Invest in our children at birth to build racial equity

Now is the time for radical change to ensure our children have a better world than the one they are witnessing today.

As we rebuild from this pandemic and global recession amid a reignited civil rights movement, we recognize that physical safety is only part of what’s needed to open early childhood programs safely. It will take a significant public and private investment to erase the zip code disadvantage baked into our early childhood education system, when the burden of COVID-19 continues to weigh most heavily on communities already suffering from educational inequity.

We speak as the leaders of 14 mostly minority-led and -staffed community nonprofits serving tens of thousands of children and families across the City. As we resume in-person programming, continue distance learning, family support check-ins, and distribution of food and essential supplies, our high-quality early childhood programs will ensure Chicago’s working families can return to their jobs and communities can thrive.

The children we support, their families, and our staff are the individuals now deemed “essential” to help keep the economy functioning during the pandemic. We insist that their well-being and potential also be declared essential.

Today, 83% of Chicago Public Schools students come from low-income households and only one in every four kids is ready for kindergarten across Illinois. While we work to bridge the opportunity gap, our efforts to promote equity are swamped by critical responses to COVID-19. We are adding remote engagement and family support, including mental health interventions, while facing decreasing enrollment and more absences.

COVID-19 is destabilizing our classrooms. Without stable funding, we can’t fulfill our promise.

Our mission includes a commitment to family engagement and advocacy, which is linked to a child’s future education and life success. That’s why we’re calling on our funding partners to draw on our experience as community representatives to inform allocation of the resources that can lead our children to a more equitable future.

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois legislature: thank you for appropriations to support early childhood education providers. You and other state leaders must continue to advocate at the state and federal levels for more resources, including relaxing the Childcare Assistance Program monthly attendance requirement from 79.5% to 50% due to COVID-19-related absences through June, 2021.

Mayor Lightfoot and DFSS: we’re grateful for your continued funding. With increases through an allocation of the CARES ACT resources or other funds for early childhood education, we can more aggressively address inequities. Private sector supporters: please increase support for general operating needs to help us address the unexpected and unknown.

In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll see more ways in which responding to systemic racism requires us to learn and unlearn how we live and work together as Chicagoans. We remain committed to that effort in partnership with public and private funders, and with an undying commitment to our families who trust us to advocate–now and as long as inequities exist.

Early Childhood Education CEO Roundtable Current Members
Asian Human Services ∙ Carole Robertson Center for Learning ∙ Centers for New Horizons ∙ Chicago Child Care Society ∙ Chicago Commons ∙ Chinese American Service League ∙ Christopher House ∙ Concordia Place ∙ El Valor ∙ Erie Neighborhood House ∙ Gads Hill Center Metropolitan Family Services ∙ Onward Neighborhood House ∙ YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

Invierta en nuestros niños al nacer para desarrollar equidad racial


Ha llegado el momento para un cambio radical para poder procurar que nuestros niños tengan un mundo mejor que el que están presenciando hoy.

Mientras nos recuperamos de esta pandemia y recesión global en medio de un movimiento de derechos civiles reiniciado, nosotros reconocemos que la seguridad física solamente es parte de lo que se necesita para poder abrir los programas de primera infancia de manera segura y confiable. Tomará una inversión significante pública y privada para eliminar la desventaja del código postal integrada en nuestro sistema de educación de primera infancia, cuando la carga de COVID-19 sigue pesando más en las comunidades que ya están sufriendo de la inequidad educativa.

Hablamos como líderes de 14 organizaciones comunitarias sin fines de lucro, la mayoría dirigidas y atendidas por minorías, que sirven a decenas de miles de niños y familias por toda la Ciudad. En cuanto resumamos los programas en persona, continuaremos el aprendizaje a distancia, los chequeos de apoyo familiar y la distribución de alimentos y suministros esenciales, nuestros programas de primera infancia de alta calidad asegurarán que las familias trabajadoras de Chicago puedan regresar a sus trabajos y que las comunidades puedan prosperar.

Los niños que apoyamos, sus familias y nuestro personal son las personas ahora consideradas “esenciales” para ayudar a mantener la economía funcionando durante la pandemia. Insistimos que su bienestar y potencial también sean considerados esenciales.

