenged by an ongoing pandemic and societal changes. During Mental Health Awareness Month, organizations and individuals across the country are promoting positive mental health and current services available and advocating for new and improved policies for supporting the mental health of individuals and their families.

Infant/early childhood mental health (I/ECMH) is a strengths-based focus on the developing ability of young children to form close and secure relationships, experience, manage and express emotions, and explore and learn from their environments. At Start Early, we recognize the importance of I/ECMH and know that it is just as critical as our physical health.

Historically, national data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that indicators of positive mental health are present in most children. From 2016 – 2019, which notably is pre-pandemic, parents reported that their child mostly or always showed affection (97%), resilience (87.9%), positivity (98.7%) and curiosity (93.9%) among children ages 3-5 years.

However, new reports from the CDC and the Surgeon General have highlighted major increases in adverse mental health symptoms among children, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, President Joe Biden and his Administration have demonstrated recognition of the critical need for federal action supporting positive mental health. Both their approved Fiscal Year 2022 spending package and his latest budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2023 released this spring shine a significant and unprecedented focus on mental health.

The federal Fiscal Year 2023 budget would allocate:

  • $38 million for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health grant program, which would expand access to evidence-based and culturally appropriate mental health services to young children ($30 million increase from previous year)
  • $35.4 million for Project LAUNCH, which works to ensure that the systems that serve young children have the resources and knowledge to foster their social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral development ($11.8 million increase from previous year)
  • $5.7 billion for health centers, including $85 million dedicated to embedding early childhood development experts in health centers
  • $1.7 billion for the Community Mental Health Block Grant, which addresses the needs of adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances ($895 million increase from previous year)
  • $150 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which supports the development and promotion of practices that support children exposed to trauma ($78.1 million increase from previous year)
  • $10 million for the Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression and Related Disorders, which increases access to perinatal and behavioral health care ($5 million increase from previous year)
  • $7 million for the Maternal Health Hotline ($4 million increase from previous year)

Federal legislation has also been introduced that would help meet the urgent mental health needs of families today, including:

  • Early Childhood Mental Health Supports Act (HR 6509), which would bolster mental health services for young children enrolled in Head Start and other early learning and care programs
  • Resilience Investment, Support and Expansion Trauma Act, “RISE” (S.2086), which would expand the trauma-informed workforce and increase critical mental health resources for communities, including community response and capacity and workforce development
  • Services and Trauma-informed Research of Outcomes in Neighborhoods Grants for (STRONG) Support for Children Act (HR 3793), which would support local health departments in addressing trauma and ensure services are equitably accessible to all children and families
  • Still to come is the Interagency Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care’s public report, which will outline best practices and recommendations for better federal support of children and families impacted by substance use disorders and trauma.

There is bipartisan support for wide-reaching and long-lasting reforms that can create a healthy foundation for all children starting at birth – reforms that should be built into any national mental health conversation.

Start Early is proud to partner with organizations nationwide to advance federal, state and local policy priorities that support I/ECMH and the mental health of families and caregivers. There is no better time to seize proposed opportunities that help ensure equitable access to mental health services and can set a child up for a lifetime of overall health and success.

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On behalf of Start Early and Raising Illinois, I am honored to share our new report, the Infant & Toddler Child Care Roadmap, and shine a light on the urgent need to expand high-quality child care options for families with children under age 3 in Illinois. The infant-toddler child care crisis is acute, as current capacity of licensed child care in the state provides access to only 17.4% of all infants and toddlers, and unfortunately, the problem has only worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020.

In fall 2021, a cross-divisional team from Start Early sought out to answer the question “what would it take for Illinois child care providers to expand their services to more infants and toddlers?” Our team conducted a literature review, researched approaches from other states, and most importantly, directly engaged child care professionals to learn about the challenges they experience providing infant-toddler care and their ideas for solutions.

The final Roadmap includes a detailed summary of our findings, as well as seven community-informed recommendations for increasing access to infant and toddler care in Illinois. As anticipated, themes emerged around workforce issues and cost of care, but we also heard a lot about supports for children with disabilities and staff and families with mental health concerns, community engagement, negative perception of the early childhood field and data.

As I reflect on the many conversations we had with child care owners, teachers and Child Care Resource and Referral staff, I’m reminded of the incredible strength, perseverance and dedication of our child care community, especially considering the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was eye-opening to hear how physically and intellectually demanding infant-toddler care can be and how common it is for child care programs to only break even or lose money when operating infant-toddler classrooms, highlighting how unsustainable our current economic model of funding child care is. Many professionals we spoke to also shared that, despite what we know about the critical importance of the first three years of life, their work with infants and toddlers is often devalued. They acknowledged a prevailing sentiment among the general public and even within the field that it takes less skill and education to teach and care for babies and toddlers, and that what they do is “just babysitting.” Indeed, our research found that on average, teachers who work with infants and toddlers earn $1.40 less per hour than their counterparts working with preschool-aged children.

