This past October, Quality Facilities for All (QFA), an initiative under the Social Impact Accelerator’s Strategic Response function, completed work for its Grant Program’s first cohort, renovating early childhood education (ECE) facilities in Chicago’s South and West Sides. QFA granted 14 ECE providers in South Lawndale, Englewood, and Roseland approximately $50,000 each for projects enhancing and/or expanding infant and toddler facilities, including repainting, introducing natural light, and replacing flooring. As of November 2023, the program built one playground, expanded three classrooms serving 36 children, and enhanced 10 classrooms serving more than 100 children.
QFA was launched in the late 2010s initially as a Technical Assistance Program, helping Illinois ECE providers with limited grant writing experience to apply for capital funding for facility renovations. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic paused state funding, the program team pivoted and began developing QFA’s Grant Program to increase access to high-quality infant and toddler programs in communities of color that have experienced long-term disinvestment. Data from the Community Data Insights team’s 2019 report, Access and Quality for Illinois Children, was used to identify South Lawndale, Roseland, and Englewood as the focus neighborhoods.
Throughout 2021, the program team built relationships with dedicated ECE providers in these neighborhoods. Applications then opened in July 2021, and in September the team selected the pilot cohort, comprising eight center-based providers and six home-based providers. In late 2021 and early 2022, the program team, along with Real Estate Solutions staff, met with grantees to conduct Facility Assessments and establish scopes of work. They guided grantees through their renovations, coordinating with contractors and helping them prioritize their needs.
Last year, QFA launched a new cohort in East St. Louis, Illinois. This ongoing cohort will enhance roughly 70% of the city’s center-based ECE facilities.
The QFA team is grateful for everyone who contributed to the program across IFF’s departments and markets.