Division of Family and Community Services

Office of Early Childhood

Bureau of Child Care and Development

Request for Applications (RFA)

Services for Awards of Excellence Support Services

Released February 14, 2014

  1. PART 1
    1. Date of Issuance
    2. Issuing Organizational Unit
    3. RFA Availability
    4. Due Date, Location and Time of Application Opening
    5. Audit Submission Requirements
    6. Application Submission Requirements
    7. Eligible Applicants
    8. Questions and Answers
    9. Award Process
    10. Review Panel
    11. Estimated Length of Agreement
    12. Withdrawal Disclaimer
    13. Modifications to Applications by Applicants
    14. Modifications to Application by DHS
    15. Clarifications, Negotiations or Discussions Initiated by DHS
    16. DHS Grants Information Conference
    17. Late Application/Responses
    18. Commencement of Service
    19. Public Information
    20. Contract
    21. Program Evaluation and Reporting Requirements
    22. Training and Technical Assistance
    23. Congressional and Legislative Districts
    24. Additional Information
    25. Sectarian Issue
    26. Background Checks
    27. Child Abuse/Neglect Reporting Mandate
    28. Hiring and Employment Policy
  2. PART II
    1. INTRODUCTION
      1. Intent of the RFA
        1. Background
        2. ExceleRate Illinois
        3. Awards of Excellence
        4. State Goal for Awards of Excellence
      2. Department's Need for Services (Rationale)
      3. Objectives/Services to be Performed (the Approach)
      4. Service Area
      5. Mandatory Requirements of Applicants
      6. Award Amount
    2. APPLICATION CONTENT (SCORED AS INDICATED)
      1. Executive Summary (2 page maximum) - Not scored
      2. Organization Qualifications/Organizational Capacity (7 page maximum) (50 points)
        1. Organization's Mission (5 Points):
        2. Organization's History, Background, and Capacity (25 Points):
        3. Organizational Structure and Capacity (20 Points):
      3. Application (15 page maximum) (100 Points)
        1. Purpose of Funding (80 Total Points):
          1. Program Description and Methodology (60 points)
          2. Program Timeline and Work Plan (20 points)
        2. Target Population and Programs Served (20 Points):
        3. Community Outreach and Collaboration (10 Points):
      4. Evaluation and Monitoring (4 pages maximum) (20 Points)
      5. Budget and Budget Justification (7 page maximum) (20 Points)

PART 1

  1. Date of Issuance

    • February 14, 2014
  2. Issuing Organizational Unit

    • Illinois Department of Human Services
      Division of Family and Community Services
      Office of Early Childhood
      Bureau of Child Care and Development
      100 South Grand Avenue East
      Springfield, IL 62762

    • Contact Person
    • Kim Collins
      Project Manager
      Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development
      Email: Kim.Collins@illinois.gov
  3. RFA Availability

  4. Due Date, Location and Time of Application Opening

    • Applications must be received by Friday, March 28, 2014, by 4:00 p.m. The application package will be time-stamped upon receipt. All applicants should add the RFA name outside of the application package. Applications submitted by electronic mail, on diskette or by facsimile machine will not be accepted.
    • When submitting the application please include two (2) originals and four (4) copies to the address listed below. The signatures on the original application should be in blue ink. Also include one (1) CD with the proposal saved in a Word document format and PDF format.
    • Mail your completed grant applications to:
      • Illinois Department of Human Services
        DHS Procurement Office
        401 North 4th Street, 2nd Floor
        Springfield, Illinois 62701
    • All questions about the contents of the RFA may be directed to Kim Collins via email at Kim.Collins@illinois.gov  Please include the Awards of Excellence Support Services RFA in the Subject Box of your email.
  5. Audit Submission Requirements

    • All organizations applying for state funds must submit one (1) copy of their most recent audited financial statements as part of their application. These should be included as Appendix F of the Application. The Department will use the audit to ascertain the fiscal health of applicants.
    • While the audit will not be scored as part of the review the Department reserves the right to use information in the audit to assist in the final recommendation for funding. Applicants are expected to demonstrate through their audits a strong financial position and an ability to obtain funding outside of the public sector.
    • Units of government (such as cities and counties, schools, health departments, etc.) do not need to submit an audit.
  6. Application Submission Requirements

