SAN FRANCISCO, July 27, 2023 – Code for America – the leading civic tech nonprofit that works with community leaders and governments to build equitable, accessible digital tools and services – today announced a landmark partnership with the State of Illinois to enable tens of thousands of families in the state to access and pay for child care more easily through the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
CCAP is a federal-state program that provides financial assistance to parents and other caregivers with low incomes to pay for child care so that they can work or attend school. In Illinois, eligible families include those with children younger than 13 — or up to the age of 19 for those with documented special needs. The co-payment cost for families is determined based on gross monthly income and family size.
Code for America’s Safety Net Innovation Lab will work in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) to transition CCAP from a paper-based application to an online portal. The portal will be mobile-friendly, easy to complete, and available in both English and Spanish. Code for America, in partnership with IDHS’ Division of Early Childhood, will also improve the application process for child care providers seeking to participate in the program, leading more providers to offer CCAP-funded slots, and improving the matchmaking process between caregivers and providers.
“Through this partnership, we will ease the burden on Illinois parents and other caregivers trying to juggle work, school, and child care,” said Amanda Renteria, CEO of Code for America. “This is part of a growing movement that is taking hold across the nation to make government services more accessible, equitable, and easy to use.”
“Our mission is to empower our customers with an unparalleled experience as they enroll in programs administered through IDHS. In embracing Code for America’s shared values, we forge an ideal alliance,” said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services. “By selecting an astute and human-centric partner, we’re driving towards seamless access to essential assistance for Illinois families. We look forward to collaborating closely with Code for America, propelling us towards innovative solutions that leave no family behind.”
“This exciting work is one part of a program-wide modernization of child care technology that will streamline CCAP for both families and child care providers. We are grateful for the opportunity to work collaboratively with Code for America on this important work and look forward to the positive impact it will have on families across Illinois,” said Bethany Patten, Director, Division of Early Childhood, Illinois Department of Human Services.
First-of-its-kind product adapts federal best practices
The partnership also marks a first-of-its-kind product that adapts federal-level best practices from the United States Digital Service and the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and implements them at the state level. Federal guide for a successful online child care application calls for designing simple, accessible applications that can be completed in 20 minutes or less, using plain language, personalizing the applications, and ensuring that they are online and mobile-friendly. Currently, no other state offers a child care application that adopts these federal best practices.
Code for America’s 2023 Benefits Enrollment Field Guide — a digital visualization tool compiled from primary source data that aims to increase the usability and accessibility of online benefits applications at the state level — shows that states are moving more enrollment experiences online. But today, only 52% of benefits programs have a mobile-responsive website available.
Through this product, Illinois will provide a model for other states to learn how to successfully apply these guidelines, as they look to make their own child care assistance programs accessible online and on mobile phones. Illinois will also lead the nation in providing a best-in-class way for providers to become approved to receive CCAP funding using similar design and accessibility principles. Ultimately, this will expand the supply of child care in Illinois, unlocking critical benefits that enable families to attend school or go to work.
Transforming the nation’s safety net through the Safety Net Innovation Lab
In 2022, Code for America secured philanthropic funding through The Audacious Project and Blue Meridian Partners to create the Safety Net Innovation Lab. The Safety Net Innovation Lab aims to work with 15 states over seven years to reach 13 million people and unlock $30 billion in benefits.
The first two cohorts include Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, New Mexico, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Throughout the process, Code for America shares learnings across each cohort of states and the field to spread lessons learned to a broader audience.
Representatives from state, tribal nation, district, and territory governments interested in working with Code for America to improve benefits service delivery are encouraged to fill out a partnership form to discuss potential partnership opportunities.
About Code for America
Code for America, a nonprofit founded in 2009, believes that government can work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age. We work with government at all levels across the country to make the delivery of public services equitable with technology. Our goal: a resilient government that effectively and equitably serves everyone. Learn more at codeforamerica.org.
About the Illinois Department of Human Services
The Department of Human Services is one of Illinois’ largest agencies, with more than 13,000 employees. IDHS is a principal department of the State of Illinois that provides public assistance, child and family welfare services, provides services to people with disabilities throughout the state and oversees mental health and substance abuse services. IDHS is proud of its diversity, efficiency, and the services that the agency and its community partners provide to Illinois residents.
About the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Early Childhood
The Division of Early Childhood equips pregnant persons, young children and families with the support they need to achieve their full potential by providing equitable access to whole child development through child care, home visiting, and early intervention programs and services.
Scott Gerber, Code for America, Scott@vrge.us
Marisa Kollias, Illinois Department of Human Services, email@example.com