Family Leaders Share Challenges & Solutions for Accessing Early Childhood Programs
On May 12, after celebrating Mother's Day, the 12 Family Leaders hosted a Parent Town Hall, where we were joined by over 60 participants from throughout Illinois.
After telling their individual stories and briefly reviewing the six Raising Illinois policy workgroups, Family Leaders facilitated conversations in breakout rooms, asking about the barriers families have faced when trying to use vital services. Participants also discussed ideas for how to overcome those barriers.
There was much conversation about the existence of what participants called “child care deserts,” but also a lack of types of services in communities across the state. Parents talked about driving far too long for services, or struggling to take advantage of services due to inconvenient hours.
At the same time, we also heard about solutions - such as the need to invest in early childhood system to increase program capacity. Another solution that was shared was the need to recognize the importance of a child’s early years – valuing child care, Early Intervention and all the other services that can make a difference in a child’s life.
We hope that these Town Hall conversations, where we were able to share our experiences and individual voices, will inform the work of Raising Illinois. Our next steps include sharing in writing a summary of these conversations for with policy workgroups to consider and incorporate into their work.
In addition, as one of our Family Leaders, Susana Salgado, put it: “as official Family Leaders, we need to invite more parents to this coalition, welcoming them and listening to them so that they too can participate and make changes for all of our children.”
We want to be bridges to our communities and help ensure that as a parent joins in our work, they have no doubt about the impact their voice can have.