Skip to main content

The Challenge

Why Early Childhood Opportunities Matter

Brains are built, not born. Research shows that children who have had early experiences during the first 2,000 Days come to school more prepared and successful in school and life. Currently, under 20% of the children entering School District U-46 come to school ready to learn. Early experiences and positive relationships with caring adults help build a strong, healthy foundation for learning. 

Community Demographics and Early Learning Landscape
Elgin has 112,000 residents and 10,000 children ages five and under. 

School District U-46 the second largest in Illinois boundaries include 11 communities that will serve a combined 18,000 children under the age of five. There are 2,000 Days from birth to Kindergarten, and in the first 1,100 days, 85-90% of brain growth occurs. Every experience for a baby forms neural connections, building a pathway in the brain. Rich positive interactions are necessary to build a child's brain during this critical time of growth. Early care and preschool programs are vital to children's long-term success in being prepared for Kindergarten. 

Our community is facing the challenge of what is considered a "slot gap," which is a shortage of early learning slots compared to the number of eligible children based on living at or under 185% Federal Poverty Level. Our community has a shortage of 2,552 slots for children ages birth to two-year-old and 1,392 slots for 3 to 5-year-olds. EPEL is currently leading a community planning committee that is working together to build a plan to offer equitable access to high-quality programs. We use data to measure our progress and identify community needs for families.



What Can We Do?



Build an Early Childhood System

The Early Childhood System is fragmented, complicated, and difficult for families to navigate. Building an equitable accessible system that is coordinated and aligned will support families in receiving the services needed for children to find success in school. We call this process "System Building" through a Collective Impact Model. Over 70 partner organizations work together with the mantra of "Together We Can" to ensure families have the information and resources to develop a strong foundation for children.

Return on Investment
University of Chicago professor, James Heckman, the Heckman Equation helps us understand the need to invest in quality early learning for children in their first years of life. For every $1.00 invested our community will see a $13.00 return.


Why invest in Early Childhood?

Invest + Develop + Sustain = Gain                                            


"Investing" in resources for families furthest from oppourtnity nurtures the "development" of cognitive and social skills, "sustained" through education into adulthood leads to a "gain" for the overall economy of a productive and valuable workforce. 

Children with high-quality early learning care experiences are: 

  • 25% more likely to graduate from high school
  • 4x more likely to have completed a bachelors degree or higher
  • Earn up to 25% more wages as an adult
  • Had fewer teen pregnancies
  • Committed fewer crimes


How Can You Help?




Elgin Community Data Birth to Five Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map 



Innovation Zone Data