The professionals who care for and teach the youngest children, during the most significant time in their developmental trajectory, deserve more from us. Children and families deserve more too. We invite you to read the Roadmap and reflect on the words of the child care professionals who contributed to the project. What can you do to raise awareness about this issue and show support for child care professionals and families? How can you help advance the recommendations in the report? If you need help coming up with ideas, consider joining the Raising Illinois coalition.

I’ll close by offering gratitude to everyone who participated in our focus groups, surveys, community conversations and otherwise contributed to this project. We look forward to sharing more about the Roadmap in the coming weeks and months, and our progress toward advancing the recommendations. Stay tuned!

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While the home visiting field understands that parent leadership strengthens families and promotes optimal child well-being, engaging parent leaders in advocacy spaces is another crucial part of the equation for creating positive systems and policy change. As the home visiting field prepares for major federal advocacy opportunities like the upcoming reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV), there is a pressing need for home visiting advocates and policy makers to elevate the voices and advocacy of families and parents of young children. But where can parent advocates build their advocacy muscle, and learn about opportunities to engage in support for early learning programs in their communities?

Building on the National Home Visiting Summit Advocacy & Policy Community of Practice’s Advocacy 101 video series, Start Early is proud to share a new set of videos that highlights the skills parents bring to the table as powerful advocates and elevates opportunities to grow as leaders in advocating for home visiting and other early childhood issues impacting families.

We hope you enjoy these videos, and we invite you to share them with your networks. For additional discussion on how home visiting providers and policy advocates can bring parent leaders into meaningful partnership, check out the January webinar from the National Home Visiting Summit Advocacy & Policy Community of Practice. This webinar features a panel discussion with parent leaders about the key relationship building strategies that are foundational to creating space for parent voices.

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Last month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Fiscal Year 2023 budget into law. The new budget includes increases in statewide investments in many core early learning and care supports for families with young children, roughly 200,000 of whom live in Chicago and stand to benefit from this additional funding.

These funds provide the opportunity to address longstanding early childhood workforce issues in the city that have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outlined below are several of the most notable impacts of Illinois’ newest budget on Chicago’s youngest learners and those who support their healthy development and education.

EARLY CHILDHOOD BLOCK GRANT: $54.4 Million Increase

Start Early’s state budget analysis includes a welcome increase of $54.4 million (10% increase) in state funding for preschool, evidence-based home visiting services and center-based infant-toddler programs funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). As is required by state statute, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will receive 37%, which translates to roughly $20 million of the $54.4 million increase previously mentioned.

Of this allocated funding, CPS has traditionally held on to 60% to fund their school-based pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) programs and sub-granted the remaining 40% to Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), which are used to fund home visiting and center-based services in community-based programs. This breaks down to roughly $12 million more in funding directly for CPS’ pre-K programs and an additional $8 million in funding for DFSS community-based early childhood programs.

Notably, CPS recently made free full-day pre-K available to every 4-year-old in the city, causing so much excitement among families that the Chicago Early Learning registration site crashed shortly after the application went live. With universal access to 4-year-old pre-K on the horizon, Start Early calls on CPS to turn its focus toward ensuring that children in these classrooms have teachers who are well-qualified and supported. One way to do so is fully funding the City College’s Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship, which currently affords to only grant funds to fewer than half of the prospective early childhood teachers who apply each year.

With an increased need for early childhood professionals, the current funding level is inadequate for meeting the critical number necessary. In fact, a pre-pandemic analysis found that an estimated 3,000 new early childhood educators will be needed across the city by 2024 – a number that is undoubtedly now insufficient as a result of the pandemic and its heightened effects on the field.

In addition to supporting pathways to credentials for educators, Start Early also calls on the City of Chicago to prioritize using funds to encourage qualified staff to remain in the early childhood field. Incentives for improving staff retention in community-based early childhood programs must include increasing compensation for home visiting and center-based staff, as well as ensuring that educators in these settings have the resources and support necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities and English Learners.

EARLY INTERVENTION: $7 Million Increase

This slight increase in state funding for Early Intervention (EI) comes at a time when child care providers and EI providers in Chicago report decreased access to services and long waitlists for children ages 0-3 with disabilities, as well as unmanageable caseloads for EI providers. It remains to be seen how the state will use these additional funds, but providers are calling for rate increases and other incentives to keep qualified individuals in the EI workforce.

