Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any topic to see more information. If you don’t find your question below, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us directly. We will respond with an answer! 

About the Collaboration

What is 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. Read more about our agency’s story.

I saw something called “coordinated intake” on your program services model. What is that?

Thanks for learning more about our agency and exploring our Program Services Model. Coordinated intake is a term agencies use to describe the work they do to serve as a single contact to streamline processes that can sometimes get complicated. Coordinated Intake through the Collaboration is best described as connecting families to the home visiting programpublicly funded preschool, or developmental services that will best fit each family’s unique needs. This way families have a guide through the many programs and service agencies available, reducing their time and efforts and customizing resources to fit their needs.

If you have questions about parent supports or free preschool in Oak Park or River Forest, call us at 708-613-6122, extension 8 or email us at

What are developmental screenings and why are they important?

A developmental screening is often in the form of a questionnaire that is completed by a parent or caregiver about their child. This questionnaire is sometimes referred to as a “screening tool.” These screening tools allow families to celebrate their child’s developmental milestones and to identify obstacles early. In other words, developmental screenings help increase early identification of strengths and developmental and behavioral concerns. To learn more about developmental screenings, how they work, and why they are important, visit our Child Health and Screening Page.

What does "early Intervention" mean?

This is a term used to describe the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. It includes speech therapy, physical therapy and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family. The earlier you, your doctor, and your child care provider can identify the need for early intervention, the sooner your child can begin to address, and overcome, challenges and barriers to learning. Regular developmental screenings can help identify the need for early intervention. Learn more about the early intervention referral process.

If you have questions about your child’s development, call us at 708-613-6122, extension 8 or email We are here to support you and get you connected to information to support your child’s healthy development!

What does IEP stand for and what is it?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, or Plan. In order for kids to receive special education services, they need an IEP. This is a legal document that highlights a child’s strengths and challenges, and lays out a program of services, accommodations, and supports tailored to meet that child’s needs. There’s a lot more to IEPs. Read more about the importance of IEPs. IEPs are for people ages 3-21. For children under three, this collection of tailored supports is called early intervention. Learn more.

I want to get involved and support early childhood education. Where do I start?

That’s great! There are a variety of ways to get involved. You can lend your unique skill-set to the Collaboration by volunteering with us. You can donate. You can come to the next Collaboration Council meeting and share your voice in our workYou can help us welcome educators at our annual symposium. Do you have another idea of how to partner with us and share your support? Let us know 

To learn more about volunteer options, reach out to Wendy, the Collaboration’s Community Engagement Coordinator.

Educators and Directors

I heard about your early childhood symposium. How do I register?

Our annual Early Childhood Symposium occurs every February. Registration opens earlier in the winter, and you will be able to find registration information right here on our website when it is available. You can also subscribe to the Collaboration’s Early Learning Newsletter by subscribing here. Be sure to check the box that says: “Annual Symposium Information” to be the first to know when registration opens. We look forward to seeing you at the next Symposium!

How can I request a training for my staff to help them examine classroom practices and give them strategies to help Black and Brown children thrive?

Reach out to us through our contact form or email directly. The Collaboration will partner with you to design a training that fits the needs of you and your staff.

How can I learn how to better identify my own biases and be more equitable in my classroom?

If you are a teacher or program staff and you would like training on how to identify your own biases, and gain strategies on how to adopt an equity lens in your practice, reach out to us at We would like to hear about your needs and make training opportunities available to you.

How do I better support children who are experiencing trauma or adversity?

If you are a program director, or teacher and one or more of your classrooms is struggling to understand and navigate the impact of stress or adversity in the life of a child in your program, reach out to us at and let us know. The Collaboration would like to pair you with a clinician who will work with you to examine and understand what you are seeing in the classroom and give you strategies for retaining and helping this child to thrive in your classroom.

How do I get more involved in early childhood professional development opportunities in Oak Park and River Forest?

We have an active network of early childhood educators and leaders that engage in Roundtable Meetings and professional development opportunities. We also have an engaged Professional Development Committee that offers guidance and insights on our calendar of workshops, as well as our annual Early Childhood Symposium. If you would like to be the first to know about professional development opportunities subscribe to our newsletter and click the box that says, “Resources for Early Childhood Providers and Directors.” 

If you have a specific question, please contact Mary, our Early Learning Partnership Coordinator at She would be happy to connect with you!

Health Professionals & Systems Leaders

How can I learn about and discuss current topics in early childhood health?

