Birth to Five Illinois designed to address early childhood gaps in Fulton, Hancock, McDonough and Schuyler counties

Birth to Five Illinois

The state of Illinois has partnered with the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies to build an equity-driven statewide regional early childhood system called Birth to Five Illinois that will amplify family, provider and community voices in the state policy-making process and give local and state leaders a more accurate understanding of the gaps in each region.

Goals for Birth to Five Illinois are:

  • Supporting local residents in coming together to address early childhood needs within their own communities.
  • Making sure the state’s early childhood policies and funding priorities match the needs of each region, prioritizing the voices of families and local residents.
  • Providing equitable access to high-quality early childhood services for all children.

Birth to Five Illinois, launched statewide in February 2022, has been building the foundation for this initiative. Thirty-nine regional council managers have been hired across the state as of July. Birth to Five Illinois anticipates additional regional support staff, one family and community engagement specialist and one administrative support person to be hired in all 39 regions by Thanksgiving.

Paul Larson is the regional council manager for Region 26, serving Fulton, McDonough, Schuyler and Hancock Counties. A resident of Fulton County, Larson has a background in nonprofit work, education and faith communities. Shannon McKee, family and community engagement specialist, and Lacie McGraw, administrative support, round out the Region 26 team.

Birth to Five Illinois is searching for stakeholders interested in serving on their region’s council to provide direction and vision, amplify the voices of Illinois families that are often unheard and helping to identify and address the early childhood needs.

Members will be asked to serve a two-year term and attend two meetings per month. Visit for more information and/or to complete an application form.

Birth to Five Illinois also is looking for parents/family members caring for a child under the age of 8. People who are passionate about creating more opportunities for young children and families are invited to explore joining a family council.

Members of a family council will:

  • Share about needs of families and ideas to improve services.
  • Give feedback to the action council in the region.
  • Advocate for family needs with local and state officials.

Family council members are asked to serve a two-year term and attend two meetings per month. Member of the family council will be reimbursed for their time. For more information or to complete an application form, visit

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