In June 2005, the Illinois Early Learning Council called for a concerted effort to create an interactive, Web-based tool to support “transparent” decision-making for awarding funding for Preschool for All.

This new decision-making tool —the Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map (IECAM)—was charged with bringing together data on early care and education from state agencies (birth through age 5), Head Start, and the private sector as well as community demographic information that can be used by federal, state, and local government agencies to inform the allocation of resources in Illinois. The goal was to use resources as efficiently as possible while creating a comprehensive early childhood system for the state.

At the council’s request, Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the University of Illinois’s Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative, with financial support from several foundations, worked together on the IECAM project. To ensure continuing public access to objective, high-quality, regularly updated data, it was decided that IECAM should be housed at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A diverse advisory committee representing state agencies, advocacy organizations, and experts guided decisions about potential users, what information should be included, and how it should be presented. ECAP also worked with the University of Illinois’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Illinois Center for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (ICHASS) to create a state-of-the art system.

The comprehensive IECAM Web site was launched on September 1, 2007, providing tabular data and map data. Since the comprehensive IECAM Web site was launched, IECAM has periodically added new data types and new geographic regions to its searchable database.

An IECAM Technical Advisory Committee (ITAC) was formed to advise IECAM on serving the data needs of the early care and education community in Illinois. ITAC included members of state agencies, advocacy groups, and other interested parties. ITAC was later replaced by a user group that included representatives of state agencies and various early childhood stakeholders throughout the state.

In FY2012, IECAM undertook a project, in collaboration with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, for the Office of Early Childhood Development in the Governor’s Office to gather data on risk factors for children and families in Illinois. In FY2013, the data on risk factors for children and families became a regular section of the IECAM Web site.

In FY2015, IECAM worked with the Governor’s Office on several statewide early childhood projects and on providing data as part of federal requirements related to the Race to the Top program.

As they have in past years, IECAM staff members serve on the Illinois Early Learning Council committee structure. IECAM staff members offer presentations on the project and on the use of demographic and other data in early care and education at conferences and other venues.

A growing part of the IECAM mission is to provide data and pertinent analyses to state agencies, advocates, Early Learning Council committees, the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, and other stakeholders. Since 2016, IECAM staff have spent thousands of hours fulfilling such data requests. 

IECAM has collaborated with the Capital Development Fund to facilitate the allocation of resources to improve facilities for early learning centers across the state, developed and published two editions of the Risk and Reach Report with Erikson Institute and Voices for Illinois Children, and created and maintained the Early Childhood Dashboard project for Illinois.

In 2019, IECAM began working with the statewide data integration initiative and, going forward, will serve as data stewards for IDHS datasets. Additionally, the IECAM team will lead stakeholders and collaborative data partners in statewide conversations around the development of a standardized data dictionary for early childhood and select demographic data, as well as guidelines for implementing the comprehensive data definitions.