Network Coordinator: Nekeda Confer 773/882-2887 email@example.com
Family Engagement Specialist: Kelly Flores 773/882-2887 firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Metropolitan Family Services
3062 E. 91st Street
Chicago, IL. 60617
Providing High Quality Care for Pregnant Women and Children
The Southeast Chicago All Our Kids Early Childhood Network (Southeast AOK Network) is dedicated to providing high quality care for pregnant women and children birth to five. Metropolitan Family Services was awarded funding by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Early Childhood for the AOK Network in 2022 to reinvigorate collaborative work with community partners. The Southeast AOK Network brings attention to early childhood care and education to ensure children have the strongest start to life. This aids in children growing up in a safe, healthy, and happy environment and fosters kindergarten readiness. The Southeast AOK Network provides resources for parents and caregivers through collaborative efforts with community partners.
The Southeast community of Chicago is situated on the far southeast side and serves the neighborhoods of South Chicago, East Side, Hegewisch, South Deering, Calumet Heights, and South Shore. Our community boast a vibrant mix of ethic and cultural diversity, including African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian residents. Moreover, a significant number of our community members are foreign-born and may have limited English proficiency.
Metropolitan Family Services completed a community assessment in 2022 that has identified several community issues. Specific issues that were identified were livable wage jobs, affordable quality childcare, high crime rates including gang activity, food insecurity and environmental injustices. A higher percentage of families in these communities live below poverty, and there are significant maternal health dipartites compared to Chicago. In the Southeast community, there are about 9,112 children aged from birth to four years. Data collected from the Chicago Health atlas has shown that 40% of infants in the Southeast Community are born into poverty and 12.7 % of infants are born with low birth weight. The teen birth rate was 31.58% which far exceeded the Chicago rate of 21.5%. The infant mortality rate was 11.22% which again far exceeded the City of Chicago rate of 6.6%. The Southeast community has only one hospital that provides labor and delivery services, rendering it a maternal health desert.
In January of 2023, the Southeast AOK Network initiated a campaign to involve community stakeholders such as home visiting and early head-start programs, childcare providers, mental health and medical providers, and other local businesses with a shared mission. The meetings emphasized the need for more information about local resources that promoted the positive growth and development of young children aged between birth and five years. Our AOK Network is presently conducting a community assessment to tackle specific system issues and improving outcomes for families and children, using a data-driven approach. We aim to engage diverse stakeholders and families of young children in co-creating a five-year strategic plan.
Our Work and Goals
Our work is three-fold:
- We convene organizations who are seeing the same populations to share information about services.
- We are implementing a shared practice to make referrals between these organizations quick and easy.
- We are engaging families to learn more about their experiences within the early childhood systems to improve their access to services.
Metropolitan Family Services held the AOK Network grant from 2012-2015. In the years without the grant, the Southeast community became less connected, and support and resources were not reaching all families. Many partners have been eager to connect again and were enthusiastic to have the AOK Network back in the community. We anticipate greater collaboration among our Network partners and improved child and family outcomes overall. Our system assessment will offer data to inform how the collaboration plans and implements strategies over the next five years.
Before MFS received the state funding many families were and/or are still experiencing:
- Race disparities and segregation, segregated by race and ethnicity along neighborhood boundaries and the physical features of the built natural environment.
- Poverty and Economic disparities rates are all higher than the average City of Chicago rates.
- High Air pollutants and Asthma rates due to air pollutants from industrial sites.
- High transportation issues, with the highest percentage of people without a car live on the south and west side of Chicago, which means there is a heavy reliance on public transit and southside transportation problems have been overlooked for years.
- Food insecurities which affect health, education, and economic mobility. More households living below poverty are not receiving SNAP, so they are not receiving added support needed to address food insecurity.
- Health care and pharmacy desert with more than 50% of the community needing to seek medical care outside of their local communities.
- Families of the targeted population are severely rent burdened with unemployment rates higher than overall rates of the City of Chicago.
- Maternal Child Health indicators show a high percentage of the targeted community lack maternal care. The community is considered a maternal desert and women must travel far beyond where they live to receive maternal care which is exacerbated by transportation issues.
The Southeast AOK Network aims to:
- Build a strong community that shares information and resources.
- Connect families with young children to services they need and want.
- Improve access to quality services.
- Create a more coordinated and equitable system.
- Include parents as partners in making the system work for them.
By working together with many community collaborators representing different cross-sector services and resources we can improve outcomes for families with young children.