Varias fuentes críticas de financiamiento del gobierno continúan brindando financiamiento flexible a medida que se vuelven a abrir los centros de cuidado infantil. Sin embargo, el “CEO Roundtable” está pidiendo ajustes y flexibilidad adicional a los criterios de calificación para reflejar las realidades actuales sobre el terreno relacionadas a las fluctuaciones en la asistencia y la inscripción.
Hoy, el 83% de los estudiantes de las Escuelas Públicas de Chicago vienen de hogares de bajos ingresos y solamente uno de cada cuatro niños está listo para kindergarten en todo Illinois. Mientras trabajamos en cerrar la brecha de oportunidades, nuestros esfuerzos de promover la equidad son inundados por respuestas críticas a COVID-19. Estamos agregando participación remota y apoyo familiar, incluyendo intervenciones de salud mental, mientras enfrentamos inscripciones decrecientes y mayores ausencias.
COVID-19 está desestabilizando nuestros salones de clase. Sin una financiación estable, no podemos cumplir nuestras promesas.

Nuestra misión incluye un compromiso a la participación y promoción familiar, la cual está enlazada con el futuro éxito educativo y en la vida del niño. Por eso estamos pidiendo que nuestros socios de financiación aprovechen de nuestra experiencia como representantes comunitarios para informar la asignación de los recursos que pueden llevar a nuestros niños a un futuro más equitativo.

Gobernador Pritzker y legislatura de Illinois: gracias por las consignaciones para apoyar a los proveedores de educación de primera infancia. Ustedes y los otros líderes estatales tienen que seguir abogando a los niveles estatales y federales para mayores recursos, esto incluye moderar el requisito de asistencia mensual del Programa de Asistencia de Cuidado de Niños de 79.5% a 50% debido a las ausencias relacionadas con COVID-19 hasta junio 2021.

Alcaldesa Lightfoot y DFSS: estamos agradecidos por su continuo financiamiento. Con aumentos por medio de una asignación de recursos de la Acta CARES u otros fondos para la educación de primera infancia, podemos abordar las inequidades de manera más agresiva. Apoyadores del sector privado: por favor aumenten su ayuda para las necesidades generales de funcionamiento para así nosotros poder abordar lo inesperado y desconocido.

Durante los próximos días y semanas, veremos más maneras en que podemos responder al racismo sistémico que requiere que aprendamos y desaprendamos cómo vivir y trabajar juntos como Chicaguenses. Seguimos comprometidos a ese esfuerzo en asociación con los financiadores públicos y privados y con un compromiso imperecedero a nuestras familias que confían en nosotros para abogar – ahora y siempre que las inequidades existan.


Miembros Actuales de la Mesa Redonda de Directores Generales de la Educación de Primera Infancia
Asian Human Services ∙ Carole Robertson Center for Learning ∙ Centers for New Horizons ∙ Chicago Child Care Society ∙ Chicago Commons ∙ Chinese American Service League ∙ Christopher House ∙ Concordia Place ∙ El Valor ∙ Erie Neighborhood House ∙ Gads Hill Center Metropolitan Family Services ∙ Onward Neighborhood House ∙ YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

COVID-19 Reopening Update

En español: https://onwardhouse.org/2020/07/03/covid-19-anuncio-de-reapertura/

Onward House is pleased to announce that we will have a limited reopening of in-person youth programing beginning on July 7, 2020. 

The health and safety of our children, families, staff, participants and community members is our main priority. Onward Neighborhood House will implement a gradual approach to re-opening in a safe way. The approach includes welcoming back a limited number of students starting on July 7, 2020.  Four weeks after this initial opening, we plan to have all children join us back at Onward House for programing. 

This post outlines the most important policies and procedures that will be taken to ensure a safe return of the Early Childhood Education and School Age programs. Our adult education programs will continue online during this phase of Onward House’s reopening.

We have put together an Enhanced Risk Management and Agency Reopening Action Plan that reflects guidelines from the city of Chicago, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDHS) Restore Illinois. This plan will be implemented to reduce the risks associated with Covid-19. Some changes include:

  • We have decreased our service hours from 7am-6pm to 8:00 am to 5:00pm
  • Only staff and children will be allowed in the building. Parents will be asked to drop off children in designated areas outside of the buildings.
  • Daily health checks and screenings will take place for all staff children, parents/guardians, and staff before exiting the reception area and into the building. This includes temperature checks, and a health symptoms questionnaire.
  • All staff, parents, visitors will be required to wear facemasks while in the buildings at all times. Children over 2 will be encouraged to wear face masks while in the classrooms and throughout the day however be required to wear them in the hallways (public spaces).
  • High-touch areas will be sanitized hourly, and the building will be sanitized at the end of the day, every day.
  • Classrooms have been arranged to follow distancing guidelines, and cleared of items not easily sanitized.
  • Movement is restricted between classrooms and in and out of buildings during the day.

As we adjust our schedules and building flow to support recommendations by the CDC, we ask for your patience and understanding as we move through different phases of reopening. Your cooperation and understanding of what we have outlined is necessary to ensure we keep everyone at Onward House safe and healthy.

