Illinois Head Start Collaboration Office

The Illinois Head Start State Collaboration Office (ILHSSCO) is located in the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). ILHSSCO is overseen by the Division of Family and Community Services, Child Care. The IDHS mission is to assist Illinois residents in achieving self-sufficiency, independence, and health to the maximum extent possible. This is accomplished by providing integrated, family-oriented services, promoting prevention, and establishing measurable outcomes in partnership with communities.

The IDHS Division of Family and Community Services provides benefits and services to customers with the goal of helping individuals and families achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. They work to improve the health and well-being of families and individuals through partnerships and services that build strong communities.

ILHSSCO's vision and mission is to increase the quantity and improve the quality of services for low-income families with young children through collaboration. The ILHSSCO is dedicated to creating and enhancing partnerships at the federal, state, and local levels that successfully meet the early care and education, family support, health, and community building needs of low-income Illinois families with young children. The Illinois Collaboration Office works to remove collaboration barriers and champion integrated systems.

The ILHSSCO generally achieves its mission through four lines of business:

  • System Development and Planning – Reducing and resolving collaboration barriers; conducting pilot projects; needs assessments; data collection and analysis; program development; inclusion of the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program; and representation on various groups.
  • Information and Product Development and Dissemination – Documents and publications that inform various groups about each other to further collaboration and the Head Start website.
  • Technical Assistance and Professional Development – Conducting and coordinating professional development events about collaboration; providing guidance and resources; and working with local communities, as needed and appropriate, to help them advance collaboration.
  • Advocacy – Advocating for policy and system changes as barriers are identified and solutions found, and informing about regulation and policy.


Major partnerships include:

  • Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant
  • ExceleRate Illinois Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
  • Advisory Councils for Professional Development, Child Care, Early Intervention, and Day Care Licensing
  • Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program
  • Be Strong Family, formerly Strengthening Families
  • Child Welfare School Readiness
  • Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Early Childhood Division, including Preschool for All
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Project FACT Homelessness Coalition
  • Board of Education McKinney Vento Coordinators
  • Project LAUNCH
  • Healthy Start Chicago
  • IL Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics – Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant
  • Department of Public Health
  • Department of Healthcare and Family Services
  • Children's Mental Health Partnership's Early Childhood Committee
  • State Integrated Data Systems
  • IDHS Child Care Collaboration Program

The Illinois Early Learning Council was established in 2003. The ILHSSCO director and associate director are both members of the Council, and the director serves on the Council's Executive Committee and on the IL Intergovernmental Agency Team. For more information, visit


The major goals of ILHSSCO include:

  • Promoting a coordinated early care and education system in Illinois that includes Head Start and Early Head Start through active collaboration with state, federal, and community partners and support for service and policy alignment.
  • Strengthening the integration of Illinois' health care system for Head Start and Early Head Start children.
  • Supporting a coordinated social and family services system for improved Head Start and Early Head Start family outcomes.
  • Improving the collaboration of and access to family literacy and education support services for Head Start and Early Head Start families.
  • Collaborating with Illinois' early care and education professional development system to promote quality and ensure comprehensiveness across state and federal programs.

The ILHSSCO also prioritizes regional and national issues, such as school readiness and transition. They assist Head Start and Early Head Start agencies in implementing full-day/full-year services for families, military, and other special populations' needs. ILHSSCO also addresses other issues found through the needs assessment process. All work is done in concert with other state efforts, such as those prioritized by the IL Early Learning Council.

Outcomes and Successes

In addition to the contributions listed above, ILHSSCO has accomplished the following:

  • Established the statewide School Readiness Team.
  • Co-planned and facilitated a statewide School Readiness Summit with Head Start and Early Head Start state and national partners
  • Provided content on school readiness for the state superintendent's newsletters to local school districts
  • Promoted Head Start grantee participation in the Illinois Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) pilot.
  • Assisted with providing Gateways Professional Development Scholarships opportunities to Head Start and Early Head Start, and promoted grantee registration into the statewide Gateways to Opportunity Registry.
  • Participated as planning team member on the Early Childhood Diversity Initiative and the Multicultural Diversity Task Force, developing a vision, principles, and activities rooted in the Head Start Multicultural Principles.
  • Aligned Head Start Program Performance Standards with other statewide standards.
  • Funded part of the work to develop an IL Family Service Worker Credential.
  • Helped design the new QRIS as part of the Race to the Top process, which will now recognize and include Head Start and Early Head Start, its monitoring processes, and Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS™).
  • Led the team developing the top award level criteria for family and community engagement, which is grounded in the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Parent, Family & Community Engagement Framework.
  • Informed other states on the IDHS Child Care Collaboration Program and policy changes that support collaboration through a national partners meeting, the Smart Start Oklahoma conference, and individually with partners.
  • Co-sponsored the planning of a leadership academy for MIECHV grantees.
  • Co-facilitated statewide Quality Enrichment Circles for Head Start and Early Head Start education, disabilities, health, mental health, and family support managers.
  • Maintained the statewide disabilities memorandum of agreement.
  • Co-facilitated, with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), quarterly collaboration meetings in three of the state's child welfare regions, and co-planning a cross training for the last region.
  • Maintained the statewide joint child welfare and Head Start and Early Head Start written agreement.
  • Co-chaired the statewide Early Learning and Family Support (ELFS) team with DCFS.
  • Coordinated the monthly Good Start Grow Smart (GSGS) team information meetings. Partners include ILHSSCO; IDHS Child Care; ISBE Early Childhood; the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development; Chicago public schools' the Administration for Children and Families' Region V Head Start and Child Care; and IHSA.
  • Co-sponsored statewide collaboration forums five years ago and now leading the planning, with an Early Learning Council sub-committee, for 2013 forums to renew the state's view on collaboration and blending and braiding funding successes and challenges.

For more information, visit,, and

Illinois Directories and Resources:

General Directories and Resources:

Last Reviewed: March 2013

Last Updated: March 24, 2015