Network Coordinator: Linda Rios 708-484-7400 Extension 030 firstname.lastname@example.org
Family Engagement Specialist: Michelle Ramirez 708/484-7400 Extension 031 email@example.com
Address: Youth Crossroads
5533 West 25th Street
Cicero, IL 60804
The Missing Puzzle Piece: How Awareness and Access Impact Early Childhood Development
The All Our Kids Network in Cicero launched in 1999. It is dedicated to responding to the diverse needs of Cicero children and families. It also provides an opportunity for collaboration and partnership at the national, state, and community levels to support the state’s vision of having every child enter kindergarten safe, healthy, ready to succeed, and eager to learn. The collaboration has concentrated its efforts in filling slots in quality birth-to-age-five programs, connecting family to supports/services, providing free developmental screenings and implementing an educational campaign with information regarding the effectiveness of early childhood development and education.
The Town of Cicero is one of the oldest and largest municipalities in the state and the only incorporated town in Cook County. While Cicero has a rich and varied cultural community, its residents face myriad challenges. Cicero has a large number of residents who are undocumented that face additional obstacles when trying to obtain education, employment, and social services.
As of 2021, Cicero is home to 81,471 people. Cicero is one of the few “majority minority” communities in Illinois. The ethnic composition of the population is composed of Latino/a (88.9%), White (6.9%), Black (3.4 %), and Asian (0.5%) residents. The median age is 31.7 years old, with 28% of the population 18 years old or younger.
The Cicero AOK Network has successfully brought together cross-sector partnerships and provided the community with the necessary tools to identify priority issues and create and implement strategies that lead to equitable change. Through data analysis, we learned that not all children in Cicero were reaching their developmental and social emotional milestones, and that families faced barriers not only in understanding the importance of early childhood education, but also when accessing services that promote kindergarten readiness.
In 2012, to avoid redundancies, the Cicero AOK Network combined its efforts with the Early Childhood Committee of the Cicero Community Collaborative, becoming the AOK/ECC Collaboration. The merger ensured a more efficient and relational means of communication among early childhood providers, resulting in a more competent system of support for families.
In 2018, the AOK/ECC Collaboration created an educational campaign focused on the effectiveness of early childhood development and education to increase the number of children in Cicero reaching their developmental and social emotional milestones. Early Childhood Parent Ambassadors, comprised of bilingual and Spanish speaking Cicero community members and parents, informed these efforts, and play a crucial role implementing the strategies they helped to create.
Early Childhood Parent Ambassadors canvass door to door, distribute flyers, and facilitate and lead Parent Cafés and other events, reaching more than 2,000 households and 150 businesses. Parents express that they are more informed about early childhood education and events and feel more connected thanks to the Parent Ambassadors. This work has increased participation in Network events and cafés.
The collaboration also provides free developmental screenings for children up to three years of age who aren’t enrolled in an early childhood program, to fill the gaps of those not screened or connected to early intervention services. Prior to COVID-19, we had increased the number of children and families connected to Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education Programs.
Through awareness, access, partnerships, and comprehensive referrals, the AOK/ECC collaboration hopes to increase the percentage of children who are kindergarten-ready in Cicero.