Illinois Action for Children

Building Stong Famililies & Powerful Communities

aka Action for Children   |   Chicago, IL   |


Illinois Action for Children is a catalyst for organizing, developing and supporting strong families and powerful communities where children matter most.

Ruling year info



April Janney

Main address

4753 N Broadway St

Chicago, IL 60640 USA

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Formerly known as

Day Care Action Council of Illinois

Day Care Crisis Council of Metropolitan Chicago

Action for Children



NTEE code info

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (P01)

Child Day Care (P33)

Family Services (Adolescent Parents) (P45)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

As a state and national leader in the early care and education community for 51 years, Illinois Action for Children works to ensure all children and families in Illinois--especially children of color and those exposed to poverty—have access to high-quality early care, education and other critical systems of support that lead to success in school and in life. As research shows, a strong early education and developmental foundation is key to a maximizing children's future potential-and children with the fewest opportunities and resources are the children who gain the greatest benefit from quality early childhood programs. Additionally, Illinois's early childhood system is underfunded and fragmented. We are leading advocates in the quest to create a more equitable, coordinated, fully-funded early childhood system that serves and supports all children, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Early Learning Programs

Early Learning Programs is comprised of four Early Learning Centers (Head Start/Early Head Start) in Chicago’s South Suburbs (Chicago Heights, Dolton, Ford Heights, and South Holland), that provide comprehensive early care, education, family engagement and other vital supportive services; Home Visiting, which provides support for pregnant women and mothers with children birth through age three; and a network of 18 Early Learning Partners in Cook County’s south and west suburbs, private early childhood centers which IAFC supports through certified teachers, professional development and other supports to enhance their quality and ability to serve the most at-risk children and families.

All of these programs have been developed and are delivered with a multi-generational approach aimed at to disrupting the cycle of poverty impacting both the parents/caregivers and their children and setting them on paths to achieve their greatest potential.

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers

In addition to our core programs and services, IAFC administers two Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) programs for Cook County—The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and serves as the county’s designated Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCRR). Through these programs, we provide access to quality, affordable thousands of low-income working parents (and parents in school).

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers

Neighborhood Partnerships
Illinois Action for Children's Neighborhood Partnerships deepen and expand families' relationships with child care providers, local service providers, faith-based connections, businesses, and communities.

Faith-Based Program
Our Faith-Based Program connects parents and child care providers to early learning and school-age programs and services by partnering with churches to educate parishioners and communities on the importance of quality care and education.

Hospitals Program
We connect with hospitals, health care centers, and family planning agencies to educate them about early care and education and the family services that we offer.

Community Network Resource Collaborative
Community Network Resource Collaborative is a collection of agencies and organizations that serve families throughout Cook County and surrounding areas. The overall goal of the collaborative is to connect families to early childhood resources and supports and to minimize barriers that they face in connecting with an early learning program. The collaborative meets quarterly and provides the opportunity for community partners to connect with one another and to learn about and advocate for policy issues impacting families and other timely matters. For more information or to join this collaborative, contact Felicia McBride, Project Development Manager, at [email protected]

Population(s) Served

Public Policy & Advocacy educates early learning providers and the general public about legislative and administrative policies that support children, families and the field of early care and education; help providers implement best practices based on policy; shape and support policy and systems change for young children, families and providers; build and lead coalitions to advance advocacy and policy change with a a racial equity lens; conduct research to inform effective program delivery.

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers
Economically disadvantaged people

Community Systems Development (CSD) leads and supports community collaborations to build and continuously improve local systems of early childhood services. Currently, we are designing and delivering comprehensive capacity building supports for early childhood community-wide collaborations throughout Illinois that are focused on enrollment of high-need children ages 0-5 into high-quality early learning programs.
The CSD team is currently working on two major initiatives:
1. Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3) is a 5-year partnership with the Illinois State Board of of Education that began in 2018. The CSD team builds the capacity of local collaborations across the state to effectively support the early childhood sector.

2. Community Parenting Saturation Program is a 3-year initiative conceived by a group of local foundation interested in improving the outcomes of children in under-resourced communities. IAFC leads project in three communities-North Lawndale, Chicago, Rockford, IL and Aurora, IL. The pilot project is designed to test the theory that providing parents/caregivers living in under-resourced communities with every support and intervention and a meaningful voice in the process will lead to more children entering kindergarten READY to learn, grow and thrive.

Together, these vital programs and services drive us toward our vision of a future in which all children and families have the resources they need to reach their greatest potential.

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers
Economically disadvantaged people

Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) recognizes the critically important role of early learning programs in building a firm foundation that allows children to reach their academic and social potential. Creating high-quality and highly effective learning environments requires skilled and committed leaders and teachers to foster positive outcomes for children.