Enhanced Risk Management and Agency Reopening Action Plan

We have put into place a detailed prevention plan, which we have included below. Please read below to understand our new procedures. We will provide an online training of procedures prior to reopening.

ENHANCED DROP OFF /PICK-UP PROCEDURES:

  • We encourage that the same parent/guardian drop off and pick children up, when possible.
  • Parents will be given a drop-off/pick up schedule to be adhered to. If changes occur, parents will be required to call the front reception desk, prior to arrival/pick up.
  • Signage will be posted indicating designated drop/off and pick up areas. Designated drop off/pick up areas will be outside the buildings, when possible, however, if not possible will be in an area be outside of the classrooms and classroom such as in the reception area.
  • Handshaking or physical contact among parents/staff will not be permitted.
  • Parents will be encouraged to leave an extra pair of shoes for children that are utilized for indoors only. Parents will be required to wear shoe coverings in the event of entering the building.

MASKS & PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPTMENT (PPE)

All adults will be required to wear them throughout the entire day, unless they are in a private room or office. Parents will be required to wear them at drop off, pick up, and whenever entering the building. Parents entering the building will be done only under special circumstances and only under the approval of the Program Director, Site Manager, or their Designee.

  • PPE Supplies (masks for adults and children, shoe coverings, protective eyewear, gloves, smocks/disposable aprons) will be purchased and stored in the center maintenance storage room/classroom closets. 
  • We will train all staff will be trained on the use of PPE, changing regulations, when/how to report refilling low supplies, and how best care and support children with new guidelines.
  • All personnel who uses public transportation and food aid will be required to change clothes upon arrival at the center.
    • Classroom staff will be required to wear a smock, disposable covering, and or change clothes before entering the classrooms.   
    • All staff will be required to wear masks, foot coverings or change shoes before entering into the classrooms, buildings.

DAILY HEALTH CHECKS:
Daily health checks and screenings will take place for all staff children, parents/guardians, and staff before exiting the reception area and into the building. This includes temperature checks, and a health symptoms questionnaire. A daily log and questionnaires will be maintained at the reception area. Persons with fever of 100.4 F or above will not be admitted and asked to return home.

COVID-19 EXPOSURE OR ILLNESS:

If someone has symptoms of COVID 19 or has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, they can return to the child care center once the following conditions are met:

  • If individuals have fever, cough or shortness of breath and have not been around anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they will contact their medical provider for guidance and stay home away from others until 72 hours, or longer based on guidance from their medical provider and until after the fever is gone and symptoms get better.
  • If symptoms worsen, the person should contact their medical provider for further guidance.
  • If an individual is diagnosed with COVID 19-they must remain outside of the facility for a minimum of 14 days after receiving the positive diagnosis. They may return upon written authorization from their medical provider.

VISITORS

Signs will be posted outside the doors prohibiting parents, vendors, etc. from entering the building for at least the first 4 weeks of re-opening. All visitors will be required to wear face masks and protective footwear when entering the building.

  • Inspectors, monitors, funders, vendors: During the first 4 weeks of operation, we will not have visitors or vendors other than then DCFS visits. For monthly pest control and other services required by city and state licensing, appointments will be made at times in which children and staff are not present (before/after hours and/or on weekends. Vendors – No vendor will go beyond the reception area; there will be a designated area away from the receptionist for drop off. This area will be marked and a minimum of 6 ft. away from the reception desk.
  • Food vendors will deliver through the front door of the building and leave food in proper containers in the reception area. Kitchen staff, Maintenance, or other designated staff will be notified when the food arrives and food will be brought into the center by a staff person.
  • Repairmen visits will occur, when possible, before/after hours and on weekends. The areas visited limited and sanitized immediately after their departure. Whether done during regular hours or during off-hours, maintenance or another designated person will escort the repairman at all times.
  • Community residents – those seeking information will enter into the reception area maintaining a minimum of 6 ft. from the receptionist.

HANDWASHING

  • Handwashing will be required at least hourly however more frequently if allowable.
  • Upon entering their classroom or work area, staff will immediately wash their hands for at least 20 seconds using warm/soapy water.
  • Employees will wash their hands including before and after contact with individuals, and after contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment.
  • Staff will model, teach and reinforce handwashing and healthy hygiene as is age appropriate (covering coughs/sneezes/disposing of tissues, keeping fingers away from eyes, nose and mouth).
  • Staff will assist children not able to wash their hands accordingly on their own.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be placed in every room and at the entrance of every child care room however is not an acceptable substitute for soap and running water.

EMERGENCY AND COMMUNICATION PLAN

In the event of a COVID -19 exposure, we will contact local health officials to determine the plan for quarantine and program closure, if necessary. The extent and duration may be dependent on the level of exposure, outbreak levels in the community, and severity of illness in the infected individuals.

