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WEST40-SUPPORTED STUDY SHOWS NEED FOR HIGH-QUALITY EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMMING IN WEST COOK COUNTY

A new report released by Birth to Five Illinois and supported by West40 is shining light on the need for more funding of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) programs and early childhood workforce recruitment and retention in West Cook County.

The report from the Birth to Five Illinois Region 1-B-B (West Cook County) Council found that out of a total of approximately 39,636 children under the age of six in West Cook County, there are 24,465 (61.72%) of children without a space in a publicly funded ECEC program.

According to the report, barriers facing parents, caregivers and families in the region include transportation, communication, and affordable child care.

Key recommendations from the report for the region include expansion of publicly funded ECEC programs, a wage increase for ECED workforce and/or targeted incentives, increase service offerings and delivery for children/families with developmental delays/disabilities, improvement in the processes for Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP) approval/payments, and an increase in trauma-informed, culturally sensitive support for Newcomers.

Vivian Palicki and Holly McCarthy, both of the West40 professional learning team, served on the Region 1-B-B Action Council.

“The regional scan for Region 1-B-B West Cook highlights the strengths and needs of our community’s families with young children ages birth to five years old,” Palicki said. “As we began to gather data in our region in early 2022, West40’s Professional Learning Early Childhood arm took the initiative to include an early childhood component in the existing school district informal needs assessments framework.”

In addition to participating in the Council, the West40 professional learning team is supporting the findings of the report by providing consulting, thought-partner, and needs assessment services to help increase kindergarten readiness. Learn more about the Birth to Five services offered by West40 here.

Birth to Five Illinois launched in 2022 and is state-funded. It was created to harness family and caregiver voices in ECEC and serve as a bridge between the communities and policymakers so family, caregiver, and professional experiences can guide the decisions made to expand or enhance services across the state.

“The experiences and knowledge families, caregivers, and early childhood professionals gain while navigating the complexities of the State’s ECEC system is valuable, and understanding their lived experience in the local context is vital for decision-makers to ensure communities have access to the programs, services, and supports they need,” said Tiffany Draine, Regional Council Manager for Region 1-B-B. “Throughout the process, with support of organizations and entities such as West40, regional barriers were documented, and recommendations were developed based on identified needs of families.”

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