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About the Department of Early Childhood

The Department of Early Childhood (DEC) is a City and County of San Francisco Department dedicated to our young children’s safe and healthy development.

As the City’s largest funder of early childhood, DEC is committed to creating a system that ensures every child can thrive and learn. We provide public investment, expertise, and leadership to put resources into the hands of those who care for our City’s youngest children.

Our Approach

DEC takes a two-generational approach to our work directing resources to the programs and services that research shows are the most critical in preparing children for Kindergarten and lifetime success. We believe that every child and family in San Francisco should have access to the information and resources they want to thrive, and we are intentional about removing barriers for those furthest from opportunity.

DEC leverages dollars from Proposition C, a commercial rent tax, as well as additional city, state and federal funding, for new and expanded investments in high-quality early childhood experiences that can lead to a brighter future for our City’s children and families.

Our field-moving practices and vibrant passion for what we do, in partnership with parents and the professionals who care for our children, set our priorities. DEC takes into account changing demographics in the City, burgeoning interest in early education at the state and national levels, and opportunities for continuous quality improvement at every level—all while staying committed to the children who can benefit most from high-quality early experiences.

See what’s in our Strategic Plan.


DEC is the result of a merger of two existing city departments, First 5 and the Office of Early Care and Education. Both First 5 and OECE have long histories of supporting young children and families in San Francisco through innovations in early care and education, family support services, and programs to support children’s healthy development. In 2022, they merged to expand their capacity and funding and to better integrate the City’s early childhood services.

San Franciscans recognize that the best way to ensure a strong future for everyone is to ensure all children receive the early childhood opportunities that positively contribute to a young child’s development. In 2018, San Francisco voters passed Proposition C. This commercial rent tax generates the most significant city fund in the nation exclusively dedicated to expanding high-quality early childhood experiences.

The critical work of Prop C was entrusted to the Department of Early Childhood. As a unified early childhood department, DEC is responsible for launching and leading San Francisco’s ambitious initiative to transform the public support of young children and those who care for them into meaningful benefits.

Our Vision

Every child in San Francisco has the best start in life and our City is a great place to raise a family.

Our Mission

To weave together family, community, and system supports so that all children who grow up in San Francisco have a strong  foundation of nurturing, health, and learning.

Our Guiding Values

As the Department of Early Childhood, we are committed to:

  1. Racial Equity: We prioritize taking concrete action with Black, Latino, Indigenous, and Pacific Islander communities to address the disparities that persist across early childhood development outcomes for their families. We hold ourselves and one another accountable to measurable change and consider equity impacts in all our shared decision making.
  2. Universal Access: All families should have access to high-quality education and services to support healthy early childhood development.
  3. Collaboration with Community: When we engage parents, providers, and grantees as partners in decision-making, we expand the reach and impact of our work for countless children and families.
  4. Continuous Learning and Improvement: To have our desired impact, we must consistently and frequently engage parents, providers, and grantees in helping us understand what is working well and where improvements are needed—and use what we learn to shift and adapt our work.
  5. Transparency: To build and maintain trusting and productive relationships, we are open, authentic, and clear in our communication with parents, providers, grantees, and staff.