Network Coordinator: Steve Akins (618) 263-3873 ext. 121 firstname.lastname@example.org
Family Engagement Specialist: Bri Birkla (618) 263-3873 email@example.com
Address: Wabash County Health Department
WCHD Prevention Office
Bringing Childhood Collaboration to Wabash and Edwards Counties
Wabash and Edwards Counties are adjacent counties located in rural southeastern Illinois. Wabash County borders Indiana along the Wabash River and is the fifth-smallest county in Illinois. Wabash County is home to 11,361 residents. According to the 2020 United States Census, more than half of Wabash County households are families; 15% have children under the age of six. Edwards County is located west of Wabash County, and home to 6,721 residents. In Edwards County, 68% of all households are families, and 11% of those families have children under the age of six. The Wabash County Health Department has implemented the All Our Kids Network (AOK) for over 20 years.
The Wabash/Edwards AOK Network is the only established early childhood collaboration in both Wabash and Edwards Counties. It offers the rare opportunity for early childhood service providers to work with other programs to improve access, coordination, and quality of services for the children they serve. The Wabash/Edwards AOK sustains strong partnerships with early childhood programs and providers such as WIC, Family Case Management, school-based birth-to-age-three programs, Head Start, home visitors, pediatricians, behavioral health, law enforcement, parent groups, and more. The Wabash/Edwards All Our Kids Network identifies gaps or barriers in the local early childhood system, then develops strategies that address system issues to create better outcomes for the children in the community.
Using qualitative and quantitative data, the Wabash/Edwards AOK discovered that lack of early childhood literacy can prevent kids from entering kindergarten ready to succeed. Between 30 and 40% of children entering kindergarten in the region are at least two years behind other students in the state. The Network also learned that not all children are getting the dental care need to prevent cavities. Families face many obstacles to support their children in reading and health, due to the lack of transportation and limited availability of resources in the Wabash/Edwards area.
Since 2018, the Wabash/Edwards AOK Network has engaged the community in bettering dental outcomes for underserved children in the region. Thanks to partnerships with Dental Safari, a professional mobile-dentistry service, and local school districts, more than 300 children without dental access received free exams and cleanings. Many families continue regular visits with Dental Safari.
In 2022, the AOK Network launched a new podcast to connect young families with information and resources to strengthen health, safety, and positive development outcomes for children from birth to age five . The monthly podcast features interviews with subject matter experts in the areas of early childhood, public health, and mental health to share up-to-date information on topics like safety preparedness and breastfeeding. The Network also uses social media to promote engagement in literacy initiatives, child development, and community resources for families.
I have been an AOK community partner for over 10 years and feel the collaboration and partnerships that have developed through AOK have allowed all of our programs to better support children and families. It is a great network of partners all working together for a common goal and sharing success through making families the priority. I think AOK is very valuable and makes us stronger as a community.Pam Oliver, 0-3 initiative