Supporting children and families through a bilingual parent co-op: Q&A with Puente de la Costa Sur

Puente de la Costa Sur supports families in San Mateo County’s coastal communities, providing resources and programs and advocating for communities and families. Puente is a First 5 San Mateo County partner, funded to provide a bilingual parent-participatory cooperative preschool, Sueños Unidos-United Dreams. Lizeth Hernandez, Education Director, recently spoke at a First 5 San Mateo County commission meeting about Puente’s work. Below, Lizeth shares more about the innovative co-op approach and how it pivoted during COVID-19 to stay connected with families.

Tell us about the Sueños Unidos-United Dreams program.

Sueños Unidos-United Dreams is a bilingual co-op for children 18 months to 36 months and their parents or caregivers. It creates space for South Coast (La Honda, Loma Mar, San Gregorio, and Pescadero) families to receive in-depth learning about child development, language acquisition, and a parent’s role as their child’s first teacher in life. The program provides developmentally appropriate opportunities for children and adults to experience joy, playfulness, and learning both individually and in groups. It is a bilingual English/Spanish space in which parents and children can feel safe and comfortable. The program honors children’s home language while introducing them to a second one.

What difference does this program make for the families in it?  

All children deserve access to high quality early childhood education and our center provides that for our families. It gives families the opportunity to enroll their children in a safe and nurturing environment where children’s thoughts, behaviors, and creations are welcome and fostered. For families, having this program not only relieves the stress of childcare, but it also gives them an insight to the complexity of early childhood development and the varying stages of growth that children experience—cognitive, social-emotional, and physical. 

We are also able to provide additional services and supports when families need them. For example, through our developmental assessments we were able to identify a child with some severe language delays. We were able to support the family through the referral process, and once the child was fully assessed, we were able to arrange for a speech therapist to do the sessions in the classroom. This was very helpful for the parents. We are happy to report that this little guy is now in preschool and doing well!

How is Sueños Unidos-United Dreams supporting children and families during COVID-19? 

When the shelter-in place order was enacted, Sueños Unidos-United Dreams had to stop operations of the co-op. Instead, we provided our families with weekly, personalized calls to assess their needs and assist them with any questions and/or concerns they may have regarding their child. In addition to this, Puente de la Costa Sur also began a Story Time segment on the organization’s Facebook page. This let us expand the literacy work the co-op did with its children to a larger audience. 

In addition to these efforts, the coop shifted to Learning Kits to continue promoting our toddlers’ development. The Learning Kits contain 1 activity per week for a given month, bilingual instructions on how to carry out the activities, and all the materials needed to carry out the activity. Included in the kit is also some information about how the activity relates to child development. 

Who can families contact if they need assistance?

Lizeth A. Hernandez, Education Director at 650-262-4062 or Lhernandez@mypuente.org