Hannah Berkowitz

The Project

Hannah established a Head Start MLP demonstration project to improve family stability, child well-being, and kindergarten readiness by embedding legal aid into a preschool site serving at-risk children.

Research shows that high-quality early care and education programs have lasting effects on IQ, boost academic and economic achievement, and help prevent chronic disease and obesity in adulthood. Children who enter kindergarten ready for school have an 80% chance of mastering basic skills by age 11, versus 45% for those who are not. In Chicago, almost half of 3-year-olds and more than one-third of 4-year-olds are chronically absent from preschool. The causes of chronic absenteeism are related to social issues such as poverty and access to quality healthcare and public benefits. By embedding legal aid at a Head Start site, we can model how programs would benefit from the assistance of legal advocates who have expertise and experience in issue spotting, policy advocacy, multiple benefits areas, and navigating complicated benefit programs and educational systems.

Fellowship Highlights

In collaboration with special education advocates, Hannah advocated for changes to the Chicago Public School District’s preschool transportation policy in accordance with federal law. Thanks to the group’s efforts, the CPS transportation policy was changed to provide transportation for eligible preschool students with disabilities to, from, and in-between home, daycare, and CPS schools. Hannah also represented Head Start children and families in special education cases and succeeded in obtaining appropriate special education and related services through representation in evaluations, eligibility meetings, IEP meetings, and mediation.

Over the course of her Fellowship, Hannah was engaged in numerous coalitions advocating for high-quality early childhood education programs and collaborated on comments to proposed legislation and administrative rules affecting such programs. Through her work, she connected with public interest organizations and conducted trainings and presentations for various stakeholder groups.

Next Steps

Hannah is continuing her work in public interest as a Staff Attorney at Legal Aid Chicago.