Creating Community Connections: A Neighborhood Approach For Improving Early Childhood Education Programs
The Early Childhood Network of Edgewater & Rogers Park (ECN) was developed to test a model for improving services through a modest commitment of resources. The model proposes that one coordinator can network diverse child care providers throughout a neighborhood and maximize their ability to acquire the knowledge and resources necessary to improve and expand their programs. In three years of operation, ECN showed demonstrable results from a modest investment. Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning performed extensive research. Surveys, data analysis and evaluations of individual ECN projects found that ECN helped:
• Improve the quality of care, through professional development opportunities, access to existing resources and “mini-grants”;
• Expand availability of care: providers who participated in ECN added 177 slots, or 75% more than those who did not participate; and
• Strengthen coordination among programs through the formation of new relationships, publication of a community asset map and opportunities for interchange.
Loyola noted that ECN was less effective on a fourth goal of improving working conditions for child care professionals. The Loyola evaluation also identifies two organizational challenges: leadership development and funding stability.
Based on ECN’s experience, they offer public policy recommendations relating to:
• Investment in neighborhood-based Early Childhood Networks in additional Chicago communities;
• Development of community asset map and resource appendix (CAMERA) publications of services for each Chicago community; and
• Increased compensation for early childhood teachers and caregivers.
C. George, CURL
- N. Benefield, Graduate Fellow, Political Science
- J. Leslie, Graduate Fellow, Philosophy
- L. Paredes, Graduate Fellow, CORD
- C. Ronen, Illinois State Senator
- K. Sacknoff, Early Childhood Network
- Early Childhood Network of Edgewater & Rogers Park (ECN)