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San Francisco Department of Early Childhood Strategic Plan 2023-2027

Creating a shared foundation for an unprecedented opportunity.

The creation of the Department of Early Childhood puts San Francisco at the national forefront of early childhood services, providing unprecedented resources and allowing us to be bold. 

The 2023-2027 Strategic Plan helps us catalyze bold action by defining our vision and values, setting clear goals and strategies, and establishing a Theory of Change and shared foundation for action. 

The Imperative of Advancing Racial Equity

Research shows that being ready for kindergarten is a key educational benchmark that leads to continued success in future years. All children need the support of family, community, and systems to be ready for kindergarten. This was the foundation of the work of the organizations that merged to become the Department of Early Childhood, First 5 San Francisco and the Office of Early Care and Education.

Unfortunately, structural racism prevents too many San Francisco children from being ready for kindergarten and achieving their full potential. Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous children face persistent inequities in health, social, and cognitive skills that support school success. Despite significant advancements in the early childhood development field that First 5 and OECE supported, we still see racialized outcomes in Kindergarten Readiness. 

Advancing racial equity is an imperative of DEC’s work and embedded in our strategic plan.

About the Planning Process

The Department of Early Childhood’s 2023-2027 Strategic Plan was developed through an innovative planning process. Both the process and the plan were co-designed with parents, providers, and partners. The voices of parents were centered in the co-design of the strategic plan. Planning activities focused on racial equity and promoted authentic power-sharing across participants.

Time and time again throughout the strategic planning process, parents affirmed that the City is already investing in the right services: early childhood care and education, family strength, and child well-being. However, parent insight made it clear that to address racialized outcomes, we must advance racial equity across our system of care. We must improve the user experience, accessibility, and delivery of all programs and services.

Our Strategic Plan shares how we will achieve this.

Highlights from the Strategic Plan


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


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.

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.

Core Strategies

Long-standing areas of investment that support a holistic approach to early childhood development. Seven key initiatives which will be continued, improved, and expanded through DEC fall under these three core strategies.

Early Learning

We support teacher preparation and compensation, enhance program quality, and improve affordability and access.

Ongoing Initiatives:

Child Health

We ensure universal developmental screening and promote access to health and mental health services for children and their families.

Ongoing Initiatives:

  • Help Me Grow
  • Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
  • Child Care Health Program
Family Strength

We ensure that families have opportunities for social and professional connections, linkage to resources, and information on parenting and child development.

Ongoing Initiatives:

Strategic Priorities

How we will advance racial equity in policy, planning, and service delivery across the early childhood network of care. DEC will review and examine our core funded activities through the lens of these strategic priorities. Strategic priorities will guide the implementation of DEC initiatives.

Strategic Priority 1: Amplify parent voice and influence in shaping policy and programs.

Strategic Priority 2: Increase cultural responsiveness of all early childhood development services.

Strategic Priority 3: Increase transparency in communications and open access to information and services.


What we will achieve through our strategic plan.

Children enter kindergarten with the cognitive, social/emotional, and physical skills that support school success.

Children are in excellent physical and mental health or have reliable access to quality health providers to address

Parents have the information, resources, and connections to peers and professionals to successfully raise their children in San Francisco.

And race is not a predictor for achieving these outcomes.


What we will achieve through our strategic plan.

All San Francisco children enjoy a solid foundation to support future success.

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