Effective teachers engage in reflective practice; continuous child assessment; and utilize curricula that support whole-child development. Strong program leadership is also required to ensure positive outcomes for children and increase the capacity of classroom teachers.

Illinois Action for Children’s Consultation Services engages early childhood program leaders to provide support to teachers through coaching, mentoring, professional development, training, and technical assistance. Illinois Action for Children’s integrated suite of consultation services covers the topics of:


Illinois Action for Children’s Consultation Services are available at no cost to you through our partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services. Click on each title above to learn more about each program. You are welcome to engage in a single service or you can combine all three – we are committed to a consultative engagement that meets your specific needs.

Location of Consultation Services Team – IAFCs Community Partners
IAFCs Consultation Services team is comprised of dozens of skilled and experienced professionals who are committed to your success. Currently, consultants are regionally-based throughout Cook County, making it easy for consultant(s) to make regular visits to your program.

In addition to providing support for ongoing provider training and professional development, each of Illinois Action for Children’s Community Partners headquarters offices services as a “home-base” for our consultants while they are in the field. There is at least one (1) of each consultant type (Quality, Infant-Toddler, Early Childhood Mental Health) assigned to each Community Partner-based region.

These are the areas served by each of IAFCs Community Partners:

Illinois Action for Children - North (formerly Children's Home + Aid)
Illinois Action for Children
Carole Robertson Center for Learning (CRCL)
Centers for New Horizons (CNH)
Good Shephard Center (GSC)

Population(s) Served
Infants and toddlers

To combat food insecurity in home-based childcare in Cook County’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, IAFC began running the Healthy Food Program (HFP) in 2006. The HFP, which operates under the auspices of the USDA funded Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). All providers enrolled in CACFP also receive child care reimbursement from the Cook County Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

Over the years, the HFP team has augmented the program to include specialized trainings and support to home-based, license exempt providers called Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Care. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more families are turning to FFN providers as an alternative to center-based child care. Utilizing FFN child care, parents/caregivers know their children are with someone they know and trust to care for their children safely.

Each year, the Healthy Food Program serves nearly 3 million healthy meals and snacks to more than 6,000 impoverished children from birth to age 12.

Health and Safety Resources
The Health and Safety Resources Department utilizes a strengths-based approach to build meaningful relationships with providers as individuals, while leveraging our holistic understanding of what is needed for high-quality child care that is inclusive of supports for the home environment as well as supports for the provider themselves.

Since 2017, our team of Health and Safety Coaches (formerly known as License-exempt Monitors or LEMs) have served more than 1,000 License-Exempt FFN care providers as a personal contact, providing 1:1 support in a range of child care aspects.

Illinois Action for Children’s Health and Safety Coaches:
Build and maintain relationships with License-exempt providers who care for children participating in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
Support these providers in ways that help ensure the children in their care have a safe, healthy and happy environment
Visit homes where child care is provided to deliver resources that encourage health and safety, such as early learning tools, community resources, and much more!
Facilitate provider trainings, cohorts, and peer-to-peer learning
Provide technical assistance (e.g. computer labs) to set providers up for success in the program
Share additional resources and materials to enhance the delivery of high-quality early childhood experiences to all the children in their care.
Our approach is based on meeting providers where they are. That means in their home, at the library, at the park, or whatever we can possibly make work. That also means that we work to build trust, open doors to opportunities, offer encouragement, and guide providers to help them see clearer paths, overcome challenges, and take advantage of opportunities.

Population(s) Served

Illinois Action for Children is a leading expert on engaging families and support organizations, schools, and community collaborations to also deepen their own family and community engagement practices.

We support your staff and teachers to learn these skills through our Partnerships for Positive Outcomes (PPO) program. We provide training and consultation supports in deepening the practice of engaging families and communities as well as providing consultation services and trainings in topics related to early childhood mental health:

Family and Community Engagement Training and Supports

Engaging families authentically
Strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism
Building community partnerships and a system of referrals for families
Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation and Training Supports

Individual child observations
Trauma and its impact on children
Reflective practice coaching for teachers
Understanding brain science and early learning

Population(s) Served

Since 2012, Illinois Action for Children has been working with families, schools, and community organizations in North Lawndale to partner with families and to implement community systems development strategies that improve family access to early care and education programs. The North Lawndale Community Connections program includes several initiatives specifically for families living in the North Lawndale community.

North Lawndale READS program
In 2015, we joined the Steans Family Foundation’s North Lawndale READS initiative to increase the increase grade level literacy for children in preschool through third grade. In this project, IAFC is responsible for addressing issues of chronic absenteeism in preschool to third grade by partnering with four elementary schools to provide authentic family engagement supports.

Over the years, we have adapted and refined our approach to addressing chronic absenteeism and fostering attendance in schools. Our program approach includes three pillars: 1) Authentic family engagement through intensive family supports and services, 2) Fostering community partnerships to provide families with holistic and comprehensive supports that address their basic needs, and 3) Building the capacity of the school leaders and staff themselves to foster a positive culture of attendance and family engagement.