HOME VISITING: $1 Million Increase

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is set to receive an additional $1 million to support its Healthy Families and Maternal Child Home Visiting programs. Start Early is advocating for IDHS to prioritize stabilizing the workforce before growing the reach of services through an increase in compensation for home visitors. A compensation increase is supported by the salary floor requirements in IDHS’s competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity, with a higher minimum salary for Cook County (which includes the City of Chicago) due to the area’s higher cost of living.

In addition to the state’s budget bill, the Illinois General Assembly passed HB4242, a bill that, if signed by Governor Pritzker, would extend automatic eligibility for Child Care Assistance for parenting youth in care and families on the DCFS Extend Family Support Program (EFSP), effective July 1, 2023. The bill would also extend automatic eligibility to EI for infants and toddlers in the child welfare system, effective July 1, 2022. Given the proportion of children in the state’s child welfare system who live in Chicago, this bill is likely to result in access to critical services for thousands of the city’s children.

Understanding how these additional funds in the above categories are being allocated by the state to support families with young children is especially important as we head into the City of Chicago’s budget season, work to identify gaps and re-emphasize recommendations for the city’s investment of local funds to best serve the city’s early learning system.

Read Start Early’s analysis of the state budget to learn about other important legislative measures impacting the state’s early care and education system.

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The Illinois General Assembly approved the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) spending plan early Saturday morning. We expect Governor J.B. Pritzker will sign the package into law in the coming days.

The final budget (HB900) includes a welcome increase of $54.4 million (10.0% increase) in state funding for preschool, evidence-based home visiting services, and center-based infant-toddler programs funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

It also includes $7 million (6.4% increase) in additional funding for the Early Intervention program, fully restoring the FY 22 funding cut. The legislature also appropriated $1 million (6.0% increase) in new funding for Illinois’ Department of Human Services’ evidence-based home visiting programs, the first funding increase in nearly 20 years.

“This budget makes investments in several early childhood programs, including home visiting, and restores state funding of Early Intervention – which are key supports for our state’s youngest learners and their families,” Ireta Gasner, Start Early vice president of Illinois policy, said. “Approving a state spending plan requires difficult and critical decisions, and this year, the Pritzker Administration and the General Assembly made decisions that prioritize services for families with young children.”

State funding in the FY 2023 budget (HB900) includes:

  • A $54.4 million (10%) increase in state funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant at ISBE
  • A $7 million (6.4%) increase in state funding for the Early Intervention (EI) program at IDHS
  • A $536,000 (5.3%) increase for Healthy Families at IDHS
  • A $480,000 (7%) increase in state funding for Maternal Child Home Visiting (formerly Parents Too Soon) at IDHS
  • Level-funding (0.0%) for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) at IDHS, though the administration has committed to increase provider reimbursement rates twice over the next fiscal year
  • A new $2.0 million appropriation to IDHS for deposit into the Off-Hours Child Care Program Fund (see below for further details)
  • A $2.5 million appropriation to the Office of State Treasurer for the Children’s Savings Account Program.

In addition, Start Early and its partners have strongly advocated all year for the need to increase compensation for the early childhood professionals working for community-based organizations. We strongly encourage ISBE and IDHS to allocate a sizeable portion of these funding increases to boost compensation for teachers and staff working in child care centers, home visitors and Early Intervention professionals.

Several other important measures impacting the early care and education system (and the families that use it) have been approved by the legislature, including:

  • HB4242 (Collins, Morrison) – a bill that:
    • Extends automatic eligibility to CCAP for parenting youth in care and families on the DCFS Extend Family Support Program (EFSP)
    • Extends automatic eligibility to EI for infants and toddlers in the child welfare system
    • Requires DCFS to pay child care providers the same reimbursement rates IDHS pays its providers through the CCAP program
    • Requires DCFS to report data on its child care program
  • HB4999 (Gabel, Villanueva) – a bill that codifies into state law the timeline (30 days) by which services for families in the EI program must be initiated after a service plan has been approved
  • HB1571 (Manley, Glowiak Hilton) – a bill that creates the Off-Hours Child Care Program at IDHS to help first responders and other workers identify and access off-hours child care
  • SB3149 (Villanueva, Guzzardi) – a bill that requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and higher education institutions to provide information about the Child Care Assistance Program and the federal dependent care to students eligible for Monetary Award Program grants
  • SB3032 (Fine, Morgan) – a bill that prohibits institutions of higher education from withholding academic transcripts from current or former students because of any unsettled debts with the institution.
  • SB157 (Hastings, Zalewski) – a revenue bill that, among other things, expands the Earned Income Credit benefit for all filers; extends eligibility to the EIC for those aged 18-25, those above 65, and ITIN filers; and provides a one-time child tax credit