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We're working on a new look! Visit our CNE -  Our Stories page as we bring you the inside scoop of all the happenings of Childcare Network of Evanston in a more user-friendly fashion.  


McGaw YMCA opens new satellite Head Start program in city's 5th Ward. (Evanston Review June 20, 2017 by Libby Elliott Pioneer Press  A new early childhood education center recently opened in Evanston's 5th Ward, providing a much-needed community resource for families of snugly preschool-age children, stakeholders say. The McGaw YMCA's new Head Start Center opened in April and is housed in the Family Focus Building, 2010 Dewey Avenue, at the north end of the city. The satellite location, as YMCA officials call it, was established in partnership with the Childcare Network of Evanston to ensure that preschool children in the 5th Ward – where the percentage of low-income families is higher than the rest of Evanston – would be prepared for kindergarten and ready to meet the academic demands of school, officials said. (continue to the full article HERE)


Story Archives

July 14, 2015 

CNE Awarded $8.5 Million for Early Childhood Education & Family Support Services

CNE blends public and private funds to greatly expand early childhood services in Northern Suburbs

Childcare Network of Evanston has been awarded $8.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide early childhood education and family supports for the next five years. The increased funding will allow CNE to expand Head Start and Early Head Start services in the Northern Suburbs. The award announced by HHS Office of Head Start on July 13, 2015 signifies a clear federal endorsement of the strength of CNE’s programs and aligns squarely with HHS’s recently announced vision for the future of Head Start.

“This is great progress toward overall improved outcomes for our families and is a positive upgrade in our work with families,” said Andrea Densham, CNE’s executive director. “This grant is an enormous endorsement of our longstanding position at the nexus of local, state, and federal funding streams.”

Census data shows that families living in or near poverty are moving out of the city and into the suburbs. In response to this increased need, CNE will expand its services in the Northern Suburbs as of July 2015, to reach families prenatally through entrance into kindergarten.

This expansion will increase the number of children and families served and will expand the age range for services.

(1)    CNE will now reach more children and families in eight North Suburban communities from Evanston, Skokie, Morton Grove and Lincolnwood to Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka.

(2)    CNE services will expand its age range for services from prenatal through entrance into kindergarten (formerly prenatal to age three). The expanded age range of CNE services allows for a more fluid continuity of care to families who would otherwise transition out of CNE services after age three. The expanded services also allow CNE to enhance coordinated intake for families who access multiple services from multiple agencies.

(3)    An addition of more than a dozen new staff positions will ensure intensive and high-quality services are delivered to all families in the expansion. 

“We know that every dollar invested in quality early childhood education for low-income children delivers economic gains of 7-10 percent per year through increased school achievement, healthy behavior, and adult productivity,” Densham said. “We at CNE are excited to expand quality early childhood education in the northern suburbs: a proven and cost-efficient strategy for promoting growth and building stable communities.”

This grant aligns with HHS’s recently announced vision for the future of Head Start which is focused on system transformation. It blends perfectly with CNE’s role as an Early Childhood Community Hub—where families can access comprehensive services through a central point of contact.

CNE has also received a two-year award from United Way of Metropolitan Chicago offering $140,000 in support of CNE's community hub model. CNE piloted this model over the last year with National Able Network, Erie Family Health Center, youth-serving organizations, and our school districts. The combination of HHS and United Way funding will enable CNE to bring more families further along on their journeys toward self-sufficiency.

Through coordination and collaboration across organizations and community, CNE matches services to expressed family needs and interest, including career services, workforce development, health and wellness, and ongoing education, while working closely with the family to engage the child in early care and education services. By leveraging and coordinating federal, state, and private sector resources, CNE is able to serve a growing number of children and families, opening doors to opportunity for families today and expanding each child’s world of possibilities for a lifetime.

“We commend the Office of Head Start on this more integrated approach, where families can work through a single point of contact from the prenatal period all the way through the transition into kindergarten,” Densham said. “It is a huge step forward in our own vision to assemble comprehensive supports for families through a single community hub.”

Funding from HHS supports CNE’s continued provision of home visits to families of young children by early childhood professionals. CNE will move from partnering to deliver child care services at centers and family child care homes to focusing on partnerships with family child care homes for all-day child care services to children of families who are in school or working full-time.  These family child care partnerships are a continuation and expansion of the CNE approach, which works to build capacity and enhance the quality of services at these family child care sites across the Northern Suburbs. Both types of services, home visiting and family child care, are community-based and overseen by CNE.

Home visiting and family child care homes support children and families who are living at or below the federal poverty line, including children with disabilities, pregnant women, homeless families, families dealing with domestic violence or substance abuse, immigrant and refugee families, families where English is not their home language, and families involved in protective services.