    • To be considered, applications must be in the possession of the Department of Human Services staff at the specified location and by the designated date and time listed above. The deadline will be strictly enforced without exception. In the event of a dispute, the applicant bears the burden of proof that the application was received on time at the location listed above.
    • APPLICATIONS THAT ARE FAXED, HANDWRITTEN, SINGLE-SPACED AND/OR LATE WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED AND WILL BE IMMEDIATELY DISQUALIFIED. THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS.
    • All applications must be typed on 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper using 12-point type and at 100% magnification (not reduced). With the exception of letterhead and stationery for letter(s) of support, the entire proposal should be typed in black ink on white paper. The program narrative must be typed, double-spaced, on one side of the page, with 1-inch margins on all sides. The program narrative must not exceed the specific page limits outlined in this RFA. The attachments, assurances, letters of support/collaboration and budget forms are NOT included in the page limitation.
    • The entire application, including appendices, must be sequentially page numbered. Applications should be bound with a single staple or binder clip in the upper left-hand corner. Applicants must not use any other form of binding, including ring binders, spiral binders, report covers or rubber bands as well as subject dividers or tabs to extend beyond the 8 1/2 x 11 inch page.
    • Not adhering to these guidelines for application submission constitutes grounds for application disqualification. Therefore, the Department is under no obligation to review applications that do not comply with the above requirements.
  7. Eligible Applicants

    • All public, private or not-for-profit community-based agencies are eligible to apply for funds under this Request for Applications. The funds will be distributed as a grant. The funding opportunity is not limited to those who currently have a contract award from the Department of Human Services.
  8. Questions and Answers

    • Each applicant must have access to the Internet. The Department's website will contain information regarding the RFA. It is the responsibility of each applicant to monitor that website and comply with any instructions or requirements relating to the RFA.
    • "Frequently Asked Questions with Answers" will be posted on the Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD) website at http://www.dhs.state.il.us. the site will be updated periodically.
  9. Award Process

    • It is anticipated that applicants will be notified by the Department regarding funding decisions at the end of May 2014. Successful applicants will be notified in writing by letter from the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. A Notice of Grant Award is not equivalent to an agreement with the Department to commence providing service. Successful applicants will receive the FY 15 Community Service Agreement or an amendment thereto for their signature and return. The release of this RFA does not compel the Department of Human Services to make an award.
  10. Review Panel

    • Applications will be reviewed by a panel established by staff from DHS, which may include Department staff, Illinois State Board of Education and the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development familiar with the requirements of the program, academics and experts in relevant field, and community-based social services providers who are not party to applications for funding under this announcement. Panel members will initially read and evaluate applications independently using guidelines furnished by DHS and will subsequently participate in review panel meetings during which applications will be reviewed and scored collectively.
    • The Department reserves the right to consider factors other than the applicant's final score in determining final grant recommendations. Such factors may include (but are not limited to) geographic service area, applicant's past performance, or degree of need for services.
  11. Estimated Length of Agreement

    • The Department estimates that the term of the agreement resulting from this RFA will be upon execution of the Community Services Agreement and continuing through December 2016. Each state fiscal year will require both parties to sign a Community Services Agreement and be dependent upon the Grantee's performance and adherence to program requirements and the availability of funds.
  12. Withdrawal Disclaimer

    • The Department of Human Services may withdraw this Request for Applications at any time prior to the actual time a fully executed agreement is filed with the State of Illinois Comptroller's Office.
  13. Modifications to Applications by Applicants

    • To make a modification to an application after it has been submitted, the applicant must submit a complete replacement application package, as described above under "Application Submission Requirements," accompanied by a letter requesting that the replacement application be considered. This must be received at the prescribed location by date and time designated under Item D.
  14. Modifications to Application by DHS

    • If it becomes necessary or appropriate for DHS to change any part of the RFA, a modification to the RFA will be available from the Office of Early Childhood Development's (OECD) website: http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/OECD/Pages/default.aspx and it will be issued to all known recipients of the RFA. In case of such an unforeseen event, DHS will issue detailed instructions for how to proceed.
  15. Clarifications, Negotiations or Discussions Initiated by DHS

    • The Department may contact any applicant prior to the final award for the following purposes.
    • As part of the Department's review process, the Department may request an applicant clarify its application. An applicant may not be allowed to materially change its application in response to a request for clarification.
    • Discussions may be held to promote understanding of the Department's requirements and the applicant's application and to facilitate arriving at a contract that will be most advantageous to the State considering price and other evaluation factors set forth in the RFA.
    • When the Department knows or has reason to conclude that a mistake has been made, the Department shall ask the applicant to confirm the information. Situations in which confirmation should be requested include obvious or apparent errors on the face of the document or a price unreasonably lower than the price others submitted, or if the price is considerably high than what is currently paid for this type of services. If the applicant alleges a mistake, the application may be corrected or withdrawn following the conditions set forth by the State of Illinois.
  16. DHS Grants Information Conference