The results of our approach have been tremendously successful with proven and significant impact on families and children’s learning. Some of our key successes include:

In the 2017-2018 school year, students served by IAFC saw an average gain of +6 percent attendance (approximately 11 extra days of school).
63 percent of students reached by IAFC met growth benchmarks on MAP Reading assessments
For second graders, this growth corresponded to 1.4 years of growth
For third graders, this growth corresponded to 1 year of growth
Playful Learning Landscapes
Illinois Action for Children, in partnership with Metropolitan Family Services and its collaborative partners, has been working with families to identify every day public spaces that can be transformed into places of learning for young children. Through the North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration, family leaders and community partners, have worked collaboratively to give voice to innovative ideas such as transforming sidewalks outside of Legacy Apartments, the Farm on Ogden, and at the Central Park pink line into literacy and early math spaces. In June 2021, another educational installation will be placed in the community on Douglas Boulevard. This set of installations will allow children to explore colorful concepts that will help them build mathematical skills.

North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration
Formerly known as the North Lawndale Innovation Zone

In 2012, Illinois won a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant to strengthen early childhood systems and kindergarten readiness for Illinois children. Within that initiative, IAFC led the Innovation Zones project. We engaged 11 communities to develop and test strategies to increase the enrollment of children with critical needs in high-quality early learning and development programs. North Lawndale—a neighborhood where 72 percent of the children age five and under were living in poverty—was among them.

Partnering with a diverse coalition of community organizations and parents, we set out to build a comprehensive community infrastructure to ensure that all children born in the community are on track to succeed by third grade. In North Lawndale, we focused our efforts on creating a robust enrollment pipeline that would effectively connect families to the formal programs available to them and on enrolling more high-need children in high-quality early learning programs.

Ongoing Success
The North Lawndale team’s work during the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant continues to provide the community with benefits of the work the team completed, including:

A strong community collaboration, the North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration, that has developed a more systematic way of sharing information and referring families.
A pipeline of partners that are referring families to early learning programs
A feedback loop between the Chicago Mayor’s Office (Early Learning Department), (Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), Chicago Public Schools and the North Lawndale community collaboration.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Economically disadvantaged people
Infants and toddlers
Economically disadvantaged people
Infants and toddlers

As part of the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B5) and in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) has been tasked with the Community-Based Planning for Expansion (CBP) project designed to increase support for community systems and to community-level applicants for state funding. Recognizing that there are a number of barriers to applying for state funding as well as that increased state funding is being dedicated to early childhood, this is a critical time for community-level expansion planning. CBP provides underserved communities with systems knowledge, demographic data, and planning capacity to take advantage of projected increases in state Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) and child care funding.

Communities will receive:
Funding towards supporting the community-based planning process
Capacity-building trainings provided to community leaders on topics such as funding streams, layered funding, priority populations, program models, facilities, and more
Facilitated planning support that result in community plans for service expansion
Increased systems knowledge, demographic data, and planning capacity
The goal of the three-year project is to support 15 communities with large slot gaps to compete successfully for early childhood care and education funding and expand services.

For more information on the CBP Project, please contact Brittain Ayres at [email protected]

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our Strategic Plan Focuses On Programs, Public Policy, and Research.

This plan identifies the systemic impact areas that we will pursue. We believe a
focus on these areas will drive the political, economic, and social changes that are
required to create the world we desire.

Evolving Community Systems: Serving the Whole State
Though endemic poverty can be attacked at the individual and family level,
when addressed at the system level, community and societal gains increase
exponentially. Our work in community systems development and capacity building
has demonstrated that the greatest potential educational return, for the greatest
number of children in all communities, will be achieved through this work.

Driving Diversity of Child Care and Education: Supporting Parental Choice for
Home- and Center-Based Settings
While ongoing research and policy findings continue to drive funding and political
momentum toward center-based education and universal pre-kindergarten, the
work of studying, researching, and acknowledging the value of diverse settings
and experiences in ECE and care for school-age children while not in school is
sorely lacking. The prevalence of families who choose different child care options
exemplifies the need for a spectrum of high-quality solutions across every income,
social, and child care delivery structure. We are committed to pursuing quality
measures that acknowledge different settings, offer new options, and provide
meaningful solutions to every family.

Vitalizing the Early Care and Education Workforce
The early education workforce, who we entrust to nurture and teach our children
during the most important developmental years of their lives, is in urgent need of
vitalization. Identifying, recruiting, developing, and sustaining that workforce has
increasingly eluded the field. When we recognize an issue of this magnitude, we
rise to the challenge. The methods, protocols, and incentives to overcome the talent
shortage in ECE has become our focus. We know that without a solution to this crisis,
there remain nearly insurmountable obstacles to developing the next generation of
leaders for the field, and without a solution, it will be the children who continue to
pay the price.