Written communication and exclusion notifications will be shared with parents, guardians, and staff, while maintaining the confidentiality and implemented in the event staff or child in attendance at the day care center tests positive for COVID-19.

  • Families must immediately notify Onward House if someone in the house tests positive or if the child has been in close contact with a positive case. Staff will maintain constant communication with families to stay updated on their well-being and provide resources and referrals.
  • Any child suspected of having COVID-19, diagnosed with COVID-19, or having been in contact with persons suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19 will be excluded from the center until written documentation is provided by the child’s physician that the child is no longer communicable and may return to child care.
  • An isolation area is designated inside the building away from other children, participants for

PHYSICAL SPACE CHANGES:

Ventilation systems remained in working order throughout the centers closure. Prior to reopening, windows and doors will be open to aide ventilation of buildings, where applicable. All water sources will be flushed prior to re-opening and before use.

  • Before reopening to participants all buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. All buildings will be cleaned and sanitized at the end of each day.
  • High touch areas in all areas of the building including reception areas, classrooms, offices, break rooms, bathrooms, etc. will be sanitized hourly by designated staff.
    • Daily cleaning and sanitation schedules will be posted inside the classrooms, offices, bathroom, and Playgrounds.
  • Hygiene resources and guidance posters will be posted throughout the centers describing ways to prevent the spread of germs (handwashing, coughing, face mask, and social distancing).
  • Posters of when and how often to wash hands will be posted in the bathrooms and throughout the centers.
  • 6 ft. markers will be placed outside doors (both outside and inside); 6 ft. markers will also be placed on floors/walls inside buildings, and stairwells, where applicable, to maintain social distancing and allowing guidance regarding entry/exit.
  • At Belmont Cragin, staff will use the West Diversey Ave. Entrance to gain access to the 2nd floor offices, eliminating the traffic throughout the center.
  • Doors and windows remain open to increase ventilation, where appropriate.   Buildings have a ventilation system.  
  • Use of hallway water fountains will be prohibited. Water pitchers will be stationed in classrooms with disposable cups throughout the day.
  • High touch items within the breakrooms such as microwaves, coffee makers will be eliminated for at least 4 weeks. Staff will be required to bring their own dishes, including cups and utensils for breaks.
  • The reception desks will be equipped with a plastic barrier.
  • Hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and/or bleach solutions will be available in all offices, spaces, classrooms and bathrooms however away from child’s reach.

CLASSROOMS

  • Classrooms have been measured to prior to reopening in order to meet new square footage requirements of 50 ft. per child as well as 6ft. in between cots.
  • Prior to re-opening, classroom cots will be laid out 6 ft. apart and floor markers will be indicated.
  • Large plastic container bags will be labeled with each child’s name so that cross-contamination of blankets/sheets can be minimized in between washings.
  • Prior to re-opening, all classrooms will be cleaned, sanitized and organized eliminating unnecessary materials and furniture to allow for more frequent and thorough sanitizing as well as additional space to maintain social distancing.
    • Classrooms will remove all soft plush toys that cannot be clean on a daily basis (all clothes material toys, hair dolls, and soft dolls).
    • All area rugs will be removed
  • Limited access to the classrooms will be maintained. Parents and non-classroom staff will be prohibited from utilizing the classrooms. Communication with classroom staff by other staff and/or parents will be maintained via classroom phones, email, and text. Teaching staff will communicate with parents via text, phone email, and written notice.
  • Classroom meals will be individually packed by kitchen staff. When meals are ready, the kitchen staff will inform classroom staff and meals will be left outside classrooms on a rolling cart, eliminating additional staff entering the classrooms.

ENHANCED PLANS TO ENSURE SAFE INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SPACES

Indoors

  • Children will want to play together and share toys. After a period of playing closely and sharing toys, children should wash their hands. 
  • Teachers will limit the number of children in any given classroom area. Consider small group or individualized learning instead of large group circle time.

RESTRICTIONS:

  • Children are not allowed to play with sensory items (like playdough) or to play in the sand and water tables. 
  • Soft toys, dress-up clothes, puppets, and other similar soft items will be removed from classrooms.
  • Toys are to be isolated after they are used by a child or group of children. At the end of the day, toys that have been used need to be cleaned and sanitized before use the following day.
  • No outside toys or items, other than a set of clothing in individual Ziploc bags, a jacket and indoor shoes will be permitted.
  • To aide in the cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces and equipment, teachers will limit the amount and number of supplies out on the countertops and other surfaces at any given time.
  • At nap time and breaks, staff will sanitize all tables and chairs, including legs during nap time.

