Early childhood community collaborations play an important role in supporting school readiness of their communities’ youngest residents. By building and leveraging cross-sector partnerships in their communities, families’ access to developmental screenings increases as they are engaged, educated and referred to services as needed.  Communities across Illinois are leading groundbreaking initiatives for achieving universal child development screening for young children.  Oak Park’s Collaboration for Early Childhood provides insight as to how they coordinate their local screening efforts.

What we do

The Collaboration for Early Childhood works to ensure that all children birth to five receive periodic developmental screenings and that all children who need assessment and services access them. We provide support to pediatric and family practice physicians and early childhood education and child care professionals to conduct developmental screenings of all children in their care.

A developmental screening is a brief check that provides a picture of a child’s communication, motor, cognitive, personal-social (adaptive or self-help) and social-emotional skills. This screening can be conducted by a doctor, a child care provider or other trained professional. A screening can determine whether a child’s development is appropriate for his or her age. If a child’s development is on track, a developmental screening can help identify the child’s areas of strength.

The Collaboration provides training and technical assistance to conduct the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Third Edition (ASQ-3) and Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social-Emotional (ASQ:SE-2) developmental screenings, at least once, but usually twice per year, or as indicated by Parents as Teachers (PAT) or Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP). This screening is completed by parents using the ASQ Online system. It automatically scores the questionnaire for providers and gives an electronic record of results and any follow-up services provided.

Why we do it

Research shows that children get along better in school and with other children the earlier they get help with a delay. If a developmental screening indicates a possible delay, the Collaboration follows up with the family, the early childhood professionals and the health care professional if the family has granted permission to do so. We support providers to make referrals to the Illinois Early Intervention system (ages 0-3), local school district (ages 3-5) or medical and private providers (any age) as quickly as possible. We establish and nurture collaborative relationships with the local school districts, Child and Family Connections offices, physicians, early childhood providers and family and social service agencies.

The statewide quality rating and improvement system, ExceleRate Illinois, considers regular developmental screening to be a best practice for child care providers. Participation in our screening project enables programs to achieve the ExceleRate Silver and Gold circles of quality, which families recognize as indicators of high-quality programs.

Why we do it the way that we do it

Supporting parents, early childhood professionals and medical providers to utilize research-based, valid and reliable screening tools to monitor a child’s development is the most responsible way to ensure a high-quality early childhood experience for all children. Working with a variety of providers and maintaining screening information electronically also allows us to know how many children are being screened and referred for additional assessments and services.

We then use this aggregated data to promote developmental screening, study the transition from the Illinois Early Intervention System to the Early Childhood Special Education system, eliminate gaps in services to children and families, streamline processes, and track referral service receipt and levels of delivery. We also tie it to other sources of information for longitudinal research that informs service delivery and improves outcomes for families over time.

Collaboration staff provide training, coaching and mentoring support tailored to meet the specific needs and skill level of the provider. This engagement gives providers a local resource to help screen, review, analyze results and communicate with families and other service providers around the referral and intervention process.

Through its developmental screening project, the Collaboration for Early Childhood builds the capacity of all providers working to improve the lives of the youngest children in the Oak Park and River Forest communities.


For more information on the Collaboration for Early Childhood’s Developmental Screening Program, feel free visit the Collaboration’s website   or contact Shannon T. Ellison, M.Ed., Developmental Screening Coordinator at (708) 613-6122