Evanston Cradle to Career Leveraged Funds for Partner Collaborations

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Evanston Cradle to Career (EC2C) was recently awarded over $178,000 from the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago to advance its vision for all Evanston youth, by age 23, to find their path toward a healthy, fulfilling, productive life.  EC2C is one of 16 United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Neighborhood Networks and involves over 40 local partner organizations working collectively to make institutional systems more accessible and equitable for Evanston families and children.

EC2C decided to invest these funds in collaborative efforts formed by its partner organizations that could change community and organizational systems in order to better support families and children. One of EC2C’s partners, Evanston Community Foundation, was asked to lead the grantmaking process by designing guidelines for eligible collaborative efforts and issuing requests for proposals, which were evaluated by a committee of community residents and nonprofit experts.  The three grant awardees, involving 12 EC2C partner organizations, were announced at the EC2C Partners Meeting on October 26.

Trauma-Informed Services for Evanston Early Childhood Programs.  $65,000. The Childcare Network of Evanston (lead agency), Cherry Preschool, Covenant Nursery School, Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, JEH Early Childhood Center, Learning Bridge, McGaw YMCA Early Learning Center, Reba Early Learning Center, School for Little Children, and Unity Preschool  are working to avoid early childhood placement disruption by providing trauma-informed training for early childhood teachers, providing Sunshine Circles to help children deal with stressful situations in their lives, and establishing a coordinated intake system to link families experiencing trauma with a mental health consultant specializing in trauma-informed care at no cost to the family within 48 hours of referral.  Too often children impacted by trauma are labeled as disruptive, defiant, or poor learners and are at high risk of disconnecting from school. By streamlining access to services, and helping to ensure children are in supportive early childhood programs, this initiative seeks to ensure all children are on track for success in kindergarten.

Social Emotional Learning Kindergarten Readiness. $28,300. Open Studio Project (lead agency),Childcare Network of Evanston, Learning Bridge, and Reba Early Learning Center children and their parents, both alone and together, will participate in an arts-based curriculum designed to promote self-expression and help children to build the social and emotional skills that will be critical to success in kindergarten. By engaging the parents, this initiative hopes to strengthen the connections between early childhood providers and parents—a connection we hope to continue to strengthen throughout their children’s time in school.

Empowering Youth, Families, and Front-Line Providers to Improve Organizational/Institutional Systems. $65,000.  Moran Center for Youth Advocacy (lead agency), City of Evanston Youth Division, Connections for the Homeless, Curt’s Café, Erie Family Health Center, Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, Youth Job Center, and Y.O.U. are undertaking an initiative to engage youth in the community to help these partner organizations to identify and address the systemic barriers within their own organizations and to better define the role of youth serving organizations in supporting young parents and promoting kindergarten readiness.

Advocates for Action Community Building Grants. Up to $20,000. Community Building Grants will be awarded by EC2C Advocates for Action to support individuals and groups who want to make their local communities a better place to live and raise families.  Communities might be just one block or a larger neighborhood area or a group of community member who have shared experiences (for example, families with children with special needs.) These grants can ranged from $250 to $1000 to support efforts that bring people together and help make Evanston a more supportive place to raise our children.  The project has to be free, accessible, and welcoming to all. These grants will be awarded over the next 14 months.

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Evanston Cradle to Career is a collaborative partnership of over 40 organizations and 150 community members, who have committed to employ collective impact to address the inequity in Evanston that results in many of its students of color and those from lower-income households encountering significant barriers that undermine their health and safety, success in school, and opportunities in life.