    • There will be no mandatory attendance at a Grants Information Conference (formerly called Bidders Conferences). The elective Grants Information Conference call is scheduled for:
    • Date:February 20, 2014
      Time:2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    • Conference Line:  888-494-4032
      Access Code:  7198518485
    • It will be helpful for attendees to have a copy of this RFA available during the Grants Information Conference call.
  17. Late Application/Responses

    • Late applications will not be opened or considered and will be automatically disqualified, but will be retained by the Department. The Department will notify all applicants whose application will not be considered because of lateness or non-compliance with application submission requirements.
  18. Commencement of Service

    • The Department will not reimburse applicants for expenses incurred prior to the complete and final execution of the written grant agreement. If the applicant receives an award letter from the Secretary, then it is reasonable to assume that the Department will be forwarding the applicant a contract.
    • No services can be paid for prior to the full and complete execution of the contract and filing with the Illinois Office of the Comptroller.
  19. Public Information

    • Some information submitted pursuant to this RFA is subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The successful applicant must recognize and accept that any material marked proprietary or confidential that must be made a part of the contract may be considered open for public inspection. Price information submitted by the successful applicants shall be considered public.
    • For applications that are not selected for funding, only the list of those submitting applications/responses shall be considered public. Any internal documentation used to determine grant selections will not be considered public information.
    • Applicant scores will NOT be made public. The Department may give applicants feedback about their application upon request and at the discretion of the Department.
  20. Contract

    • The legal agreement between DHS and the successful applicants will be in the form and format prescribed by DHS. The standard DHS Community Service Agreement (CSA) will be used as the grant agreement. Samples of this agreement may be found at http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=29741 and in Attachment E of this RFA If selected for funding, the applicant will be provided a DHS Community Service Agreement for their signature and return. Applicants must review the sample CSA and insure that they meet all requirements contained in the CSA. Applicants must note any exceptions contained in the CSA. All exceptions must be agreed to by DHS before awarding any grants and execution of the CSA.
  21. Program Evaluation and Reporting Requirements

    • To assure accountability at all levels of service provision, the Department is implementing the practice of performance-based contracting with its grantee agencies. The articulation and achievement of measurable outcomes assure that we are carrying out the most effective programming possible.
  22. Training and Technical Assistance

    • Grantees must agree to receive consultation and technical assistance from authorized representatives of the Department. The grantee and collaborating partners will be required to be in attendance at site visits. Grantees will be required to attend regular meetings and training as provided by the Department or a sub-contractor of the Department. At a minimum, grantees should expect to send appropriate staff to two meetings and one statewide conference per year.
  23. Congressional and Legislative Districts

    • On the required Application Cover Sheet, the applicant must provide, the Congressional District (by number), available at the following web site: http://www.house.gov/ and the Illinois House and Senate Legislative Districts (by number), available on the Illinois General Assembly web site at http://www.ilga.gov/.
  24. Additional Information

    • The Department reserves the right to request additional information that could assist the Department with its award decision. Applicants are expected to provide the additional information within a reasonable period of time. Failure to provide the information could result in the rejection of the application.
  25. Sectarian Issue

    • Applicant organizations may not expend federal or state funds for sectarian instruction, worship, prayer, or proselytization. If the applicant organization is a faith based or religious organization that offers such activities, these activities shall be voluntary for the individuals receiving services and offered separately from the program.
  26. Background Checks

    • Background checks are required for all program staff and volunteers who have one-on-one contact with children and youth. Funded programs will be required to have a written protocol on file requiring background checks, as well as evidence of their completion.
  27. Child Abuse/Neglect Reporting Mandate

    • Per the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, adults working with children and youth under the age of 18 years old are mandated reporters for suspected child abuse and neglect. Funded programs must have a written protocol for identifying and reporting suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect.
  28. Hiring and Employment Policy

    • It is the policy of the Department to encourage cultural diversity in the work environment and to promote employment opportunities through its programs. The Department's philosophy is that the program workforce should appropriately reflect the populations to be served, with special attention given to hiring individuals indigenous to those communities. Consistent with Department policy, whenever a position becomes available, funded programs are encouraged to consider Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients for employment, contingent upon their qualifications in the area of education and work experience.