Outdoors and Playgrounds:

  • All use of public playgrounds will cease and neighborhood walks will cease for at least the first 4 weeks and longer as needed.
  • Children are allowed to use the ONH playground one classroom at a time. The schedule should allow 30 minutes between groups.
  • Playground equipment will be disinfected between groups. 

PROGRAM DETAILS:

Early Child Hood Education: Center-Based 2 Year Olds:

  • Two permanent teachers will be assigned to each classroom and remain in the same classrooms without mixing or interchanging classrooms.
  • Child care staff and children shall be assigned to the same group every day, including meal, snack, rest and play periods. For the first 4 weeks, the 2-year-old classrooms will have a classroom with 2 teaching staff and (6) children for BB1 and (7) for BB2 to accommodate the increased square footage and 6 ft. spacing for cots at nap time.
    • After 4 successful weeks and according to DCFS allowances, classrooms will expand and allow for (8) children in the BB1 and (8) children in the BB2 classrooms.
  • No staff or substitute staff will be working in two classrooms for at least the first 4 weeks.
  • All combined activities will be prohibited for at least the first 4 weeks and restricted thereafter.

3-5 Year Olds:

  • Two permanent teachers will be assigned to each classroom and remain in the same classrooms without mixing or interchanging classrooms. Schedules will be designed to limit combining at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Child care staff and children shall be assigned to the same group every day, including meal, snack, rest and play periods. For the first 4 weeks, the 3-5 year old classrooms (Wiggle Worms/Zebras and Koalas) will have a maximum of 10 children per classroom with 2 teaching staff.
    • After 4 successful weeks and according to DCFS allowances, classrooms will expand and allow for (15) children in the 3-5 classrooms with two teaching staff.
  • No staff or substitute staff will be working in two classrooms for at least the first 4 weeks.
  • All combined activities will be prohibited for at least the first 4 weeks and restricted thereafter.

School Age:

  • One permanent teacher will be assigned to each classroom and remain in the same classrooms without mixing or interchanging classrooms. Schedules will be designed to limit combining at the beginning and end of the day.  Child care staff and children shall be assigned to the same group every day, including meal, snack and play periods. For the first 4 weeks, the school age classrooms (Penguins/Panthers/Sea Turtles) will have a maximum of 10 children per classroom with 1 teaching staff.
    • After 4 successful weeks and according to DCFS allowances, classrooms will expand and allow for (15) children in the school age classrooms.
  • No staff or substitute staff will be working in two classroom, except floaters or qualified person designated to accommodate lunch breaks.  The designated person will be in no more than two classrooms and will change smock, face mask, gloves, and shoe covers in between classrooms.
  • All combined activities will be prohibited for at least the first 4 weeks and restricted thereafter.

Qualified Substitutes and First Aid/CPR

In continuing to maintain and follow requirements for personnel, we will continue with or regular/qualified substitutes through Child Care Careers in the event of a staff illness/absence. All substitutes will be trained on our plan. In the event a substitute is not available, other qualified staff have been identified and will be assigned.

Home Based Program:

  • Home visitors will continue using the PAT curriculum (Parents as Teachers Curriculum) for children and parents
  • Home Based Visits and Socializations will continue to be virtual, until further notice.
  • Home Visits will be conducted via phone and on-line platforms (Zoom and WhatsApp), on a weekly basis and will last 30 to 45 min/based on parent’s availability.  The components of the visits will continue with the focus on:  Child parent interaction, parenting and child development education. Overall family Health, safety and wellness and supporting family needs as needed.
  • Socializations will be conducted via Go To Meetings and will last an hour.  Socializations will be focused on parent engagement. Parent activities will be based on the needs of the family and will covering social emotional needs and trauma that families might going through during this pandemic time.
  • Children’s socializations will cover: summer activities, such as nutrition in the summer, water safety, and summer reading. Play activities will be implemented using materials that are typically available in children’s home.  The activities will emphasize the importance of play and the relationship with primary caregivers.
  • Home Visitors communicate with families via phone.  We are working on obtaining resources to provide families with a computer to improve home visits/socializations with parents.

E-Learning:

ABC-Mouse will utilized be for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.  The curriculum focuses on all learning areas and allows children to learn through educational games, books, puzzles, and songs.

IXL: will be for the School Age Program.  IXL use a comprehensive curriculum that focuses in Math, Language arts, science, social studies, and Spanish.

Both of the e-learning platforms allow teaching staff to monitor what, when, and where the children are while using the programs.  Teaching staff can track children progress and see what activities they have completed or how to support their challenges. 

