JULY 19 2023

Contact: Sophie Grimes, Communications Coordinator
Organization: Collaboration for Early Childhood
Phone: 708-613-6122
Email: sgrimes@collab4kids.org
Web: Collab4kids.org/news


The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation’s Women Leaders in Philanthropy Committee selects the Collaboration for Early Childhood as 2023 grantee to expand their work beyond Oak Park.

Oak Park, Illinois, July 19, 2023 The Collaboration for Early Childhood, a collective impact organization based in Oak Park Illinois, has received a grant to provide sensory kits and related professional development – including working with Occupational Therapists – to early learning programs in communities neighboring Oak Park. The Collaboration will utilize American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to provide these materials to early learning programs within Oak Park.

The experiences of young children during these recent difficult years have resulted in different patterns of development that require innovative forms of support. Many young children’s in-person and social group interactions have been limited, and their resulting behavior patterns require a shift in the understanding of children’s current needs related to social and emotional development.

We’ve heard from early learning professionals both anecdotally and through focus groups that they are in need of guidance and resources to better support children’s social and emotional, fine motor, and self-regulation skills in this post-pandemic early learning environment that we’re all currently in. This grant will allow us to strengthen early learning professionals’ responses to the current developmental needs of the children in their care through materials and professional development opportunities,” says Shannon Ellison, Director of Programs and Contracts at the Collaboration for Early Childhood.

On the whole, the program is designed to include up to 30 early childhood educators, approximately 15 working in home-based programs and approximately 15 working in center- or school-based programs. Thanks to the WLIP grant, the Collaboration for Early Childhood has the potential to directly benefit up to 450 children in early learning programs outside of Oak Park in the first year. The Collaboration will cultivate new partnerships with educators that will bring new ideas and perspectives to the Collaboration’s existing early childhood networks. 

“Every year Women Leaders’ members select cause areas to fund, which are informed by community needs research provided by the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation. This year we had three key priority areas: mental health interventions and/or preventative services, reducing gun violence, and high quality early childhood education and/or early childhood development services and interventions. The Collaboration’s proposal to strengthen early childhood resilience in our neighboring communities through sensory kits and training aligned powerfully with our early childhood priority area,” says Mary Kay Martire, Chair of Women Leaders in Philanthropy.

“In addition to providing educators with more tools in their toolboxes to reframe their thinking about what has become “the new normal” of development in early learning environments, the program will encourage educators to self-reflect on behaviors that they perceive to be disruptive, and in turn break down implicit bias toward those behaviors and the children who embody them. In essence, this training is trauma-informed practice,” says Mary Reynolds, Executive Director of the Collaboration for Early Childhood. 

This new program is one crucial piece of a larger puzzle of efforts that the Collaboration is working on to support the emerging needs of families and educators as they continue to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant will also allow the Collaboration to “Widen System Impact,” a key priority in the organization’s new strategic plan.

About the Collaboration for Early Childhood

The Collaboration for Early Childhood is a community-driven organization that cultivates the development of the whole child, birth to age five, by engaging families, local organizations, early childhood educators, caregivers, and health providers to create equitable, nurturing, and interconnected systems of support. We envision communities where every young child has the care, relationships, and resources needed to thrive and to begin school safe, healthy, and empowered to succeed.

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