PART II

INTRODUCTION

  1. Intent of the RFA

    • The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) seeks to fund applicants to provide support services to early childhood programs serving at-risk children, that have reached the Gold Circle of Quality in the ExceleRate Illinois (http://www.excelerateillinois.com/) Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). The applicant will help programs, including licensed child care centers, school based preschool and school based infant and toddler programs, achieve Awards of Excellence in one or more of the five areas of program quality or excellence known to foster developmental gains for at-risk children. Applicants are not required to submit proposals supporting programs to achieve all five of the areas of excellence, and are instead encouraged to submit proposals that capitalize on the applicant's experience and strengths in one, or more, areas.
    • Background
    • Illinois applied and was selected by the Federal Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to receive the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant (RTT-ELC). The Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD) Coordinates with Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and DHS, provides oversight to the grant, and coordinates with ISBE and DHS to implement the projects contained within the approved federal grant.
    • Illinois identified the following strategic priorities for the RTT-ELC Project:
      1. Deepening the integration of state supports to create a unified framework for all early learning and development programs
      2. Connecting the most-at-risk children with the supports and services they need
      3. Increasing program quality: From adequate to good and from good to great
        • This RFA will help to achieve the third priority. A key strategic focus of the grant is to not simply support programs in establishing and maintaining what is traditionally defined as "high-quality" services, but to ensure that programs are providing early learning services that are highly effective in supporting the school readiness of Children with High Needs.
           
    • DHS works with local communities throughout Illinois to provide low-income, working families with access to quality, affordable child care. DHS directly contracts with over 100 child care providers to give quality care for children in a safe and healthy environment, and through certificates, DHS funds children participating in thousands of early childhood programs statewide. Quality care can help children succeed in school and in life, and children, especially those at-risk, experience better outcomes when they participate in high-quality early childhood environments.
    • DHS works in close collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which funds high quality early childhood programs through the Early Childhood Block Grant. These programs include Preschool for All for children ages three to five, and Prevention Initiative for children birth to age three. Through its Head Start State Collaboration Office, DHS also works closely with federally-funded Head Start and Early Head Start programs throughout the state.
    • ExceleRate Illinois
    • ExceleRate Illinois is the State's new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for early childhood programs, which has taken the place of the Quality Counts Quality Rating System. The State began the phase in of ExceleRate Illinois in June 2013. In an effort to support and motivate programs to achieve and sustain higher levels of program quality and to ensure that all children, particularly those at-risk for poor educational outcomes, receive high-quality services, all Illinois licensed child care programs, Preschool for All programs, center-based Prevention Initiative programs, and center-based Head Start and Early Head Start programs will be included in ExceleRate Illinois. For more information about ExceleRate Illinois, please see http://www.excelerateillinois.com/.
    • ExceleRate Illinois was developed by key stakeholders in Illinois and was designed to evaluate, recognize, support, and communicate the level of quality in early childhood programs in Illinois. Specifically, ExceleRate Illinois provides:
      • A consistent definition of what constitutes high-quality early learning and development programs across a diverse range of settings,
      • An accountability framework for programs receiving public funding,
      • Pathways and support for continuous improvement, and
      • Useful information for parents and families to help them select the best program to meet their needs.
    • Programs participating in ExceleRate Illinois can demonstrate four levels of increasing quality, known as Circles of Quality, and may earn additional designations knows as Awards of Excellence. Each of the levels and designations has a distinct set of requirements that must be met. Requirements for each of the Circles of Quality can be found at http://www.excelerateillinois.com/resources. Below is an abbreviated explanation of the ExceleRate levels.
      • Licensing: The first circle of quality equates to compliance with current Illinois licensing standards.
      • Bronze Circle of Quality: The Bronze Circle includes additional requirements for training and education.
      • Silver Circle of Quality: The Silver Circle includes a rigorous self-assessment and program improvement plan.
      • Gold Circle of Quality: The Gold Circle of Quality includes a validation of high quality by an independent assessor.
    • Awards of Excellence
    • Awards of Excellence are component-specific awards that recognize excellence in early childhood programs that have achieved at least the Gold Circle of Quality and who also excel in one or more areas of program quality known to foster developmental gains for at-risk children. These areas include:
      • Preschool Instructional Excellence: An Award in this area reflects exceptional practice in settings serving preschool children on a variety of quality indicators, including the environment, curriculum, instructional techniques, assessment to measure student growth and plan for individual learning, and professional development to enhance educators' learning, reflection, and improvement of practice.
      • Family and Community Engagement: An Award in this area reflects exceptional practice in early childhood programs around responding to, engaging with, and involving families and communities. The standards outlined in this highest level of quality are based on research evidence linking specific family and community engagement attitudes and practices with positive outcomes for children and families. Programs that meet this highest level of quality embrace family and community engagement as an integral, central, and defining mission of their early childhood program and services.
      • Linguistically and Culturally Appropriate Practices: An Award in this area reflects exceptional practice in settings serving children whose families speak a language other than English in the home and includes quality indicators such as the promotion of both the home language and English, appropriate child assessments, engagement with families, and staff qualifications.
      • Inclusion of Children With Special Needs: An Award in this area reflects exceptional practice in settings serving children with special needs and includes quality indicators such as inclusion in natural environments, appropriate staff training and qualifications, and educator knowledge of community services, systems, and policies pertaining to children with special needs.
      • Infant and Toddler Services: An Award in this area reflects exceptional practice in settings serving infants and toddlers on a variety of quality indicators, including the learning environment, assessment used to identify individual development goals, group size and ratios, and professional development to enhance educators' learning, reflection, and improvement of practice.
    • Awards of Excellence are difficult to achieve and represent a greater intensity of high-quality services than the Gold Circle of Quality. The criteria for the Awards of Excellence are based on what research has shown to be most effective in preparing at-risk children for success in school and later in life. Programs at the Gold Circle are encouraged to think about one or two areas in which they might excel and achieve awards. A description of the requirements of each of the Awards of Excellence can be found on the Office of Early Childhood Development's (OECD) Website at http://www.earlychildhood.illinois.gov/.
    • State Goal for Awards of Excellence
    • The goal of this RFA is to secure one or more vendor(s) to provide support services to early childhood programs serving at-risk children at the Gold Circle of Quality to achieve one or more Awards of Excellence. The State has set a goal of ensuring at least 350 programs achieve an Award of Excellence by December 2016.
    • The Department is particularly interested in seeking proposals to serve programs and/or geographic areas that serve substantial numbers of at-risk children.
  2. Department's Need for Services (Rationale)

