parent-child program reaches youngest children
Since 2007, we've been promoting early learning and family support for our youngest and most vulnerable children.
Many low income families are determined to do the best they can for their children, yet they are isolated, uncertain about how to parent in the earliest years of 0-to-3, and lack resources to draw upon as parents. Evanston agencies lacked the resources to engage many families who could benefit from family support services. The Foundation saw the opportunity to broaden the reach of high quality home visiting as a means of strengthening the path to kindergarten readiness and to show that current resources could be aligned and connected to make meaningful community change.
Parent-child support to 40 low-income families annually through home visiting, developmental screenings as early as possible, group experiences for socially isolated families, and exposure to early literacy are first steps to readiness. High-quality home visiting includes infant mental health consulting for home visitors working with troubled families. When State funding for mental health consulting was cut in 2009, ECF built this expense into the program budget.
Evanston's system of early childhood education affects far more than 40 families, so our grantmaking and technical assistance take place in partnership with our grantees: we're all working toward the same goal. Our primary partners in home visiting are Infant Welfare Society of Evanston (IWSE) and the District 65 Family Center, with support from Child Care Center of Evanston, Evanston Public Library, The Family Room (through 2011), Childcare Network of Evanston, Literacy Works, Beyond the Baby Blues, Warren G. Cherry Preschool, and the Youth Job Center. Program assessment is done in collaboration with Northern Illinois University.
Our partners, including center directors, home visitors, and program directors, now say they see a system beyond individuals. "ECF has helped us zoom in on what's happening — we know how to effect change versus the earlier sense of 'everything's a mess!' Together, we're willing to take baby steps." Further, they expressed "ECF provides a forum for us — the network is the place where our wheels can mesh."