Early Care and Education

Ninety percent of your child’s brain develops during the first five years.

Every experience in children’s earliest years has an impact on their success in school and the rest of their life. That is why it is so important for children to have high quality care and education during this time. Quality early care and education helps families and supports children’s cognitive, physical, and social and emotional growth. It helps children be ready for kindergarten and beyond.

The Department of Early Childhood works to ensure that every child in San Francisco has access to high-quality and affordable early care and education. 

More families than ever are eligible for subsidized early care and education through Early Learning San Francisco (ELS). For example, a family of 4 can earn up to $152,400 yearly and be eligible to receive free early care and education through our program.

How to Find and Pay for Early Care and Education in San Francisco

There are many options for finding the right early care and education program for you and your family.

Complete an online application through Early Learning SF

The Early Learning San Francisco (ELS) program provides financial assistance to pay for quality early care and education to eligible San Francisco families with children 0-5 years old.

Earlylearningsf.org is a website used to connect you to participating programs. The site will ask you to verify your family size, income, and residency and to indicate your preferences for an early care and education program including, hours, location, and language. Then it will match you to programs that meet your criteria and currently have vacancies.

Apply for financial assistance through a specific ELS program

If you have already found an early care and education program that is part of the Early Learning San Francisco network, the program owner or staff can verify your family size and income and can work with us behind the scenes to get you enrolled and connected to financial assistance.

Close to 300 Early Care and Education Centers and Family Child Care Homes across San Francisco have been qualified to participate in ELS. Participating programs prioritize quality and continuity of care for children. 

Contact a Resource and Referral Agency

If you prefer, our partners at Children’s Council or Wu Yee can help walk you through the eligibility assessment and application process and can provide you with more information on the early care and education programs that might be a good fit for your family. We contract with these agencies to help families find child care that meets their needs. 

Children’s Council of San Francisco

445 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Resource and Referral Line: 415.343.3300

Wu Yee Children’s Services

880 Clay St., Floor 3
San Francisco, CA 94108
Resource and Referral Line: 844.644.4300