Chicago – This year marks five decades that Illinois Action for Children (IAFC), a 501c(3) nonprofit, charity organization, has worked to ensure that all children in Illinois—especially children living in poverty—have access to high-quality early childhood care, education, and other vital resources—and that parents are supported in their goals of economic self-sufficiency and stability.
Celebrating the Past
In 1969 in Chicago, a small group of passionate, politically-active women led by IAFCs founder, Sylvia Cotton, decided to take action in response to the way poverty was adversely affecting urban families. That’s what drove Sylvia and her colleagues to ask the question no one else was asking… “What about the children?” That simple question led to the formation of a grassroots organization, The Daycare Crisis Council of Metropolitan Chicago (DCCC), known today as Illinois Action for Children.
Throughout the agency’s 50-year history, IAFC has played in integral role in several significant early childhood care and education advancements including:
- 1971: The city of Chicago heeded DCCCs call to establish an official government office to oversee child care services to help alleviate the problems of competition for funding, inter-agency rivalries, and difficulties for providers in acquiring licenses.
- 1981: When Governor James Thompson proposed state budget that would negatively affect 200 facilities that cared for 10,000 children, Day Care Action Council (DCAC) mobilized a huge group of parents, child care providers, and activists to march on Springfield that resulted in the governor pledging not to enact his own cuts.
- 1990: DCAC was awarded a contract to serve as the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) network for Cook County that allowed the agency to offer robust levels of support in navigating child care options for parents and providers in a coordinated and cohesive manner.
- 2005-2012: Community-based child care capacity-building work was initiated through numerous efforts to strengthen the ways communities, especially those that were economically-challenged, were able to connect families to an array of available resources in their communities—contributing to our current position as a leader in Community Systems Development.
- 2015: Direct connection to families and communities deepened when IAFC opened Early Learning Centers comprised of Head Start and Early Head Start, Preschool for All, and Prevention Initiative services in four South Suburban Cook County communities. In addition to providing high-quality early care and education in the Early Learning centers, IAFCs Early Learning Programs also include home visiting services and offer parent education and family developmental activities.
Impacting the Present
IAFC transforms the lives of thousands of children, families, and providers through the 23 programs and services offered. In 2018, IAFC served:
- 174,365 Children and Families
- 113,823 Children
- 60,542 Families
- 36,142 Early Care and Education Providers
Embracing the Future
Now, as IAFC celebrates its golden anniversary, there is recognition that great needs still exists. The agency pledges to continue working for the next 50 years—or however long it takes—to achieve the bright future envisioned for all children and families. IAFCs ambitious and transformative plans focus on:
- Educating parents about the importance of a strong foundation in early education and helping them find and enroll their children in affordable, high-quality programs.
- Augmenting the scope of programs to provide personalized, intensive parent engagement and support to help even more of Illinois’ most at-risk families meet critical needs.
- Enhancing early childhood mental health services to help early learning professionals effectively manage, mitigate, and prevent behavioral issues that can disrupt learning in the classroom.
- Advocating for new state and national early childhood policies to ensure children receive a high-quality early education—no matter where they live.
- Increasing the number of degreed/credentialed early childhood professionals to fill the gap in Illinois’ growing teacher shortage.
- Launching an emergency fund for families so they have the necessities to keep them safe, healthy, and moving toward their goals while ensuring their children attend school each day.
Over the course of five decades, IAFC has grown from a grassroots volunteer organization responding to a dire crisis into a robust, proactive organization—a 50-year success story that is just getting started.