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Illinois Action for Children’s Community Connections Project

This project examines the implementation of the Community Connections mixed-approach model which intentionally links low-income families, their home-based child care providers, and center-based pre-kindergarten programs in caring for and educating preschool-age children. Children already enrolled in licensed or license-exempt family child care homes are transported to state pre-kindergarten programs in community-based child care centers for part-day sessions four days per week. On the fifth day, the pre-kindergarten teachers visit the family child care homes—visiting each twice a month--to coordinate curriculum, bring new resources, and discuss children’s progress. The aim is to improve the school readiness of vulnerable and underserved children by exposing children in home-based care to a center-based pre-kindergarten and fostering alignment and communication across all settings involved in the care of the child.

The process evaluation conducted by NCCP and Child Trends, in collaboration with Illinois Action for Children which operates Community Connections in Chicago and suburban Cook County, includes: phone interviews with participating child care center directors, staff, and teachers; phone interviews with participating parents; in-person interviews with home-based providers; and quality observations of home-based care using the Child Care Assessment Tool for Relatives (CCAT-R). The goal of the process evaluation is to:

  • Describe the program components.
  • Examine the implementation process including obstacles, successes, and lessons learned.
  • Study any unresolved implementation issues and possible solutions
  • Explore the current level of fidelity to the planned model.

The final report on the project’s findings will present recommendations for program improvement and replication in other communities who wish to engage vulnerable and underserved children in state public preschool programs.