The Collaboration’s Physicians’ Network meets biannually to connect around early childhood developmental issues and services. This group also receives regular newsletters with news and resources. Email to learn more or visit our Health Practitioner Support page. 

How do I refer a parent or caregiver to family supports?

For families that require a little extra support, the Collaboration, in partnership with home visiting programs and the Village of Oak Park’s Public Health Nurse, work together to make sure families can get connected to a program through a single point of contact. You can learn more and make a referral on our Maternal Health and Home Visiting page.

Do you have resources to support the mental and emotional health of health professionals?

Caring for others can be stressful and taxing on the emotional health of those providing the care. It is important to make sure you refuel so that you can maintain your own health while continuing to care for others. With this in mind, the Collaboration created the free, three-part telehealth session: “Running on Empty: The Cost of Caring in the Time of COVID-19.”

You can find many more general resources on our Health Professionals’ Resources page.

Can I receive assistance or guidance in enhancing developmental screenings for children at my practice?

Yes you can. The Collaboration works with community physicans to support screening efforts. We partner with medical providers and practices (pediatric and family medicine) in Oak Park or River Forest to enhance developmental screening opportunities and meet new developmental and social-emotional screening requirements.

To receive developmental and social-emotional screening support for your practice, call 708-613-6122 ext. 5 or email

Parents and Caregivers

I am pregnant. Is it too early to connect with you?

First of all, congratulations! That is very exciting and we are here to cheer you on every step of the way. And second of all, when it comes to our little ones, it is never too early!

We give every parent and caregiver with an infant (or who is expecting one) something called a Baby Bundle. Baby Bundles are big, durable tote bags filled with goodies and resources for parents and their little one including onesies, books, bibs, and more. It is all completely free. This is a great way to get a bunch of useful information all in one place, and it will provide a lot of connections to the whole new world of parenting that you will soon be a part of. Sign up for your Baby Bundle here.

You are also welcome to reach out to Michelle, our Family Engagement Partnership Coordinator at She would be happy to share more information with you as you prepare for this new chapter in your life.

How do I start the process of finding child care for my child?

Choosing child care is a big decision and can sometimes feel overwhelming, but early learning programs are beneficial to young children in so many ways! The best place to start is by perusing our Choosing an Early Learning Program page. Then explore our Early Childhood Resource Directory to see listings of child care centers in the Oak Park and River Forest communities. Please remember that if you have any questions at any point, you can speak to a human being that can help you. Just call 708-613-6122 x 8. 

I am concerned that my child has been deprived of opportunities because of their race. What can I do?

We would like to know about your experience. We would like to listen to you and use our position in the community to help resolve issues around access to opportunity. Let’s work together to ensure equal opportunity for all right here in our community. Email us at

The Collaboration for Early Childhood is listed as the contact for families interested in enrolling their child in PKP at The Longfellow School. Does this mean the Collaboration is a District 97 employee?

No, we are not District 97 employees here at the Collaboration, but we partner with the school district to ensure that families who are most eligible are enrolled in the Pre-Kindergarten Partnership program, more commonly called PKP. Once we ensure a child is a strong fit for PKP, our work is done, and District 97 takes it from there!

What is publicly funded preschool? Can my child attend preschool for free?

Publicly funded preschool is a state or federally-funded preschool program. Oak Park and River Forest provides affordable, high-quality preschool to children whose families meet eligibility criteria such as veteran status, income level, or if their child has a disability or developmental delay. To learn more about whether your child qualifies for Preschool for All, email or call 708-613-6122, ext. 8.

Who can I contact if I have questions or concerns about my child's health or development?

You can email or you can call our office directly at 708-613-6122.

When I describe my child, I say she has ‘special needs.’ Why do you use the term ‘children with disabilities’ on your website?

For some current thinking around our use of language to describe services for children with disabilities, please navigate to the Illinois Early Learning Project’s statement on updating their languageWe at the Collaboration are committed to a process of self-examination and reflection and welcome feedback from you around our work with children with disabilities. We seek to continuously evolve in our understanding of the needs of children and families who are navigating systems and services for children with disabilities. This includes our use of language to describe the needs of our children who have disabilities, as well as children and families who may not have a diagnosis. 

You and your child should use language that you are most comfortable with, and we will follow your preference

Looking for More Information?

Head to our Contact Us page and fill out our contact form and someone from our team will get back to you. We look forward to hearing from you!