Childcare Network of Evanston has been awarded $8.5 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide early childhood education and family supports for the next five years. The increased funding will allow CNE to expand Head Start and Early Head Start services in the Northern Suburbs.

“This is great progress toward overall improved outcomes for our families and is a positive upgrade in our work with families,” said Andrea Densham, CNE’s executive director. “This grant is an enormous endorsement of our longstanding position at the nexus of local, state, and federal funding streams.”

Census data shows that families living in or near poverty are moving out of the city and into the suburbs. In response to this increased need, CNE will expand its services in the Northern Suburbs as of July 2015, to reach families prenatally through entrance into kindergarten.

This expansion will increase the number of children and families served and will expand the age range for services:

(1)    CNE will now reach more children and families in eight North Suburban communities from Evanston, Skokie, Morton Grove and Lincolnwood to Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka.

(2)    CNE services will expand its age range for services from prenatal through entrance into kindergarten (formerly prenatal to age three). The expanded age range of CNE services allows for a more fluid continuity of care to families who would otherwise transition out of CNE services after age three. The expanded services also allow CNE to enhance coordinated intake for families who access multiple services from multiple agencies.

(3)    An addition of more than a dozen new staff positions will ensure intensive and high-quality services are delivered to all families in the expansion. 

“We know that every dollar invested in quality early childhood education for low-income children delivers economic gains of 7-10 percent per year through increased school achievement, healthy behavior, and adult productivity,” Ms. Densham said. “We at CNE are excited to expand quality early childhood education in the northern suburbs: a proven and cost-efficient strategy for promoting growth and building stable communities.”

This grant aligns with HHS’s recently announced vision for the future of Head Start which is focused on system transformation. It blends perfectly with CNE’s role as an Early Childhood Community Hub—where families can access comprehensive services through a central point of contact.

CNE has also received a two-year award from United Way of Metropolitan Chicago offering $140,000 in support of CNE’s community hub model. CNE piloted this model over the last year with National Able Network, Erie Family Health Center, youth-serving organizations, and our school districts. The combination of HHS and United Way funding will enable CNE to bring more families further along on their journeys toward self-sufficiency.

Through coordination and collaboration across organizations and community, CNE matches services to expressed family needs and interest, including career services, workforce development, health and wellness, and ongoing education, while working closely with the family to engage the child in early care and education services. By leveraging and coordinating federal, state, and private sector resources, CNE is able to serve a growing number of children and families, opening doors to opportunity for families today and expanding each child’s world of possibilities for a lifetime.

“We commend the Office of Head Start on this more integrated approach, where families can work through a single point of contact from the prenatal period all the way through the transition into kindergarten,” Ms. Densham said. “It is a huge step forward in our own vision to assemble comprehensive supports for families through a single community hub.”

Funding from HHS supports CNE’s continued provision of home visits to families of young children by early childhood professionals. CNE will move from partnering to deliver child care services at centers and family child care homes to focusing on partnerships with family child care homes for all-day child care services to children of families who are in school or working full-time.  These family child care partnerships are a continuation and expansion of the CNE approach, which works to build capacity and enhance the quality of services at these family child care sites across the Northern Suburbs. Both types of services, home visiting and family child care, are community-based and overseen by CNE.

Home visiting and family child care homes support children and families who are living at or below the federal poverty line, including children with disabilities, pregnant women, homeless families, families dealing with domestic violence or substance abuse, immigrant and refugee families, families where English is not their home language, and families involved in protective services.

“This work matters more than ever, as researchers continue to emphasize the importance of early childhood interventions for young developing brains and the effectiveness of comprehensive supports for entire families through a single early childhood community hub,” Ms. Densham said.