Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) are pleased to announce the new Early Learning for Immigrant Families (ELIF) Program Request For Proposals (RFP); City Will Provide Up to $325,000 in Funding to Community-Based Providers to Engage Immigrant Families in Early Childhood Programming

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City Will Provide Up to $325,000 in Funding to Community-Based Providers to Engage Immigrant Families in Early Childhood Programming


Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) are pleased to announce the new Early Learning for Immigrant Families (ELIF) Program Request For Proposals (RFP). As part of Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago: Ready to Learn! early childhood initiative, and in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of New Americans, DFSS will provide up to $325,000 in funding and seeks applications from qualified organizations to design and implement targeted programming aimed at increasing the enrollment and engagement of immigrant families in early childhood programming.


“Many immigrant parents come to this country looking for better opportunities for themselves and their children, and this program builds on our efforts to ensure every child has a high-quality education that allows them to succeed, regardless of where they live,” said Mayor Emanuel. “From early learning through college, we are working to reduce the barriers immigrant families and children face and make the smart, critical investments that support our students’ future.”


Based on recommendations outlined in the Chicago New Americans Plan, this new, two-year pilot initiative will provide organizations that currently work with immigrant communities or operate early childhood programs with up to $75,000 per year to design and implement unique programming aimed at reducing some of the most prevalent barriers to immigrant family participation in comprehensive early childhood education and development programs. Additionally, as part of the solicitation, DFSS anticipates awarding an additional $10,000 to $15,000 to a single respondent to coordinate the initiative across the City by convening cohort meetings and activities among ELIF grantees and documenting best practices and lessons learned.


“We know that immigrant children are the fastest growing sector of children in our city. We know that their parents want them to succeed; and we know that immigrant parents need better information and support to take advantage of early childhood programs that can set their children up for success,” said DFSS Commissioner Evelyn Diaz.  “The new ELIF program is designed to help us learn what approaches work best for engaging more immigrant families in early learning opportunities and helping them stick with it.”


To help accelerate the integration of immigrant families and children into meaningful and productive lives in Chicago, the City seeks to increase access to comprehensive early childhood education and development programs, such as Head Start and Early Head Start, through this initiative. DFSS is highly interested in proposals that demonstrate unique knowledge of particular immigrant populations, as well as the distinct barriers they experience. Successful respondents will be able to demonstrate their ability to engage immigrant families; support immigrant families’ knowledge of and participation in comprehensive early childhood and development programs; and work with early childhood providers in facilitating families’ enrollment and retention in early childhood programs.


“This critical investment is another example of the Mayor’s ongoing commitment to Chicago’s immigrant families and our youngest children.  We know that investing in early childhood education dramatically impacts a child’s development and success later in life, and every child in our city—no matter where they live or where they are from—should have this opportunity.” Celena Roldan Moreno, Executive Director, Erie House.


“While immigrants face many barriers, accessing high quality education for their children should not be one of them. El Valor believes in giving every child, regardless of their family’s immigration status, an excellent early childhood education which will lay the foundation for becoming a successful, contributing citizen.” Rey Gonzalez, President and CEO, El Valor.


Children from immigrant families represent the fastest growing sector of children in the United States and nearly all of them are native born citizens.  Despite being citizens themselves, these children are more likely than their native born counterparts to encounter a variety of barriers that put them at increased risk of developmental delays and poor academic performance once they enter Kindergarten.  As an at-risk population, it is critical that children born into immigrant families have access to high quality early childhood education to ensure later academic and economic success.


Proposals for the ELIF program are due on April 23, 2015. To download the Request for Proposals and attachments, visit link:


This new ELIF program RFP is only the latest effort to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country. To date, the City of Chicago and its partners have implemented 20 of the 27 recommendations contained in the New Americans Plan, including introducing the City’s first Language Access Ordinance, ensuring that immigrants and limited-English-proficient (LEP) residents have access to city services, resources, and programs in the top five languages spoken in Chicago; opening up nearly 23,000 internship and job opportunities for DREAMers; and launching the Chicago STAR Scholarship to all qualifying students with a B average or better, regardless of immigration status.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel created Chicago: Ready to Learn! in 2013 by bringing CPS and the Department of Family and Support Services together to manage resources under one early education system. Chicago: Ready to Learn! coordinates early learning programs across the city, expanding access to school- and community-based early learning opportunities while improving the quality of early childhood programs. Parents of children who will be 3- or 4-years old by September 1, 2015 can access school-based early education opportunities by visiting  or one of 24 centralized application sites across the city.



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