  • Teachers will contact children who are receiving e-learning on a daily basis between the classroom service hours and parent’s availability.   Each child will be receiving a total of 4-6 hours of instruction during the week.  Instruction will include children planning, guidance, support, and progress/monitor reviews with families. 
  • Teaching staff will be using a variety of ways to communicate with children based on the parent’s availability of devices.  (Phone, e-mail, tablet, computer, and text messages).
  • Children will be receiving daily activities that will be focusing on Math, Literacy, language, Cognitive, and Social-Emotional
  • Teaching staff will designate a day/time that better fits the family needs to go over the progress of the children learning each week. Teaching staff will use the e-learning monitoring system to see the growth of the children in all areas.
  • Teaching staff will continue sending activities from the Creative Curriculum/Teaching Strategies Gold, learning activities package will be sent out to families on a weekly basis.   This part will be monitor using pictures of the completion of the activities.

FOR STAFF:

Staff Working Spaces

Onward Neighborhood House will adopt the flexibility model. Depending on program needs, only essential workers will be on site during the first 4 weeks of re-opening; Directors, office staff, Family Support Workers and Home Visitors will continue to work remotely or switch off who will go into the center.

Staff who are sick are to refrain from coming to work and follow the Employee Handbook policies and procedures when calling in while allowing additional time to provide coverage.

  • Office Space will be re-arranged to accommodate at least 6ft space for shared offices.
  • Those that can work from home, will continue working from home for at least 4 weeks/or until further notice.
  • All office staff will declutter and clean offices to allow for increased and more efficient sanitizing procedures.

Human Resource Policies and Procedures

All HR Policies and procedures related to COVID-19 and any other personnel policies that will impact working during a pandemic will be revised and implemented to facilitate the re-opening of the center.

A COVID-19 Protocol will be implemented to address the following:

  • An employee was potentially exposed but shows no symptoms.
  • An employee was exposed, has not symptoms.
  • An employee was diagnosed, tested positive with COVID-19.
  • The employee has a family or household member that was diagnosed with COVID-19 or was potentially exposed and/or has symptoms.
  • We will be utilizing the IDPH Monitoring forms to track the temperature and other symptoms.
  • Staff who are sick are to refrain from coming to work and follow the Employee Handbook policies and procedures when calling in while allowing additional time to provide coverage.  Staff who feel sick or become sick mid workday will be sent home immediately.
  • Our finger swipe method of swiping in will be replaced with swipe cards.
  • Once inside the building, staff will remain inside the building until the end of their shift. Outside lunch breaks will be eliminated (at least for the first 4 weeks) however large designated break rooms will be accommodated.
  • Meetings with staff will continue virtually whether working on-site or remotely to avoid large group gatherings.
  • For at least the first 4 weeks, staff will be restricted from traveling between sites.

SUPPORT OUR COVID-19 WORK

CURRENT URGENT NEED:

Our Food Pantry needs continue to grow: Please consider volunteering, donating food, or hosting a food drive. Our needs can be found here: https://bit.ly/food4onh

Onward House staff have been working hard to ensure we support our community:

  • Early Childhood & School Age Programs: Our teachers are using e-learning curriculum, and are supporting families via phone and video. For example, our School Age teacher, Matilde, has one-on-one tutoring sessions with the kids, and even returns to Onward House for a few hours to pack activity kits for pick up.
  • Computer Classes: When Northwest Housing CDC and First Midwest Bank needed computer training to help businesses prepare to apply for loans/grants assistance, they contacted Onward House. First Midwest Bank provided financial support to help us continue to close the digital divide and provide tailored computer training through platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp for those who need email addresses and basic computer skills to navigate an all-virtual world of assistance funds.
  • Food Pantry: In April, we saw the number of people coming to the food pantry double from 40 – 60 families to over 100 202 250 families. Those of us who are not high-risk for Covid-19 have taken shifts to pack and hand out food packages, diapers, and other necessities.
  • Cash Assistance: To date (August 2020) we have distributed $48,649.50 in cash assistance to help families struggling to pay rent and utility bills.
  • Restaurant Program: A grant from the Lavin Foundation has allowed us to partner with two restaurants: Las Americas Grill and Latin Patio to provide free meals to approximately 210 children and parents from Onward House through July and August. This grant provides income for the restaurants, as well as a hot, stress-free meal once a week for families.
  • The Bounce: We will be ready to support small businesses when they are ready to reopen. We are working with a graduate of The Lab, JCK Boutique, to help them get back on their feet by reducing their rental costs by 78%. Currently, 5 businesses have had approved PPP loan grants through Onward House application assistance.

Direct Relief

While Onward House is financially stable at this moment, we know that the ripple effects of a financial hit will last the longest for our families with few resources. We have made hundreds of phone calls to collect data on needs, childcare arrangements, financial situations, technology needs, and providing referrals where necessary. Our recent survey data shows that:

  • 35% of the people we have been in contact with have been laid off or lost their jobs – they are cleaners, caregivers, food & restaurant workers, spa/salon workers, and factory workers.
  • Over half the 227 people we’ve surveyed reported difficulty paying for their expenses, including rent, utilities, and grocery bills.