    • Many early childhood programs who have reached the Gold Circle of Quality in ExceleRate will need support services to enhance their quality and achieve Awards of Excellence. Illinois already has a large number of early childhood programs that are of good quality and that the State anticipates will achieve the Gold Circle of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois. These programs adhere to rigorous program standards regarding staff qualifications, use of curriculum aligned with the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards or Early Learning Guidelines, developmental screening of all children, use of formative assessment tools, health promotion practices, family engagement practices, culturally and linguistically appropriate practices, and inclusion of children with special needs. These include Preschool for All programs, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and child care centers.
    • However the State recognizes these programs may not provide the level of instructional support tailored to individual children's strengths and needs that research shows is necessary to effectively close the school readiness gap. Through this grant, the State will provide support to help these programs move from good (Gold Circle of Quality) to great (Awards of Excellence), or from what is traditionally considered a high-quality early childhood environment to a highly-effective early learning intervention. At present, it is unclear how many programs will be in the Gold Circle of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois. However, the State has set the following goals for the number of early childhood programs to achieve the Gold Circle of Quality through calendar year 2016. The State anticipates that approximately 25% of programs reaching the Gold Circle of Quality will strive for one or more Awards of Excellence.
    • Baseline (October 2012) Actual Target-end of calendar year 2013 Target-end of calendar year 2014 Target-end of calendar year 2015 Target-end of calendar year 2016
      Center-based Programs1
      Estimated number of center and school-based programs in the Gold Circle of Quality 256 740 985 1,290 1,445

    • 1 Center-based programs include child care centers; sites/schools with Preschool for All and/or Part B classrooms and/or Title I funded preschool classrooms; and Head Start and Early Head Start centers. Centers that serve only children in kindergarten or older are not included. Note: Some sites are funded by more than one of these funding streams. These targets are based on best estimates of the total unduplicated number of sites; however, Illinois' current data systems currently do not allow for an exact unduplicated count.

