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Case Study: Improving Lake County’s Early Childhood System

Learn how Lake County, IL increased access to early childhood care in their community by using data-driven priorities and strategic actions to guide collective investments.

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  • Partner: Lake County, Illinois – A diverse group of partners came together to ensure that all Lake County families and young children are prepared to thrive, and that the long-term social and economic future of the county is bright.
  • Location: Lake County, IL
  • Start Early Engagement: 7 months

The Challenge:

A network of county partners wanted to improve the prenatal to age five early childhood system through greater coordination and investment. Before taking action, they needed to understand what changes would be most beneficial to the community and where their collective resources could be most impactful. These engaged leaders represented public and private sectors, including education, county government, the philanthropic community, and community economic development entities.

This work will enable us to take an equity-centered approach as we identify a shared path forward to collaboratively expand our community’s capacity to meet children and families where they are. We appreciated (Start Early’s) depth and breadth of expertise, thoughtful timeline, and the level of deep engagement with our core group of funders as we sought to better understand the findings.

Lake County Early Childhood Funders Group
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The Results:

As Start Early began its work in Lake County, Illinois launched Birth to Five Action Councils as a new regional early childhood infrastructure for early childhood systems – serendipitous timing that positioned Lake County partners for active engagement. Through the systems mapping process, the consulting team gathered comprehensive data, including surveys, interviews, and focus groups with families and early childhood professionals, and synthesized the learnings into a final report with strategic recommendations for priority actions.

The results:

  1. Increased Funding & Access: With an actionable strategy to help Lake County scale, partners successfully advocated and applied for more public funds to increase early childhood access through expanded Head Start and state pre-K. Simultaneously an anchor donor, better able to understand gaps in early education access, stepped up to bring an Educare program to the County; interim Educare programming is already underway.
  2. A Road Map for Future Coordinated Actions: The group is positioned with data-driven priorities and strategic actions that can further guide collective investments and help them continue to scale their impact across Lake County.
Learn More

Explore the Lake County Early Childhood System Assessment from Start Early