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En route to a thriving early childhood system in San Francisco

San Francisco has many programs and agencies aiming to serve our city’s babies and young children, but they could be more coordinated. As a result, agencies, providers, and families are only sometimes aware of what resources are available. And too many wheels get reinvented when they could work together to propel a child forward. 

As a new city agency dedicated to children’s first five years, DEC is working to connect, coordinate, and strengthen these systems, programs, and resources. We’re weaving together networks of providers and agencies, working in fields ranging from education and health to mental health and family support, spreading innovation and working together in new ways. Often referred to as “no wrong door,” we want to make sure that everyone who plays a role in children’s and families’ lives understands what’s available in San Francisco to support them, and that those resources are as effective as possible. That way, no matter which door a family walks through, the end result will be that their needs are met. 

For example, we know from decades of research that high-quality early education and supports are our children’s best shot at a healthy future and our community’s best shot at ensuring opportunity for all. The children may be small, but the impact is enormous. DEC is helping ensure that across the city, early education programs are funded and supported to be high quality. This means that early learning programs and teachers are receiving professional development support and training to address the range of needs they might see in their programs, and, as a whole, the early education system is better connected to health, behavioral and mental health, social services, and more, so that all of these systems can work together for the benefit of children and families.

In addition to strengthening connections across systems and programs in the city so that all of the wheels are moving together, DEC is also working to address long-standing challenges facing the field of early education–so that this individual wheel is as strong as possible.

DEC is using its funding to raise the early education workforce’s compensation, to counteract decades of this field being underpaid. Our Workforce Compensation Initiative helps make sure that the dedicated educators who give their love and expertise to our youngest children have the financial security they need to thrive in our city. DEC is also expanding access and eligibility to subsidized child care so that as many parents and children in San Francisco as possible have access to affordable high quality early education programs. Early education is one door that we want every child and parent in San Francisco to walk through before they reach kindergarten. Now, families earning up to 110% of the Area Median Income (AMI) can be eligible for free child care

San Francisco is a unique place known for its dedication to supporting public education. As the only city agency focused solely on babies and young children, DEC is helping ensure that dedication extends to the first five years, because we know that the early years have the greatest impact. Through a mix of caring, access, and innovation, we will ensure that every baby and young child in the city can benefit from early learning experiences that help them thrive.