“This work matters more than ever, as researchers continue to emphasize the importance of early childhood interventions for young developing brains and the effectiveness of comprehensive supports for entire families through a single early childhood community hub,” Densham said.

To set up an interview, please call media contact Jamie Ferguson at (815) 735-8951 or email


CNE, Junior League Evanston-North Shore partner to support most vulnerable children in the Northern Suburbs

As government support for social services decreases, collaboration among community entities must increase so that the children and families of the northern suburbs in most need are not left behind.
That's exactly the action Junior League of Evanston-North Shore and Childcare Network of Evanston have taken in a year-long collaboration to support and expand CNE's Learning Together program. The Learning Together program exists under the umbrella of CNE's early learning and family support services to address the needs of children experiencing developmental delays through specialized play therapy, social work, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy. 

Junior League of Evanston-North Shore supported this initiative with a grant of $500, allowing CNE to streamline care in 6 early child care centers. This process included bringing expert consultants in to child care classrooms at no cost to families, providing cost-free trainings open to all child care workers, and empowering parents and families with the tools and support needed to equip their children for continued success in school and in life.

Throughout 2014-2015, Learning Together supported 127 children at North Suburban early child care centers, as well as their teachers and families. Children in need of interventions were identified by teachers or parents and confirmed by a professional for participation in the program.
Children who do not receive CNE's Learning Together program interventions are at an increased risk for expulsion from child care centers because the centers often do not have the staffing power to address the needs of service-eligible children. CNE is pleased to report that 95% of children receiving interventions during this grant period remained in their child care centers, creating continuity of care vital for childhood development. The remaining children were helped by CNE to find preschool programs that were better able to meet their needs.

These services would not have been possible without funding from the Junior League Evanston-North Shore. 

The 6 child care centers impacted by the services were Child Care Center of Evanston, Reba Early Learning Center (Evanston), Total Child Preschool and Child Care (Evanston), Robert Crown Center (Evanston), and Swift Child Care (Skokie).  

CNE partners with National Able Network to offer employment workshops to local families


Andi Drileck (top left) presents a career services workshop to families Tuesday, April 21.

Through a partnership with National Able Network and the Skokie Community Foundation, CNE offered a series of employment workshops at no cost to families in the Northern Suburbs from January to April 2015. The final workshop in the series, held Tuesday, April 21, delved into what attendees' next career steps could be and how to get there. 

Leading the workshop was Andi Drileck of National Able Network, who confirmed to attendees that "the job-search game has changed." 

"We work with people with no GED and people with Ph.Ds -- minimum wage to six figures," Andi said.

Attendees' employment backgrounds that night varied from a former college professor to a mechanic.

"I feel like there's been 20 years between the last time I applied for a job and now," Rebekah* said. "So I don't know the language and I'm not comfortable with the programs."

Some attendees had never gone through a formal interview process or created a resume.

"I've been unemployed most of my life," said Cheron, a mother of three. "I only get jobs that I get because of my family. I know I'm very fast and hard-working, but other than that I fail on resumes and interviews."

Marc, a father of 3, was interested in learning how to best continue his education as a working dad.

"I've done a lot of car work and I need to continue my education," he said. "I want to be certain in my career - not just get a job."

Christine, who said she has never really worked before, is in the process of getting her GED and is also pregnant with her third child.

"I'm wondering what jobs I could do that would be best for me right now," she said, adding that she's interested in nursing and cosmetology.

One of the attendees brought her 13-year-old daughter with her, Sonia. Sonia participated with her mom, and shared that she'd like to use her interest in language arts or music for her future career.

Kara, a lifelong Evanston resident, recently went on maternity leave and was forced to quit her job due to an injury.

"I've done a little bit of everything but I don't have a degree in anything," Kara said. "I just get jobs and work as hard as I can."

A couple of the attendees expressed that they struggle with poor test-taking skills and anxiety when applying for jobs.

"I can do anything once I put my mind to it, it's just a matter of getting to it," Kara said.

Andi encouraged attendees to join support groups to hold each other accountable.

"It gets depressing searching for a job alone," she said. "You should be growing your network and resourcing people. They don't have to be your best friend. People like to help other people and they'll start thinking about what they know when you ask them for help."

CNE's growth and partnership with National Able Network is just one of the steps CNE is taking to propel a 2015 strategic, visionary plan to not only offer services to children but support parents and siblings of North Suburban families in need of a hand-up.

"We are very pleased to be partnering with National Able Network to help our clients achieve a more stable future for themselves and their families," said Andrea Densham, CNE's executive director.

The partnership was made possible thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Skokie Community Fund.

"We are honored to be among the first recipients of this award from the Skokie Community Fund," said Grace Powers, National Able Network president and CEO. "With this grant and with the help of Childcare Network of Evanston, National Able Network will be better able to serve most-in-need families of Skokie."

*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our families.

