Network Coordinator: Rebecca Anderson (815) 727-8864 firstname.lastname@example.org
Family Engagement Specialist: Arielle Jones (815) 774-7324 email@example.com
Address: Will County Health Department
501 Ella Avenue
Joliet, IL 60433
Making Real Connections to Help Children in Will County
The Will County All Our Kids Early Childhood Network is dedicated to building a thriving community for children and families. Our collaborative approach engages the community to learn about early childhood care and education. This helps to ensure that children birth to age five in Will County receive the strongest possible start in life, so they grow up safe, healthy, happy, ready to succeed, and eager to learn. Together, we connect children, caregivers, and community members with the important resources they need to flourish.
Will County is a large county covering 850 square miles in northeastern Illinois, southwest of Chicago. The U.S. Census Bureau lists Will County as one of the 100 largest counties by population in the nation, and the fourth most populous county in Illinois. Of its 696,355 residents, 40,388 are children under the age of five.
The Will County AOK Network has sustained many of its original partners since its beginning in 2004. The network has had many areas of focus throughout the years, including early childhood mental health trainings for professionals, developmental screenings for young children, and most recently online referrals to and from service providers. Many diverse agencies are involved with either the AOK Network and/or the Integrated Referral and Intake System (also known as IRIS), the online referral system.
Using a data-driven process, the Will County AOK learned that not all children are on a positive developmental trajectory. Many families were not able to access services easily and providers did not know about each other’s capabilities. We also discovered that not all children under age five are receiving developmental screenings.
The Will County AOK leads two strategies to improve outcomes for children and families. One is to strengthen the network of referrals to increase the number of families who receive the services they need and want. The second is to connect early childhood providers with information and training on developmental screenings to ensure more children are screened, receiving services as needed, and ready for school.
The online referral system IRIS has allowed local service providers to make seamless connections between agencies serving families with young children. Local partners have committed to respond to referrals within three business days to assure that families are promptly connected to services. IRIS is helping increase families’ access to services with direct contact from providers offering the help they need and want. This is a system change from using non-emergency numbers, such as 211 or 988, which are not able to connect families across providers. Since February 2020, Will County AOK Network partners have made more than 1,950 referrals through IRIS, with the highest number of referrals from Joliet (60435).
IRIS has been great for our families! We are able to refer to multiple organizations that meet the needs of our demographics with a click of a button. Everything is done through the website and it is so convenient. We usually have an answer within three business days whether the referral is accepted or not. Our families could not get the services they need as quickly without IRIS in our community.Alyssa Lindstrom, Parent Educator for Jumpstart
In 2021, the Will County AOK Network piloted the launch of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) online platform. The ASQ works best when completed on a regular schedule by parents and/or caregivers (pediatricians, home visitors, teachers, childcare providers) to assess the developmental milestones of children from birth to age five. The ASQ online platform will allow AOK Network partners to track how many children are receiving screening and where, and data on developmental domains children need to be referred to for additional supports. The AOK Network partners leverage IRIS to connect families to services that will support their child’s positive development. For example, a child screened by a home-visiting program is easily referred to Child and Family Connections’ Early Intervention program.
The Will County AOK hosts quarterly meetings with IRIS members and the pilot ASQ group and provides technical support when issues arise. The referral systems being piloted by the Will County AOK Network are a work in progress, but they are successfully reducing coordination and access barriers experienced by families and service providers. The Network is proud to create better outcomes for children and families, and will continue to move forward with IRIS and ASQ online to create a stronger system for the early childhood community.