Erie House Participates in Illinois Action for Children Conference in Springfield

March 29, 2016 | Chicago, IL

Maria Whelan

Illinois Action for Children president and CEO Maria Whelan speaks during a panel discussion on March 9, 2016. PHOTO COURTESY ANGELICA STEINZ

On March 8 and 9, Illinois Action for Children hosted its 19th annual Spring into Action conference in Springfield, Ill., to provide resources and networking opportunities as well as assemble a critical mass in the state capital to advocate for early childhood education and the needs of working families in Illinois.

Three representatives from Erie House—Louis Falk, director of child care; Evelyn Corona, intake manager; and Angelica Steinz, intake specialist—participated in the two-day conference.

An advocacy organization that seeks to strengthen families and communities, Illinois Action for Children was founded in 1969 to ensure working families were able to access quality, affordable care and education for their children. The organization reaches 150,000 children and families statewide each year through advocacy and policy work, supporting child care providers, building community networks and even providing direct service in the south suburbs of Chicago.\

“Our partnership with Illinois Action for Children is extremely valuable,” says Erie House executive director Kirstin Chernawsky. “The network of providers we belong to is strong and ensures that the voice of the community we serve is heard in Springfield.”

Illinois Education Association executive director Audrey Soglin served as keynote speaker for the conference, and workshops ranged from navigating grants and assessing impacts of the state budget impasse to developing stronger community system networks.

One of the event’s focal points was a roundtable discussion with Mark Brown, the Sun-Times columnist who has been outspoken on the ramifications of Gov. Rauner’s changes to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) impacting working families across the state. During the discussion, panelist and Carole Robertson Center for Learning CEO Cerathel Burnett shared how several families in her agency’s child care program had suffered gravely as a result of the CCAP changes.

“That really impacted me,” says Steinz. “There are so many families who are being left out, who aren’t able to access child care and other services.” According to Steinz, Illinois Action for Children did an exemplary job pairing the emotional aspects of the budget impasse and its widespread impact with opportunities for conference participants to take action. “They gave us many valuable resources to advocate for the needs of children and families,” she says.

To that end, the three Erie House staff members were able to talk with Illinois State Senator William Delgado (D-2nd) on the second day of the conference.

“It was important for us to be there because our representatives need to know that working families are affected by the state budget as well as the CCAP changes,” says Corona.

The issue hits close to home for Corona, who benefitted from CCAP funding a decade ago when she was earning a master’s degree and her son was enrolled in the program at Erie House. “I know the impact. I wouldn’t be the person I am right now if it wasn’t for the opportunity I had to go back to school," she says. "That’s why I am here.”

Through the duration of the budget impasse that is now in its ninth month, Illinois Action for Children has served as a leading voice on behalf of working families and child care providers.

“The lack of a state budget continues to impact a number of other programs that Illinois residents rely on and that provide critical supports to our state’s most vulnerable families,” said president and CEO Maria Whalen in a statement issued following Gov. Rauner’s State of the State address in January. “These families’ and our state’s economic well-being and economic potential are being harmed by the budget impasse.”

Next up for Illinois Action for Children is its Rally Day to Save Child Care, scheduled for Thursday, May 5, in Springfield. Falk indicates that Erie House aims to partner with local agencies to send representatives to participate in the event at the state capitol.


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