 Story by Jamie Lynn Ferguson, Director of Marketing and Communications


CNE hosts Child Care Matters policy forum

On Thursday, Feb. 26, Childcare Network of Evanston called together community members to voice a battle cry: “Child Care Matters.”

The evening included a policy forum featuring State Sen. Daniel Biss, Sessy Nyman from Illinois Action for Children, child care expert Jeanna Capito, and a Q&A with local residents and child care providers.

The forum was held in response to the State’s recent budget proposal and cuts made to the Child Care Assistance Program, which will affect Illinois families who depend on child care to keep their jobs, make ends meet, and provide a solid educational foundation for their children.

“We are united in our passion for what we do, and in partnership, we know we can continue to change the early childhood landscape for the better,” Andrea Densham, executive director for CNE said. “We are standing at a unique moment for early childhood education.”

Densham added that 85% of voters think “ensuring children get a strong start” should be a top national priority.

“At the same time, our state, national, and local budgets are cutting or flat-lining early childhood education funding,” she said. “We have a disconnect between what we know works and what we fund.”

Biss served as a liason on the State budget process and its history in Illinois.

“The [Child Care Assistance Program] is so underfunded that it's already run out of money,” Biss said. “That's catastrophic."

Many audience members applauded his honesty and candor during the Q&A session, citing that while it wasn’t easy to hear, it was good to hear the truth.

“You have to make the decision to stand and fight or watch and hope,” Biss said. “And it's the most important decision we'll make in this."

Nyman, the policy and strategic partnerships vice president of IAFC, encouraged audience members to fight for “grassroots movements” that are effective when people refused to be intimidated.

On Feb. 19, IAFC held a rally in Springfield, where about 400 people advocated for child care.

“We wanted to get folks together to get that energy, to know they are in this fight together,” Nyman said.

Another IAFC rally will be held Wednesday, March 11.

Rep. Robyn Gabel, who was unable to attend the forum, sent along a quote to CNE expressing why she believes child care is important.

"Quality child care services Illinois families in two ways,” Gabel said in an email. “It gives a solid social/educational foundation to our children and allows both parents to participate in the workforce which provides the opportunity to improve their lives."

Studies show that for every $1 invested in child care, there is a $2.13 economic return. 

To send a letter to elected officials supporting child care funding in Illinois, visit

Story by Jamie Lynn Ferguson, Director of Marketing and Communications 

CNE to host policy forum on Early Childhood Education Funding


Please join Childcare Network of Evanston at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26, for a public forum on Early Childhood Education Funding. In the face of the $300 million budget deficit in the state of Illinois’ Childcare Assistance Program, we will be examining the current state and future of early childhood education funding. We will discuss how this affects families and local child care centers, and open the forum up for a Q&A.

Panel speakers will be Sen. Daniel Biss, Sessy Nyman of Illinois Action for Children, and Jeanna Capito, local childcare expert. To reserve free premium seating, RSVP today.

The forum will be held at the Wilmette Recreation Center, 3000 Glenview Road, Wilmette. 

Story by Jamie Lynn Ferguson, Director of Marketing and Communications 

Northwestern students provide pro-bono consult to CNE 

PHOTO SUBMITTED - NUSCNO members (left to right) Mark Fishman, Shay Rajavel, Kelly Ready and Cody Warner pose for a photo. (Not pictured from this team is Shaya Greenberger.)

It was a win-win scenario for Northwestern students and local nonprofit Childcare Network of Evanston this winter, as the Northwestern branch of Students Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations (NUSCNO) team selected CNE for a pro-bono consult on fundraising and employee health.

Cody Warner, NUSCNO’s team lead on the project, selected CNE in September to be the benefiting nonprofit and met with CNE Executive Director Andrea Densham to discuss topics.

The consult ended up focusing on two areas: what CNE can do to maximize local, corporate and foundation giving, and combat a recent study done by the Center of Disease Control that states health care workers rank below the national average in physical and mental health surveys.

The consult was completed and presented in December 2014.

“Andrea mentioned that foundation and corporation fundraising was something CNE was interested in, so we went through a number of steps to find out what sponsors could attract the most money,” Warner said.

After several team meetings and brainstorming sessions, they came up not only with potential current foundations and corporations that CNE could tap into, but a tool for CNE to assess foundations and corporations that might be future funding possibilities.

“We really came together as a team,” Warner said. “Those brainstorming sessions where we each talked about our research, and built upon it together, helped us put together something we were really proud of.”

The second part of the consultation was addressing what Warner referred to as “shocking” statistics related to the physical and mental health of health care workers. According to the study, health care employees in Chicagoland rank below the national average in both physical and mental health surveys.

“Some of those statistics were so high we were like, ‘Whoa, that’s an interesting thing to look at,’” Warner said.  “I think it’s critical for children, who are learning life-long habits at an early age, to have adults around them who reflect good habits.”

