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?

We are a unique public/private partnership based in Oak Park and River Forest designed to improve local early childhood resources and support our children’s healthy development. In other words, we advocate for children from ages birth to five in all ways that will help them enter kindergarten healthy, curious, and ready to learn. 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 learning about 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. The Collaboration does the work to connect families to the home visiting program or publicly funded preschool that is the best fit. This way families don’t have to talk to many different service agencies to get what they need, and we can ensure that we are connecting opportunities to the people who need them most. 

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.

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. 

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 work. You 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 

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 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 equity@collab4kids.org 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 equity as your lens, or if you want to make sure that you are creating a bright path for Black children in your preschool classroom, reach out to us at equity@collab4kids.org.  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 equity@collab4kids.org 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. 

The Collaboration also offers free professional development sessions in partnership with New Teacher Center during our program year that may be helpful, too. Most recently, the Collaboration co-facilitated “Becoming Upended: Teaching and Learning Amidst Protests and a Pandemic” and “Trauma Sensitive Practices for our Earliest Learners.” 

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

If you would like to be the first to know about professional development opportunities, be sure to subscribe to the Collaboration’s Early Learning newsletter(s).

If you’re interested in getting more involed by sharing your voice and expertise on the design and content of the Collaboration’s professional development offerings, join our Professional Development Committee. Contact us to learn more. 

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 health@collab4kids.org 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 at times 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 Health@Collab4Kids.org.

Parents and Caregivers

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. The best place to start is by perusing our Choosing Quality Child Care page. Then explore our Early Childhood Resource Directory to see listings of child care centers in the Oak Park and River Forest communities.

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 equity@collab4kids.org

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 free, 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, contact us.

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 elementary school district to ensure that families who are most eligible are enrolled in the Pre-Kindergarten Partnership program, more comonly called PKP. Once we ensure a child is a strong fit for PKP, our work is done, and District 97 takes it from there!

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

You can email health@collab4kids.org 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 language. We 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!