Linking Home-Based Child Care and State-Funded Preschool: The Community Connections Preschool Program (Illinois Action for Children): Evaluation Phase 1 — Implementation Study

Forry, Nicole; Anderson, Rachel; Banghart, Patti L.; Zaslow, Martha; Kreader, J. Lee; Chrisler, Alison

The Community Connections preschool program (herein referred to as Community Connections) was developed to help prepare children in home-based child care for success in school and in life. It has three goals: (1) to make state prekindergarten classroom experiences available to children in home-based care, (2) to extend classroom learning experiences in the home-based care setting, and (3) to support infant and toddler development in participating providers' homes. In this model, state prekindergarten (Illinois "Preschool for All") classrooms provide half-day sessions four days per week for 3- and 4-year-old children coming from home-based child care. On the fifth day, the teachers visit children's care providers; delivering books and educational materials, modeling ways to extend curriculum activities, and discussing children's learning in the classroom. While preschoolers are in classrooms away from the home-based care setting, providers have precious time to focus on the needs of infants and toddlers in their care. Illinois Action for Children (herein referred to as IAFC) created the Community Connections program model in 2005 as Illinois was rapidly expanding its state prekindergarten program, which would ultimately change from serving exclusively at-risk children to become "Preschool for All." As the Preschool for All program grew, it became clear that large numbers of preschoolers in home-based care were being left out. Home-based care is the only option for many parents in low-wage jobs because those jobs tend to require non-traditional work hours — evenings, weekends, and changing shifts ““ when child care centers are closed. In Illinois, 67% of low-income single mothers with children under six work non-traditional hours (Illinois Action for Children, 2006). These mothers overwhelmingly choose home-based child care, usually provided by family, friends and neighbors. According to Illinois Child Care Assistance Program data, among families using the Child Care Assistance Program in Cook County, 58% have enrolled their children in home-based child care (22% in licensed homes and 36% in license-exempt Family, Friend and Neighbor care). While home-based child care is a significant community asset, preschool-age children tend to learn cognitive school readiness skills best in classroom settings (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network, 2002). In 2005, IAFC developed Community Connections to support home-based child care while adding a classroom-based experience to the children's day. This new program represents a third model through which state prekindergarten services are delivered in Illinois. The two most common models are part-day school-based programs and full-day programs delivered in conjunction with child care centers. As a third model, Community Connections has the potential to reach a large population of unserved children.


More About This Work

Academic Units
National Center for Children in Poverty
Illinois Action for Children
Published Here
July 19, 2011