    • In order for programs to achieve Awards of Excellence, teachers and early childhood leaders in some programs will require support services in order to be more effective in their work. The types of services needed will vary by type of program, type of area of excellence, location, individual program needs, etc.
  3. Objectives/Services to be Performed (the Approach)

    • DHS seeks applicants to provide support services to assist early childhood programs at the Gold Circle of Quality to achieve one or more Awards of Excellence. The applicant should develop a proposal and work plan that takes into account the requirements of the Award(s) of Excellence for which they are proposing to provide supports. DHS welcomes creative, evidence-based solutions to providing support services to programs.
    • DHS is interested in applicants that propose a strong model of support, have prior experience in assisting early childhood programs achieve higher levels of quality, and have the organizational and staff capacity to complete the work.
    • DHS seeks applicants to propose a program of supports to assist early childhood programs to achieve one or more of five areas of excellence. Proposed plans should:
      • Be evidence-based, with a proven theory of action for how supports will help early childhood programs achieve higher levels of quality.
      • Leverage and build upon existing state structures and systems.
      • Be practical, cost-effective, and scalable over time.
      • Focus on performance-based outcomes that build upon early childhood programs areas of strength.
    • Proposals should NOT include a plan to provide funding to support additional teaching or instructional staff in the early childhood programs they propose to support.
    • Applicants must describe the services needed by early childhood programs; detail how the proposals fulfills those needs; and discuss how the services will be made available to early childhood programs. Applicants may propose to support center-based programs, school-based programs or both. Additionally, applicants should include in their proposal the area(s) of excellence for which they will provide supports, the age of the children in the programs they will support, the proposed service-delivery area or the area of the state for which they would provide support services, and the estimated number of programs they propose to serve.
  4. Service Area

    • The Department is interested in funding proposals that provide support services to early childhood programs throughout the state. To this end, the Department intends to select one or more vendors as needed to ensure programs in a variety of geographic locations have access to supports. The Department, however, will select the applicants with the strongest proposals and, due to limited funds, will not necessarily fund support services for each of the Awards of Excellence in all areas of the state.
  5. Mandatory Requirements of Applicants

    • Interested applicants should take note of the following program specific mandatory requirements. Other non-program specific requirements are found in Part 1 of this RFA.
      1. Eligible Applicants - Public, private, or not-for-profit agencies are eligible to apply for these funds.
      2. Agency Experience - The applicant organization should be able to demonstrate experience in the provision of support services to early childhood programs to successfully enhance their quality in one or more of five areas of excellence. Additionally, the applicant organization should demonstrate experience in working with early childhood programs that serve at-risk children. Applicants with a strong familiarity of the other systems, programs, and services available through local, state and federal providers will be viewed favorably.
      3. Staffing - Programs must utilize existing staff or recruit and hire staff for the program that are qualified for their positions through education, experience, and/or training.
      4. Cultural and Linguistic Competency - Overall, services must be provided in a culturally sensitive manner. Providers must understand, acknowledge, and respect the cultural differences among early childhood programs across the state and provide services in a relevant, competent and appropriate manner in accordance with these differences.
  6. Award Amount

    • DHS anticipates awarding up to $2,000,000 for support services to assist early childhood programs to achieve Awards of Excellence. Funding awards will be made to those who propose evidence-based, culturally-sensitive, and cost-effective plans and will be based upon the number of and types of programs applicants propose to serve.
    • DHS seeks to ensure that support services are provided in a variety of locations throughout the state. With limited resources, DHS will fund those it considers to be the best applications and is not bound to fund supports for each of the five areas of excellence. Neither is the agency bound to fund supports for areas of excellence throughout all areas of the state. Priority will be given to proposals that DHS believes will have the greatest impact on the largest number of programs. Additionally, DHS reserves the right to offer partial funding of applications or, for applications that seek to support multiple areas of excellence, to fund only one or more of the areas proposed.

APPLICATION CONTENT (SCORED AS INDICATED)

Applicants must submit an application that contains the information outlined below. Each section must have a heading that corresponds to the headings listed below. If the applicant believes that the subject has been adequately addressed in another part of the application narrative, then provide the cross-reference to the appropriate part of the narrative. The narrative portion must follow the page guidelines and limits set for in each section and must be in the specified order below. Exceeding the prescribed page limits is grounds for automatic disqualification. See page 5 of this RFA for specifications about page and font size requirements.

Applications will be reviewed and evaluated using the criteria described in this section. The corresponding point values indicate the relative importance placed on each review criterion. Points will be allocated based on the extent to which the application addresses each of the criteria listed. Applicants should address these criteria in their application materials, as they are the basis upon which competing applications will be judged during the objective review.

Additionally, for applicants proposing to provide supports in multiple areas of excellence, the application should clearly identify these as separate sections and should propose budget options for funding one or more of the areas.