Our friend, former staff, and board member, Linda, has started a campaign for direct financial support that will go towards our most vulnerable families, including those who do not qualify for other relief funds. We have also received emergency funds from the Chicago Community Trust’s COVID-19 Relief fund toward this effort. We have distributed approximately $23,000 to 26 families to pay their rent and utilities. If you’d like to donate to our direct-assistance fund, you can do so here. Of course you can always donate to Onward House and we will allocate it to programs that support our entire community.

In the coming months we will be working to expand our social services, access PPE, finalize a reopen plan, and continue to serve as a hub for support, services, information, and resources for 5,500 neighbors annually. Read our Thank you notes from those who have received services during the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 Update II

Since 1893, Onward Neighborhood House has been a trusted and critical resource for families in Chicago, specifically in Belmont Cragin and surrounding neighborhoods. It is our mission to improve lives and uplift communities through educational, economic and support services. While COVID-19 has thrown all of our lives into turmoil, our commitment to supporting our neighbors is unwavering.

To protect the health and safety of Onward Neighborhood House staff and participants, we have made the difficult decision to suspend all in-person programming starting Wednesday, March 18, and will reopen when most feasible or when the city and state governments have given clearance to do so. Our adult education program and The Lab are now taking place virtually.  We are working with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to find alternative methods for distributing food due to our partner, St Peter’s where the pantry is located, is currently closed. Our staff is doing a great job while working from home to ensure that the needs of our community are being met, especially in these challenging times.

While we are forced to be physically distanced from the families we serve, we are focusing our energy on creative solutions to attempt to support them remotely. Some of the ways we are providing critical resources to our community include:

  • After a brief pause in service, our Food Pantry will be open for food package pickup Thursdays from 4 PM – 6 PM.
  • Coordinating the distribution of diapers and wipes to the community. We are currently providing other resources and referrals to other support networks as necessary.
  • All staff members are working to provide resources to our community. Our Early Childhood Education teachers are calling all parents in our programs to share home-learning guidance and lesson plans. They are supporting parents with methods for ensuring that their children have consistent schedules, regular educational engagement, and more. Our Family Support Workers have been contacting families regularly to provide much-needed resources and supplies as well as lending an ear to discuss their concerns.
  • We are collecting and sharing information regarding unemployment and job opportunities. For example, Walmart is hiring for many positions and is offering a $300 signing bonus. We are doing all we can to help our families maintain financial stability.

Onward Neighborhood House relies on the support of our generous funders, and thanks to the grants and donations already received this fiscal year, a successful gala held in February, and a committed contract from the State of Illinois for our Early Childhood Education program, we are currently financially solvent. We will continue to pursue our diverse revenue streams, but do not yet know what to expect for the remainder of our fiscal year (June 30).

While we may not be physically present in our community, our dedication to our mission has proven to be steadfast through a number of local and national crises. Onward Neighborhood House responded to our community’s greatest needs in times of war, the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Depression, and countless other frightening moments. Our work will certainly not stop now.

Our community, much like the city, country, and world, is concerned about the future. We have seen, however, that the residents of Belmont Cragin are resilient – they have overcome great challenges in order to build better lives for themselves and their families, and they will do so again. We will be there to help them every step of the way.

QUESTIONS? Contact Nikki Way, Director of Development at nway@onwardhouse.org


Desde 1893, Onward Neighborhood House ha sido un recurso crítico y confiable para las familias en Chicago, específicamente en Belmont Cragin y los vecindarios circundantes. Nuestra misión es mejorar las vidas y elevar las comunidades a través de servicios educativos, económicos y de apoyo.  Si bien COVID-19 ha puesto todas nuestras vidas en crisis, nuestro compromiso de apoyar a nuestros vecinos es inquebrantable.

Para proteger la salud y la seguridad del personal y los participantes de Onward Neighborhood House hemos tomado la difícil decisión de suspender toda la programación en persona a partir del miércoles 18 de marzo, y volveremos a abrir cuando sea más factible o cuando los gobiernos de la ciudad y el estado hayan autorizado a hacerlo. Nuestro programa de educación para adultos y The Lab ahora se llevan a cabo virtualmente. Estamos trabajando con el depósito de alimentos de Greater Chicago para encontrar métodos alternativos para distribuir alimentos, debido a nuestro colaborador principal, La Iglesia de San Pedro (St. Peter’s Church), está cerrado actualmente y es donde se encuentra la despensa. Nuestro personal está haciendo un gran trabajo mientras trabaja desde su hogar para garantizar que se satisfagan las necesidades de nuestra comunidad, especialmente en estos tiempos difíciles.