The NUSCNO team recommended that CNE implement the “Healthy for Life” initiative and facilitate mental and physical health conversations to break the cycle of declining health among health care workers in Chicago.

SCNO has chapters all over the United States, and Northwestern’s was created in 2007.

“The students get real hands-on experience learning about consulting that you can’t get in the classroom, and when you work with nonprofits like CNE, it’s a really rewarding experience,” Warner said. “And it’s not like we just do one project and then we never hear from them again, we continually work with them throughout the years.”

NUSCNO members go through a competitive selection process, and Warner said members are generally economics majors and those interested in going into consulting after graduation. Membership is dependent on the student’s completion of two projects each school year. 

Story by Jamie Lynn Ferguson, Director of Marketing and Communications  

State budget deficit threatens local families, child care centers
Petition, testimonials to be collected for lawmakers by CNE

In response to the drastic cuts that may be coming for state-subsidized child care services in Illinois, Childcare Network of Evanston is teaming up with Illinois Action for Children to petition lawmakers and collect stories from local families to illustrate the importance of quality, affordable child care services in the northern suburbs.

The State of Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) budget for the 2015 fiscal year is underfunded by almost $300 million. This means that the state will essentially run out of money to pay child care providers as early as February - well before the June 30 end of fiscal year.

The impacts could be devastating for north suburban families. 

“Without subsidized child care many parents will struggle to keep their children in childcare, have a job, maintain stable housing, continue their education and more," said Andrea Densham, executive director for CNE. "Quality childcare is critical for families to achieve economic stability and for our children’s future success.” 

CNE is asking its supporters to please sign its petition at or submit their testimonials for early childhood education at  The survey may also be completed over the phone by calling CNE at (847) 475-2622.

With child care costs soaring higher than the cost of public college in more than 25 U.S. states, low-income families are allocating 30% of their income to child care, compared to 8% for families above the national poverty level.

This shortfall not only hurts our children and families but directly impacts employers. For hundreds of employers in the north shore, it means hard-working staff may struggle to make it to work each day, making it harder for the economy to continue to grow.

“As an agency our vision is to help create a northern suburban community in which families and institutions support the early development and growth of all children into strong adults,” Densham said. “Having the proper diversified funding makes that happen. “

The need for affordable, high-quality child care is also in the national spotlight. President Barack Obama highlighted the issue in his State of the Union address Tuesday, Jan. 20.

 “It’s time we stop treating child care like a side issue … and treat it like the national economic priority that it is,” Obama said. “We need affordable, high-quality child care more than ever.”

This doesn’t sync with the State of Illinois’ underfunding of CCAP. Moving forward, CNE’s primary focus will be keeping current clients in-care at CNE, and continuing to diversify funding streams.

CNE and IAC’s “Stories” campaign kicks off Monday, Jan. 26, and ends Friday, Feb. 6.

Internally, the campaign will reach out to local CNE providers and clients on a regular, monthly basis to keep them informed about what’s happening at the state level and how that will affect programming.

Externally, the call to share stories will be made through email, texts, Facebook ( and Twitter (

“This is not just a downstate issue; this is not just a Chicago issue; this is everyone’s, including our community,” Densham said. “We need to show our lawmakers that what they’re doing is unacceptable.”

Story by Jamie Lynn Ferguson, Director of Marketing and Communications 

 CNE featured in 'The Daily Northwestern'

To read the story, visit 

CNE, National Able Network partner against unemployment in Skokie

Skokie Community Fund grants $5,000 for initiative

One out of every five families in Skokie lives below the poverty line. That’s a fact Childcare Network of Evanston, National Able Network Inc., and the Skokie Community Fund won’t ignore.

Effective January 2015, CNE is expanding its services to serve Skokie families battling unemployment by offering job training and placement services through a partnership with National Able Network.

CNE’s growth and partnership with National Able Network is just one of the steps CNE is taking to propel a 2015 strategic, visionary plan to not only offer services to North Shore children but support parents and siblings of impoverished North Shore families in need of a hand-up.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with National Able Network to help our clients achieve a more stable future for themselves and their families,” said Andrea Densham, CNE executive director.

National Able Network, which specializes in career counseling, training, and placement, will provide the employment services, while CNE will refer participants from families who access its support services. The partnership was made possible thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Skokie Community Fund.

Since 1967, CNE has provided comprehensive resources for families who are searching for high-quality child care and early childhood education options in Evanston and surrounding communities.

“We are honored to be among the first recipients of this award from the Skokie Community Fund,” said Grace Powers, National Able Network President and CEO. “With this grant and with the help of Childcare Network of Evanston, National Able Network will be better able to serve most-in-need families of Skokie.”

Story by Jamie Lynn Ferguson, Director of Marketing and Communications  

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