  1. Executive Summary (2 page maximum) - Not scored

    • State the total amount of funds requested.
    • Address the need for support services for the community/target population.
    • Describe area(s) of excellence
    • Describe the proposed type and number of programs the applicant proposes to serve with these funds during the fiscal years of operation.
    • Describe the community(ies), county(ies), school(s), or Chicago community area(s) to be served with these funds.
    • Provide a clear overview of the services you propose to provide with these funds
  2. Organization Qualifications/Organizational Capacity (7 page maximum) (50 points)

    • The purpose of this section is for the applicant to present an accurate picture of the agency's ability to provide the support services to early childhood programs to enhance their quality. Applicants will be scored on their demonstrated ability, experience, qualifications, and capacity will allow them to successfully implement the proposed program.
      • Organization's Mission (5 Points):
        • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the organization's mission is aligned to that of DHS and the work to be completed through this grant.
          Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following.

          • Organization's mission statement.
      • Organization's History, Background, and Capacity (25 Points):
        • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the applicant demonstrates:
          • How the organization's history, background, and past achievements demonstrate success working on similar projects and with similar populations and how this experience positions the organization to be successful with the proposed project.
          • The organization's ability to provide timely and efficient services to improve center program quality in one or more of the five areas of quality/excellence.
        • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
          • Current relevant programs and total number of clients served in its relevant programs.
          • Organization's history, milestones, major achievements.
          • Geographic area(s) served.
          • How the applicant is experienced or poised to work within proposed communities.
          • Organization's readiness and capacity for service delivery. Include any identified needs and any linkages that are already in place with other service providers, if applicable.
          • Evidence that the Applicant is experienced and capable of carrying out the support services in the area(s) of excellence and to the proposed program type(s). Describe prior experience working with early childhood programs to help them increase their quality in the proposed area of excellence. Include in the application the theory of action that guides and informs practice and specify the strategies proven to be effective for bringing about change and enhanced quality. Provide specific examples of successful and effective work to enhance quality in one or more of the five areas of excellence.
          • Involvement with existing advisory groups and collaborative relationships with community partners related to providing support services for early childhood programs to achieve high levels of quality in one or more areas of excellence.
      • Organizational Structure and Capacity (20 Points):
        • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
          • An organizational structure and clear lines of responsibility that supports the accomplishment of program objectives and will assure high quality services.
          • A qualified staff with the skills and abilities to implement an effective, high-quality program.
          • The organizational capacity to implement, monitor, and evaluate the outcomes of high-quality services to early childhood programs.
        • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
          1. The applicant's organizational structure and capacity that will allow successful completion of the work.
          2. Evidence of current staff qualifications, including information about their specific experience working with center and/or school-based early childhood programs in the proposed area(s) of excellence. If training is needed, describe what those training needs are, as well as the agency's willingness to ensure that all staff in need of training receive it prior to commencement of service delivery.
          3. Procedures to ensure program staff is capable and sensitive to working with the target population.
          4. Qualifications of the staff that would be involved in the project.
          5. The procedure for conducting background checks, as needed
          6. The applicant's data management capabilities, as needed, to track and monitor support services and performance outcomes of programs.
            • The following organizational background items should be included as Appendices:
              • Appendix A: Resumes of the applicant Executive Director and Program or Project Director.
              • Appendix B: Job descriptions for employee positions that will be funded with this grant, including the Program/Project Director, and an indication of the percent of time those employees will spend in this program.
              • Appendix C: Organizational chart of the applicant showing where the program and its staff will be placed. If subcontractors will be used, include the relationship with those organizations in the chart.
              • Appendix D: Letters of reference from three organizations or agencies for which the applicant has provided similar or comparable services as those in the proposal.
              • Appendix F: Copy of the most recent audited financial statement.
  3. Application (15 page maximum) (100 Points)

