Network Coordinator: Lorena Nunez 630-444-3098 NunezLorena@KaneCountyIL.gov
Family Engagement Specialist: Maria Leon 847-695-7717 LeonMaria@KaneCountyIL.gov
Address: Kane County Health Department
1240 N Highland Ave
Aurora, IL 60506
Supporting Safe and Healthy Communities for All: The Future is Trauma-Informed
The Kane County AOK Network is a community collaboration where organizations, agencies, community members, and businesses make formal commitments to work together to accomplish the shared vision that all our kids are born healthy, stay healthy, and enter kindergarten ready to learn. The Kane County AOK Network is 20 years strong with membership increasing by nearly 20% per year. The network includes representation from 100 local organizations across 16 different sectors.
Spread out along the Fox River, Kane County is expansive with the highest priority areas concentrated in the northern and southern ends of the county. Kane County’s 515,588 residents live in a variety of settings including urban, suburban, and rural. The county features one of the most diverse communities in the State, with one in three residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino. Families in Kane County face challenges with poverty (over 14% of children live below the poverty line), linguistic isolation (over 60,000 residents report speaking English less than well), and other chronic stressors, such as untreated mental illness and high rates of substance use disorders.
Following a community assessment in 2018, the Kane County AOK Network chose to target Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a priority issue to improve outcomes for children and families in the community. Research shows that ACEs can have a significant negative impact on brain development and the three domains of kindergarten readiness (reading, math, social emotional development).
The Kane County AOK Network supports a trauma-informed workforce by providing ACEs presentations and trainings to the community. In partnership with Northwestern Medicine, the Aurora Police Department, and the Kane County System of Care, the AOK Network hosted two large professional development opportunities to raise awareness about the impact of ACES and teach trauma-informed best practices. Together, participants engaged in conversations and made commitments to work collaboratively and build research-based solutions that best fit the local landscape and capacity.
One solution embraced by the AOK Network is to address social determinants of health (SDOH) and connect individuals and families to appropriate services through the building of strong systems of care. The AOK Network created and implemented the Kane County AOK Network “SDOH Screening to Service Protocol” to identify families at risk for ACEs (as unmet SDOH needs are a risk factor) earlier and connect them with appropriate services efficiently so they can build resilience and enjoy positive outcomes.
The Kane County AOK Network Social Determinants of Health Screening to Service Protocol and complimentary toolkit launched in June 2022, providing organizations with a detailed roadmap and simple tools to better support families for the benefit of a healthy, safe, and productive community for all.
Using IRIS (the Integrated Referral and Intake System), as a tool, the community is working together to ensure referrals are made and followed up on in a timely manner. With the AOK Network leading the way, the Kane County IRIS System boasts direct referral access to more than 140 community support organizations. The Kane County AOK Networks strive to ensure that all of our efforts are rooted in the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as all trauma-informed work should be.
This trauma-informed system of care will lead to better support for children and families through increased connection to basic needs, support services, and high quality, affordable early care and education opportunities. This new “no wrong door” approach to referrals aims to reduce toxic stressors for families and result in more children having the support they need to develop kindergarten readiness skills. The protocol will expand in FY23.