Working Beyond Need-Based Equity
While some progress has been made, in 21st century America, race, gender,
disability, zip code, and nationality directly impact the future of children. Where
children live matters. Their race and nationality matters. Gender, disability, all of it
matters. The time to collect and analyze the data is long overdue. These questions
will continue to engage our study and pursuit of equity within our organization and
in the child care and education field.

Action 1.1 - Focus on outcomes and impact in our work with families and in communities
Action 1.2 - Broaden our public policy focus
Action 1.3 - Engage a multi-year program and policy platform

Action 2.1 - Merge network of relationships for better program results
Action 2.2 - Enhance community collaborations
Action 2.3 - Shape technical assistance services

Action 3.1 - Segment messaging to target communities of interest for impact
Action 3.2 - Clarify key messages
Action 3.3 - Align our brand with issues that demonstrate our leadership in the early care and education community

Action 4.1 - Advance field-based staff development
Action 4.2 - Enhance skill-based investments
Action 4.3 - Extend the performance culture

Action 5.1 - Create self-sustaining programs
Action 5.2 - Identify broader quality measurements
Action 5.3 - Extend the entrepreneurial sphere
Action 5.4 - Fund diversification

Initiated in response to a philanthropic vision, and broadened by state and federal recognition of its value,
our systems change work is focused on:
1 Systems development in specific, high-need
communities in which depth of engagement and tenure
of investment matter.
2 Assessing, enhancing, and aligning the assets of
underserved communities.
3 Examining the underlying root causes and their gaps (in funding and philosophy)
that contribute to challenges in certain identifiable communities.
What remains is to cultivate and connect what we have learned on a community
level to state-wide impact and national direction setting.

Parenting can be challenging. Add in the complexities of navigating the child care
system including finding and paying for child care, the obstacles can often be too
complex for parents to overcome. Many families need options that do not align with
the traditional center-based model, especially related to care during non-standard
hours. The current strategies and theories that underpin the work of the entire
system have created biases that limit parents’ choices. At the same time, investment
in family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care is severely lacking, creating disparity and
inconsistency in the quality of care.

We will engage across the levels
of complexity and bias to support
quality child care and education
for all children, in the context that
is appropriate for individual need
and parental choice.

The ECE community faces an ongoing talent shortage, an aging workforce, low
wages, and a mismatch between the institutions preparing the workforce and the
funding and incentives required to attract and retain the desired staff. At the same
time, as brain science continues to identify the critical impact of brain development
during the first five years of life, the staff that delivers most of the primary care is often
professionally unprepared to engage its pertinent issues. Mandated working hours
and a pay structure both archaic and disincentivizing must be addressed.

We are committed to driving the vitalization of the ECE workforce to advance
equitable pay, incentives, and learning settings. These changes will help attract and
retain educators who can deliver essential, high-quality care/learning for children
and their families.

While society seems to be open to change, many challenges remain. We have seen
issues of implicit bias, racism, sexism, and nationalism in the classrooms of our
youngest children and in many Illinois communities. These issues demand research
and public response to combat the forces threatening to undermine the futures
of the next generation. We're committed to amplifying their voices, demanding
change, and making sure the playing field is as fair as possible.

“What about the children?”

That simple question 50 years ago led to the formation of a grassroots organization that would eventually become Illinois Action for Children (IAFC). For five decades (and counting) IAFC has worked to ensure that all children in Illinois—especially children of color and those in poverty —have access to high-quality early childhood care, education, and other vital resources—and that parents are supported in their goals of economic self-sufficiency and stability.

Over the years the needs of families have changed. New challenges have emerged. New opportunities have been created. At Illinois Action for Children, we’ve recognized the need to do even more and we’ve taken action by implementing new programs and policies to help organize, develop and support “Strong Families and Powerful Communities” where children matter most.

To learn more about Illinois Action for Children, our programs, our advocacy efforts or how you can get involved, visit our website at


Illinois Action for Children

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
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Illinois Action for Children

Board of directors
as of 01/06/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Celena Roldán

American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois

Term: 2020 - 2022

Judith Walker Kendrick

JCW Incorporated

Joel Carp

Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago

Jennifer Farrington

Chicago Children's Museum

Tobeka Green

Michelle Saddler

Kittleman & Associates

Monica Moss

Andrew Rosenband

Morgan Li

Marvin Cohen


Natalie Mindrum

Impossible Foods

Sonia Lopez Tavares

Illinois Action for Children Early Head Start/Head Start Policy Council

Beth A. Brooks

The Brooks Team

LaChar Crayton

Illinois Action for Children Early Head Start/Head Start Policy Council

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/9/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data