There’s no single right way to form an effective early childhood collaborative and no single organizational model that works in every community. Illinois’ Community Profiles illustrate the broad range of partnerships.

As a collaboration grows in size and impact, many consider different ideas for sustaining the work. Learn more about issues to consider for institutionalizing the initiative.

Throughout Illinois, there are a number of models to explore and from which to learn.

Independent 501c3

A small number of early childhood collaboratives in Illinois operate under their own independent non-profit status. The advantage to this model is the establishment of the collaborative as a neutral system leader, but it can be costly to incorporate and maintain.

Fiscal Agency

Because establishing a new 501c3 can be a costly endeavor, many communities have housed their cross-system collaboratives under the umbrella of an existing organization. A consideration to this approach is the community perception of the fiscal agent’s neutrality within the system.

SPARK (Aurora) and the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning are both initiatives within the local United Way. Metropolitan Family Services is the fiscal agent for grants to staff collaboratives in Addison, West Chicago, and Wheaton-Warrenville.

AOK Networks

Illinois funds 12 All Our Kids (AOK) Networks, primarily at the county level. Most of the networks are housed within county health departments. The AOK Conceptual Framework guides the work.

Embedded in Existing System Infrastructure

The Southern Illinois Coalition for Children and Families is embedded within the regional Child Care Resource & Referral agency.   The McHenry County AOK Network (which does not receive state AOK funding) is co-coordinated by the Child and Family Connections/Local Interagency Council (Options & Advocacy) and the Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (4-C).

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