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Illinois Partnership Aims to Modernize Child-Care Assistance

The Illinois Child Care Assistance Program application process is getting digitized through a partnership with Code for America. The partnership aims to make the process simpler and more efficient for families who rely on it.

A partnership announced today will help enable the state of Illinois to digitize its Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) application process through the creation of an online portal.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, government agencies have increased their focus on digitizing services. As such, partners in the private and nonprofit sectors have played a major role. For example, Code for America has launched similar partnerships in places like California.

The state's Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) will work with Code for America’s Safety Net Innovation Lab to transition the CCAP application process from a paper-based system to an online portal.

The portal will offer a more simple and mobile-friendly process — available in both English and Spanish — for families applying for assistance.

The partnership will also streamline the process for child-care providers looking to participate in the program. Code for America will work with the IDHS’ Division of Early Childhood and is expected to improve the matchmaking process between caregivers and providers by helping more providers offer CCAP-funded slots.

The CCAP is a federal-state program that provides financial assistance to parents and caregivers with low incomes to help pay child-care costs while they work or attend school.

“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, in the announcement. “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.”

This work aims to fill a gap highlighted in a CfA resource released earlier this year, the 2023 Benefits Enrollment Field Guide. The resource detailed that only 52 percent of these kinds of benefit programs have a mobile-responsive website available.

One of the intended outcomes of this partnership is that the work with Illinois will act as a model for other states to successfully implement the guidelines provided in that resource to make their own child-care assistance programs more accessible and efficient.

It also represents an adaption at the state level of federal best practices from the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for creating an online child-care application that is accessible, uses plain language and is mobile-friendly.

According to the announcement, no other states' child-care application has adopted these best practices.

The goal of the lab is to work with 15 states over seven years, helping unlock $30 billion in benefits for 13 million people.

The first cohort of state partners to work with the lab was announced in May 2022, while the second was announced in March 2023. These two cohorts include Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, New Mexico, Maryland and the District of Columbia.