McHenry County AOK
AOK is a community-based collaborations committed to enhancing a high-quality, well-coordinated, easily-accessible system of services and supports that promote the positive growth and development of expecting parents and families with children from birth to age five. There are currently twelve AOK Networks across the state of Illinois.
The McHenry County All Our Kids (AOK) Early Childhood Network is the thirteenth AOK network that works with local families and local community leaders to address local needs in our community. There are already many groups and programs that are working for families in McHenry County. The AOK Network brings together the leaders of these groups and others throughout the county to reduce redundancies and increase the impact for families. Our network is a comprehensive group that works collaboratively to make the most of existing resources in our communities to promote the mental and physical well-being of families and young children.
Our AOK Network works to make sure that babies are born healthy, children remain healthy, kids enter school ready to learn, and families are connected to the services they need.
If you are interested in learning more about the McHenry County AOK Network, contact Susan Beckman at 815-477-4720, ext. 227 or email her at Susan.Beckman@opad.org.
View our AOK Brochure (English)
In early 2012, Illinois Action for Children, 4-C: Community Coordinated Child Care, and a local consultant, with the support of a Building Blocks grant through the Grand Victoria Foundation, conducted a countywide Needs Assessment. This effort brought together individuals from the social service, business, education, child care and medical sectors. The results of the assessment served as the foundation for guiding our work in developing a community-wide developmental screening program and put Options & Advocacy as the lead agency in moving this process forward.
As we worked towards developing this comprehensive, county-wide screening system, we utilized the Local Interagency Council (LIC) through Options & Advocacy to begin this work. Through further investigation, we reviewed the All Our Kids (AOK) Network framework and saw that their goals fell in line with what we envisioned for McHenry County. In January 2013, we merged the LIC and AOK into one cohesive collaborative. Within this collaborative, we established comprehensive training and public awareness activities which were designed and implemented to increase early identification of developmental delays. Research shows that identifying developmental delays early in life increases opportunities for early intervention. Children who receive necessary supports early in life increase their ability to be better prepared for school. Implementing a comprehensive, county-wide screening program allowed greater access for children to receive regular “learning check-ups,” as well as referrals for follow-up evaluations if concerns were identified. This program has been very successful and as a result, children all over the county are screened every year either in the community or through their child care center.
The McHenry County AOK Network decided to not only focus on promoting early identification, but also to increase the awareness of the role early child care providers play in screening for developmental delays and subsequently referring families for services. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire: 3rd Edition (ASQ-3) was identified as a common, universal screening tool. Two sites were identified to pilot this effort in two diverse areas within the county. Over time, we were able to obtain an additional grant to purchase twenty- four ASQ-3 kits (22 English, 2 Spanish) . These kits were awarded to 16 different child care centers/preschools and six family child care providers. Training has occurred in all of these sites along with additional sites who purchased their own kits.
We continue to grow the McHenry County Developmental Screening Program to increase the number of screenings available throughout our community at child care centers, therapy centers, health fairs and libraries. We provide educational information about early childhood development and the importance of developmental screenings within the community. In the fall of 2016, we applied for a grant through the McHenry County Community Foundation to grow the McHenry County Screening Program. With this grant we were able to purchase 11 ASQ:SE (Ages and Stages Questionnaire; Social and Emotional )kits. All eleven kits were given to child care centers who received training on how to administer the screening.
In the spring of 2016 after completing a needs assessment, we identified that families were unable to access services within our community and that community partners were often unaware of services and how to refer families. We developed the Shared Referral Form in order to streamline the referral process and make it easier for families to access services, regardless of where they start their journey. We continue to add more organizations to this form and have seen the benefits of making sure families are able to access the services our community offers.
Our goal is to ensure children are ready to learn when entering kindergarten. We continue to work together with our community partners to discover ways that we can help families and young children in our community.