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Early Childhood Project DCFS Early Childhood Project

DCFS Early Childhood Project

Helping children referred to the DCFS system.

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Increasing Equitable Access to Early Childhood Services

The Erikson Institute DCFS Early Childhood Project is a 24-year partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). We serve children, most of whom are younger than 5, who have become involved with the child-welfare system because of abuse and neglect.

Our specialists are experts in the developmental and mental health needs of young children, and rooted in family centered practice. They support child welfare professionals in making crucial decisions about needs and services that affect the lives of young children and their families. They listen closely to parent and caregiver concerns, and work to address barriers to families accessing early childhood services.

DCFS Early Childhood Project Reach

4400 +
Children served annually
Early childhood specialists
600 +
Annual consultations to child welfare professionals

Linking Families With Young Children to Needed Services 

Erikson staff perform individual outreach to case managers of young children in the care of DCFS or being closely monitored by DCFS while in the care of their parents to:

Support child welfare professionals and families

in considering early childhood services

Provide consultation

around service needs of young children


clinical assessment

Provide community screening resources

to case managers

Refer families with young children

to Early Intervention

Refer families with young children

to evidence based home visiting

Refer children

to special education

Refer families with young children

to infant and early childhood mental health services

Erikson’s Unique Approach

Relationship-Based Approach With The Child At The Center

We know that a child’s well- being is most impacted by their experiences and their relationship with their earlier parents/ caregivers. That’s why our goal isn’t just to identify a child’s needs.

We work with an eye toward supporting the best possible relationship between parents/caregivers and children. We see parent/caregiver concerns as an essential part of determining which services a family needs.

As engaged advocates, we sharply focus on the caregiving relationship and the stress it may be under. We understand that there may be individual or system barriers to accessing service, and we stay with the family and case manager to assure engagement. We do so with the goal of supporting the child’s long-term health and well-being.

Supporting Child Welfare Professionals in Accessing Services for Young Children and Families

Erikson is the trusted provider of training on early childhood needs to State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and POS staff.

Child welfare staff encounter endless complexities in each family’s unique situation. With expertise in the needs of children and families who have experienced significant trauma, Erikson’s specialists support case managers with diversity-informed approaches and culturally responsive models, as well as deep concern for the experiences of families and professionals alike.

If you are a case manager who is looking support around a child welfare involved young child, we can help.

Contact Project Staff

Helping Case Managers Like You

Our project staff supported case managers last year with training child-welfare professionals in early childhood screening and individual support in over 2,700 relationship- based referrals, including:

Referrals to early intervention
Referrals to home visiting
Referrals to early childhood special education
Assessments completed
Clinical Intervention and Placement Preservation staffings attended

Partnership with State Systems

portrait of Kimberly Mann
Kimberly A. Mann, PhD
LCSW Deputy Director, Illinois DCFS – Office of Child Well-Being
“ The partnership between Erikson and DCFS is unprecedented. The Erikson team is a phenomenal partner that does critical work to support all state systems, including the child welfare system. ”

Partnering to Improve the Lives of Young Children in Illinois

We engage with the institutions and systems that serve young children in the state of Illinois to help ensure young children and their families get the support they need, including but not limited to:

  • IDHS Early Intervention
  • Start Early
  • ISBE Home Visiting Programs
  • ISBE Department of Diverse Abilities
  • MIECHV Home Visiting
  • Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development
  • Providers of Child Parent Psychotherapy
  • County health departments
  • IDHS Women, Infants & Children
  • Child Care Resource and Referral
  • Illinois Action for Children
  • Chicago Public Schools Office of Diverse Learners
  • IDCFS Early Childhood Court Team