Community Parenting Support Saturation Program

In Illinois, the jarring reality is that only 29% of our children enter kindergarten prepared*. In helping children learn, grow, and stay healthy, we know that families and primary caregivers are an important part of supporting children’s growth.

The Community Parenting Support Saturation Program’s (CPSS) overall goal and outcome is to ensure that families are embraced and supported as the most important influences in their children’s early learning, and every child starts kindergarten thriving, ready to learn and excited about school.

Working with three communities, Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) provides support in their design and implementation of a community saturated approach. Leveraging our expertise in community systems development, we support community collaborations spearheaded by local organizations to implement parenting interventions and identify policy barriers that families face in accessing early care and education services. Through this program, we hope to inform and contribute to the growing research on family and community engagement and community systems in the early childhood field.

What is a Saturated Approach?

Saturation is an array of interventions that collectively address multiple levels of parenting needs and is available to all parents of young children (ages birth to 5) in a community. Such interventions might range from high reach/intensive approaches (e.g., home visiting), to low reach/universal strategies (e.g., public awareness campaigns, parenting apps, etc.).

Program Overview

The program emerged from conversations held by a small group of philanthropic partners that were interested in how to engage primary caregivers to increase the number of children ready for kindergarten in 2017. The following year, this group engaged with Start Early, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and Family Focus to conduct a series of focus groups with families to understand and develop the Community Parenting Support Saturation program vision. IAFC was selected as the Lead Anchor organization in 2019. In 2020, IAFC launched an RFP and selected three communities – Aurora, Rockford, and the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago – to pilot the program.

Human-Centered Design

In the spring of 2021, the three communities participated in a human-centered design process facilitated by Greater Good Studio. Each community participated in 10 workshops and 13 coaching calls as part of the human-centered design process. In total, 32 community members were trained, 15 focus groups were conducted, and 150 families were engaged around the initial planning for the program.

 Their work on the human-centered design process can be found here:
Chicago (North Lawndale)

Implementation began in May 2021, following the completion of the human-centered design training.

About the Communities

We are partnering with organizations to implement this innovative program in Aurora, Rockford, and the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. The communities have designed and implemented the saturated approach to provide parenting interventions to support primary caregivers in their parenting skills and knowledge. The three communities are unique in the families that they serve and in the experience and expertise that they bring to this program. As the program develops over the years, we will continue to learn and adapt our strategies to make sure all families receive the supports they need for their child’s learning and growth. 

SPARK Aurora (Strong, Prepared, and Ready for Kindergarten) is an education initiative of the Fox Valley United Way and leads an early childhood community collaboration in the Aurora and Kane County region. SPARK helps historically underserved families with children age birth through five connect to resources that will prepare them for success in life.

Through this program, SPARK is implementing several new parenting initiatives. Some of the strategies they are implementing include texting platforms, marketing efforts, parent cafes, and Opening Doors (a program originally developed for Spanish-speakers called Abriendo Puertas) workshops. SPARK also leverages its Gateway Family Interview strategy to support families in enrolling in early care and education programs and its Play.Learn.Connect program as an additional support and doorway into other programs.

Alignment Rockford provides backbone support for the Ready to Learn collaborative in the Rockford region. The Ready to Learn collaborative has designed and implemented parenting interventions to reach all of its families with young children.

Ready to Learn offers opportunities for families such as building the skills and knowledge of caregivers through distributing Ready to Learn with the Basics Kits, conducting parent workshops through evidence-based programing, such as the Incredible Years, and developing a new single-point-of-entry website and coordinated intake form to help Rockford families more easily access the programs and services they need. This work builds upon existing initiatives such as the Early Development Instrument (EDI) project and Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors to strengthen their saturated approach for families and build a larger movement for early learning.

Carole Robertson Center for Learning (CRCL) is partnering with community stakeholders to develop parenting interventions to families in the North Lawndale community. CRCL prioritizes building relationships with families, caregivers, and community organizations to infuse the community with resources and do impactful work. CRCL provides several opportunities for families to deepen their own skills and knowledge, including trainings through Circle of Security; development of the Ready for Kindergarten, Ready for Life community digital hub; and learning kits for families to provide educational content for their children at home.

CRCL is also leveraging existing strategies, such as Ready4K text messaging, to keep families informed and engaged around early learning. CRCL prioritizes building relationships with families, caregivers, and community organizations to infuse the community with resources and do impactful work.

Advisory Committee

The program includes an external advisory committee of community leaders in the early childhood field. The committee advises us on implementation and offers feedback on the work. 

·        John Borrero, doctoral candidate, University of Illinois, Chicago

·        Yolanda Lawler, Steans Family Foundation

·        Nancy Plaskett, Executive Director, PIE ORG (Plan, Implement, Evaluate)

·        Crystal Redditt, Parent Leader

·        Dr. Dana Suskind, Founder and Co-Director of Thirty Million Words Center for Early Learning and Public Health; Professor of Surgery at University of Chicago, Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program

The Community Parenting Support Saturation Program is generously funded by our philanthropic partners: Crown Family Philanthropies, CME Group, Dunham Foundation, J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Steans Family Foundation, and Vivo Foundation.

* ISBE’s 2019 KIDS Report: 29% of Illinois Children Developmentally Ready for Kindergarten

See our community work in action!

Watch our video and discover how we partnered with three Illinois communities to share early education and care resources. 

Learn more about the Community Parenting
Support Saturation Program through this white paper.