sb 3201 senate

SPRINGFIELD — As a former kindergarten teacher, State Senator Natalie Toro is excited that Governor Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 1 into law this week, which establishes Illinois’ new Department of Early Childhood.

“Teaching kindergarten opened my eyes to how important the early years are for a child’s brain development, and setting them up for future success,” said Toro. “When support for early childhood development is inaccessible, we are not just allowing kids to be a little behind in school. We are really restricting their chances of success not just in school, but also in adulthood with their careers and personal lives, so making these programs easier to access is long overdue.”

Before this initiative, services for young children were housed in three separate state agencies, making it difficult and confusing for people to navigate and secure the services they need. This has led to many children and families not accessing care that would benefit them, especially those in historically underserved communities. These gaps in care contribute to families not having access to essential tools for early childhood development, impacting their education and career outcomes for generations, although they have great potential for success.

Under Senate Bill 1, early childhood programs will all be housed in the Department of Early Childhood, making it much easier for families to navigate and determine what programs are the best fit. Some programs in the agency include the Early Childhood Block Grant, which funds Preschool for All and the Prevention Initiative programs, the Child Care Assistance Program, home visiting programs and early intervention systems, and day care licensing.

“A parent may need resources to help their student develop, but get stuck on programs in a different agency than the one that would be most beneficial. By the time they are redirected to the right source, their kid is older and now has to catch up on the development they missed at an integral time,” said Toro. “Making these resources easily accessible and timely is imperative for young people to reach their full potential, and as a former early childhood teacher, I could not be more hopeful for how this new department will help young Illinoisans succeed.”

Early childhood services will begin to transition to be held under the Department of Early Childhood on July 1.