    1. Purpose of Funding (80 Total Points):
      • The purpose of this section is for the applicant to describe the design and approach of the proposed program and how it will meet the needs of the population it plans to serve.  For applicants proposing to provide supports in multiple areas of excellence, the proposal should clearly identify these as separate sections.
        1. Program Description and Methodology (60 points)
          • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
            • An approach that is research/evidence based, with a proven theory of action for how supports will help early childhood programs achieve higher levels of quality.
            • An approach for working with center and school-based administrators and staff to improve practices in one or more area(s) of excellence, including performance-based outcomes for programs that will build upon programs areas of strength.
            • An efficient approach builds upon existing state or local structures, programs, services, and/or relationships.
            • How services will be delivered in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner and in a setting appropriate to the target population
          • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
            • A plan to provide support services to eligible early childhood programs.
            • The proposed framework or model for supporting programs to earn Awards of Excellence, including the areas of excellence for which the applicant proposes to provide supports.
            • The research/evidence base that supports the proposed approach, including a proven theory of action for how supports will help early childhood programs achieve higher levels of quality.
            • The approach for working with center and school-based administrators and staff to improve practices in the selected area(s) of excellence, including performance-based outcomes that will build upon programs areas of strength.
            • How the proposed plan will leverage and build upon existing state or local structures or systems.
            • Any resources, materials, or structures that might be available after the grant ends that could be used support programs in the future.
            • How the approach could be scalable over time, if possible.
            • How services will be delivered in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner and in a setting appropriate to the target population.
        2. Program Timeline and Work Plan (20 points)
          • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
            • A rigorous and achievable work plan that will help early childhood programs reach Awards of Excellence over the course of the contract.
            • A timeline for each fiscal year of the work that includes planning activities, partner meetings, provision of support services, and ongoing evaluation of the program's impact and success.
          • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
          • Describe program implementation timeline for each fiscal year. Include:
            • When the initial activities will begin
            • A description/planned dates for:
              • Key meetings with partners
              • Development of program implementation structure
              • Selection of program delivery site(s)
              • Hiring of personnel, as needed
              • Provision of services to early childhood programs
              • Evaluation of program impact and success
              • Other plan components as needed
    2. Target Population and Programs Served (20 Points):
      • The applicant should identify the target population that it proposes to serve.
      • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
        • An appropriate and detailed plan that specifies the target population to be served.
        • The degree to which the plan will support programs that serve students at-risk of poor educational outcomes.
      • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
        • Information about the type of program (i.e., school vs. center based; preschool vs. infant and toddler programs).
        • The estimated number of programs to be served (by size and/or number of children).
        • The proposed area(s) of excellence for support services.
        • Evidence of the high-need of the community.
    3. Community Outreach and Collaboration (10 Points):
      • Applications should discuss any existing relationships that the organization has with the community it proposes to serve.
        Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
        • Existing relationships and/or experience with the population it proposes to serve.
        • A plan to develop relationships and or linkages to other supports or programs in the communities it proposes to serve
        • Letters of commitment from organizations with which the applicant has existing relationships
      • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
        • Related existing linkages or relationships to other community resources and services.
        • If linkages do not exist, describe how and when they will be established, as appropriate.
        • If linkages do exist, letters of commitment and support from those entities will strengthen the proposal and should also be included in Appendix D.
  4. Evaluation and Monitoring (4 pages maximum) (20 Points)

    • The purpose of this section is for the applicant to describe how it will monitor and evaluate the ongoing progress, impact, and success of the work.
    • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
      • A plan to use feedback and performance-based indicators to determine the impact and success of the work and to use feedback to improve or alter the services provided to programs.
      • A plan to report to DHS on the progress of the work and the participating early childhood programs. 
    • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
      • The applicant's ability to provide data/information to evaluate the program.
      • Information about performance-based objectives by which the applicant and DHS can measure program success and continuously improve its approach as needed.
      • How the applicant will track program participants' experiences and outcomes.
      • How the applicant will evaluate and report the degree to which it has achieved all measurable objectives described above
  5. Budget and Budget Justification (7 page maximum) (20 Points)

    • This section will evaluate the extent to which:
      • The project's costs are appropriate and reasonable in view of:
        • the activities to be carried out.
        • the types and number of programs to be served.
        • the number of areas of excellence.
        • the anticipated outcomes.
      • The costs are allowable, defined by federal rules established for grants and specific rules established for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding.
    • For applicants proposing to provide supports in multiple areas of excellence or multiple populations, the application should clearly identify these as separate sections and should propose budget options for funding one or more of the areas.
    • Budget tables do NOT have to be double-spaced. Applicants can single space budget tables if preferred.
    • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following.
      • Completed Budget Forms found in the Attachments, according to Allowable Costs.
      • Provide a Budget Narrative describing how appropriate resources and personnel have been allocated for the tasks and activities described.
      • Clearly present any staff training and start-up funds. Reasonable start-up costs may be allowed, but the proposal must indicate how those activities would be completed in a brief, initial start-up period.
      • Budgets must clearly identify direct/indirect costs. Indirect costs may not exceed 15% of the total budget. An indirect cost rate may only be used if the applicant has a federal indirect rate approved by the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services or the Illinois Department of Human Services. Documentation of the rate approval must be provided as part of the Budget package.
      • Travel to and from regularly scheduled meetings with DHS and other grantees should also be included in the budget. Attendance at quarterly grantee meetings is required.