University of Illinois Urbana‑Champaign

IECAM Requests: Providing Custom Maps and Data to the Illinois Early Childhood Community

Published: February 13, 2023

Every week IECAM responds to data requests from the Illinois early Childhood community. For example, recently data specialist Bryan Preston created a map for Elgin Partnership for Learning to help them visualize areas of need and how well these areas are being served by early childhood services.

Responding to Unique Data Needs

One of the services that IECAM provides to the Illinois early childhood community is responding to custom data requests. These requests, made via email, chat, contact forms, or phone, can come throughout the year, often at a rate of several per week (or day).

Responding to these requests is important to IECAM's mission of providing early childhood data to inform communities, according to IECAM assistant director Keith Hollenkamp. "Plus, fulfilling data requests goes a long way in understanding that data needs across the state can be incredibly varied. Not everyone needs slot gap information. The needs can be wildly different," Hollenkamp said.

Indeed, according to Hollenkamp, every new request is an opportunity to reach out and have an interesting conversation. "They may even ask for something we don't have, and that gives us the chance to learn from the process," he said.

Data specialist Bryan Preston works on a map on his office computer.

IECAM data specialist Bryan Preston works on a data request 

Creating Maps for Outreach

These unique data needs come in all shapes and sizes. For example, data specialist Bryan Preston recently created a poster-sized map to help the Elgin Partnership for Learning train a group of family resource specialists. The map will help guide the group toward areas in the district that are most in need of early childhood program resources and outreach.

Elgin Partnership for Learning Executive Director Amber Peters initially requested a large map that would show her school district boundaries and sub-boundaries. However, as the conversation unfolded between Bryan and Amber and their colleagues, it was agreed that adding neighborhood poverty level data and early childhood sites would be even more effective in helping the organization reach its goals. After testing a few size options, Bryan sent the file to Amber for printing. 

The map is now actively in use, and Amber remarked that she is considering presenting the project at an upcoming conference. 

A Spectrum of Requests

Creating custom maps is only one of the data request services IECAM provides. "We get a spectrum of requests and questions," Ricardo Covarrubias, IECAM's data manager, explained.

According to IECAM's Research Information Specialist Brenda Koenig, who initially fields many incoming requests, the emails, chats, and calls come from parents, researchers, advocates, administrators, teachers, students, and now more frequently, community coalition leaders and groups such as Birth to Five Illinois. "In the last few months, IECAM has responded to lots of data requests coming from Birth to Five councils, everything from lists of early childhood service grantees to working families data. This, in addition to general questions about program sites, funding, and demographics, makes for an exciting mix," she said.

Cartoon figure leaning on a large question mark

Clarifying for Comprehension

Finally, sometimes people contact IECAM to ask about what is being measured or where to find additional data sources. Recent questions have included: 

  • What is the census definition of a "family"?
  • What is the difference between licensed and licensed-exempt child care?
  • Where can I find the most recent child abuse and neglect data? 
  • Where can I find results of lead poisoning surveys in Illinois?

Answering questions such as these allows the IECAM team to share, learn, and catalog additional knowledge for future requests. This is a win-win for improving the lives of young children and their families in our state. 

Have a data request for IECAM?