During 2002-2003, all six of Oak Park’s governmental agencies joined to initiate and promote the Collaboration for Early Childhood. Established as a not-for-profit organization, the Collaboration became a unique public/private partnership in which all of the governmental agencies contribute financially and participate through staff and/or board involvement.
Now, with more than 90 agencies participating, the Collaboration works to overcome the fragmentation and scarcity of services endemic to the early childhood field by leveraging and integrating all of our community resources to better meet the needs of the youngest children and their families. Our key initiatives include the advancement of High-Quality Preschool for All Children, Professional Development, Parent Information & Support and Developmental Screening. View a chart of our Integrated Early Childhood System.
The Collaboration is a voice for parents and children regarding issues of early learning both locally and at the State and national level. It works with all elected officials to promote child-friendly policies and programs that support very young children and their families.
The Collaboration for Early Childhood will foster high-quality early care and educational experiences and support to families so that all children will have the opportunity to develop their full potential and feel loved and valued in a caring, diverse community.
The Collaboration has received state and local recognition, serving as the model for the Illinois Early Learning Council. President Obama has called for a federal early learning council based on the Illinois model to coordinate policy and resources. The Collaboration has also received local awards from the United Way of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park and the Oak Park Education Foundation, in recognition of its innovative structure, programs and impact on the well-being of children and families. In April 2010, the Collaboration received the Dr. William Fitzsimmons Public Health Award for its Hearing and Vision Screening Program.
In December 2007, the Collaboration launched a strategic planning process funded by the Village of Oak Park and Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200, that resulted in the Collaboration’s adoption of a strategic plan titled the “Partnership for Human Development” in January 2009. The plan provides a roadmap for creating a coordinated, high-quality system of early childhood services that will support all of the community’s youngest children and their families and make meaningful progress in narrowing the achievement gap among them as they enter kindergarten. The plan is consciously designed to build on what already exists in the community and to capitalize on public and private sources of funding. Clearly defined benchmarks help all constituencies monitor success.
In July 2009, the Collaboration hired its first executive director and staff to support and guide the implementation of the strategic plan. It initiated a major gifts campaign to increase private funding support for its efforts. The Collaboration established its first office inside The Children’s Clinic, a partner agency, then relocated to office space at Oak Park Village Hall in September 2010.
The Collaboration is supported through financial contributions by all of Oak Park’s governing agencies. Foundation, individual and corporate gifts also provide significant financial support. Significant volunteer time and services support the operations of the Collaboration.