How does investing in place-based efforts help us address statewide problems?
back to full list
1 million
Smiling boy working at school desk

Number of Illinois children under age six

link button
link button

Child's hand reaching into crayon box

Percentage of Illinois children who can be served by existing child care options

link button
link button

$353-$535 million
Child's hands playing with interlocking toys

Annual savings to Illinois taxpayers from investing in early childhood education for 3-5 year olds

link button
link button

Blond toddler

Average amount Illinois families pay for infant care

link button
link button

Over 200
Several children with hands on chins, listening

Children attending the Elgin Child and Family Resource Center, created with support from Grand Victoria Foundation

link button
link button

Almost 500
Toddler playing with interlocking blocks

Screenings funded by Evanston Community Foundation; Springfield, Kankakee, and other communities also screen kids

link button
link button

Children playing with toy cash register

Home childcare providers in Quincy getting help from mentors to improve the quality of early learning

link button
link button

Child's hands coloring a butterfly

Kids attending the Decatur pre-K summer camp who improved their kindergarten readiness 

link button
link button

Girl kneeling on floor playing with truck

Current and recent Illinois Early Childhood Fellows

link button
link button

Chalk-drawn games on sidewalk with toddler working with puzzle

Sidewalk photo by Blandine Schillinger; Puzzle photo by Anita Sheridan


Learning from Elgin

Improving early learning opportunities for Illinois children was one of Grand Victoria Foundation’s earliest priorities.  We started in our home town, Elgin.  A study by IFF identified several challenges: capacity, quality, coordination of resources, community engagement, financing. These became our areas of focus, not just for Elgin, but across the state. In Elgin we worked with community leaders to coordinate resources and helped build a new childcare facility serving 210 children. We also provided funding for other centers to upgrade to meet NAEYC standards, and organized workshops to help people start high-quality home-based centers, which serve many of Elgin’s Latino families. 

Taking it statewide

We’ve expanded the work statewide through Building Blocks [2003-2008]. We supported Metropolis Strategies to develop IECAM, a statewide asset map of child care resources and funded IFF to use the tool developed for Elgin to help other high-need communities evaluate, coordinate and improve child care services. Meanwhile, community foundations participating in Communityworks are implementing several strategies to improve early learning at the local level. And – coming full circle, we’re bringing back to Elgin some of the community foundations’ kindergarten readiness strategies.  

Today, we carry forward our work on early childhood through our Core grantmaking. We fund Illinois Action for Children to help local communities assess and improve their childcare options. We support the Illinois Early Learning Council and other critical statewide groups to work on policy issues, especially coordination and funding. We’ve supported professional development to improve the quality of childcare workers and center directors, including Gateways to Opportunity maintained by INCCRRA, and we’ve collaborated with other funders to build the next generation of policy leadership through the Illinois Early Childhood Fellowship.

People with hard hats at construction site 3 reports each with child on cover Children at preschool sitting in front of felt boards Report cover with faces of 3 small girls Website with drawing of mother reading to child Website featuring photo of a woman and the word “Lead”
Website featuring faces of small boy and girl Report cover featuring photos of Chicago street, Illinois State Capitol, Illinois farm, and children Report cover: Building Blocks of Design Website featuring two small children
“One of the most effective
strategies for economic
growth is investing in the
developmental growth of
at-risk young children.”
-University of Chicago Nobel Prize Winner James Heckman


Starting with a needs assessment in Elgin in 1997, Grand Victoria Foundation embarked on a systematic effort to expand child care capacity in Illinois, improve the quality of early learning experiences, coordinate services, improve public policies, and train the next generation of leaders for early childhood policy and systems improvement. 



Core Guidelines