Si bien nos vemos obligados a distanciarnos físicamente de las familias a las que servimos, estamos enfocando nuestra energía en soluciones creativas para intentar apoyarlos de forma remota. Algunas de las formas en que estamos proporcionando recursos críticos a nuestra comunidad incluyen:

  • Coordinar la distribución de pañales y toallitas a la comunidad. Actualmente estamos proporcionando otros recursos y referencias a otras redes de soporte según sea necesario. 
  • Todos los miembros del personal están trabajando para proporcionar recursos a nuestra comunidad. Nuestras maestras de Educación de la Primera Infancia están llamando a todos los padres en nuestros programas para compartir la guía de aprendizaje en el hogar y los planes de enseñanza. Están apoyando a los padres como métodos para asegurar que sus hijos tengan horarios consistentes, participación educativa regular y más. Nuestros trabajadores de apoyo familiar se han puesto en contacto regularmente con las familias para proporcionarles los recursos y suministros que tanto necesitan, así como para prestarles atención para analizar sus inquietudes.
  • Estamos recopilando y compartiendo información sobre desempleo y oportunidades de trabajo. Por ejemplo, Walmart está contratando para muchos puestos y ofrece un bono de $300 al momento de ser contratado. Estamos haciendo todo lo posible para ayudar a nuestras familias a mantener la estabilidad financiera.

Onward Neighborhood House cuenta con el apoyo de nuestros generosos patrocinadores y estamos actualmente solvente financieramente gracias a las subvenciones y donaciones ya recibidas este año fiscal, una exitosa gala celebrada en febrero, y un contrato comprometido de Estado de Illinois para nuestro programa de Educación de la Primera Infancia. Continuaremos buscando nuestros diversos flujos de ingresos, pero aún no sabemos qué esperar para el resto de nuestro año fiscal que finaliza el 30 de junio.

Si bien es posible que no estemos físicamente presentes en nuestra comunidad, nuestra dedicación a nuestra misión ha demostrado ser firme a través de una serie de crisis locales y nacionales. Onward Neighborhood House respondió a las mayores necesidades de nuestra comunidad en tiempos de guerra, el Gran Incendio de Chicago, la Gran Depresión y muchos otros momentos aterradores. Nuestro trabajo ciertamente no se detendrá ahora.

Nuestra comunidad, al igual que la ciudad, el país y el mundo, está preocupado por el futuro. Sin embargo, hemos visto que los residentes de Belmont Cragin son resistentes: han superado grandes desafíos para construir mejores vidas para ellos y sus familias, y lo volverán a hacer. Estaremos allí para ayudarlos en cada paso del camino.

Onward House Launches Retail Accelerator

Onward Neighborhood House will host a grand opening of its first-ever retail accelerator store, “The Bounce,” in Logan Square, available to recent graduates of its Business Incubator. The two woman- and minority-owned businesses to immediately occupy the space are Casa Brow, providing semi-permanent makeup and microblading, from Hermosa resident, Vanessa Puente; and Namaslay Yoga, from Pilsen resident, Hayde Canales. The Bounce has space for up to five businesses, available at a low rental fee.

Onward House’s adult education programs aim to build sustainable wealth, create jobs for entrepreneurs in underserved communities. Participants in its Business Incubator, now in its second year, consistently identified one shared barrier to success: the lack of accessible, affordable retail space in high-traffic areas. This was the inspiration to open The Bounce.

The entrepreneurs who participate in our Business Incubator program have outstanding ideas, products and services – all rooted in what the community needs and wants,” says Mario García, Onward House’s Executive Director. “For years we’ve had an eCommerce class to help our students sell online, but now we have an option for the critical brick-and-mortar retail experience.”

Hayde Canales, owner of Namaslay Yoga, says: “When I host small groups, people always ask if I have a studio location. Thanks to The Bounce, I can finally say that I do.”

Onward House will host a grand opening with to celebrate the launch of The Bounce on Saturday, September 28, with a short program at 3pm at 3633-37 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. The opening will host a pop-up market several other entrepreneur graduates from The Lab including: A’s Make-Up offering mini makeup sessions; Holistic Choices Center providing chair massage; Reflections of Lola selling tea, incense, jewelry, and clothing; Ylianna Luna Photography providing portrait sessions; EZ for BZ Alterations; JCKs International Bridal Boutique; and Esquilin Maintenance and Repair highlighting their renovation work on the space.

The next Entrepreneurship cohort at The Lab begins Tuesday, October 15, 2019. Reach out to Sophia (Cabido) Negron for an interview or visit onwardhouse.org to learn more.