Last week marked the Week of the Young Child, a time to honor educators and those who make a difference in young children’s lives. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this celebration, established in 1971 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to focus attention on the needs of young children and their families. The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and San Mateo County Board of Education both approved resolutions last week recognizing the Week of the Young Child. Their proclamations underscore the importance of this vital human infrastructure as well as the service of early childhood providers, many of whom have remained open throughout the pandemic.
The COVID19 Child Care Response Team has created a special “Child Care Hero” decal celebrating early learning professionals. This group, a coalition of local partners in San Mateo County, has provided resources and information to child care providers since March 2020. They also oversaw local funding initiatives, including the Child Care Relief Fund and Learning Hubs Expansion Fund, championed by Supervisors Dave Pine and Carole Groom and seeded with CARES Act funds allocated by San Mateo County.
According to Michelle Blakely, Deputy Director of First 5 San Mateo County, “This week, we recognize and honor our child care workforce for their sacrifice and service.” Angel Barrios, Executive Director of Izzi (formerly IHSD), a Head Start provider serving nearly 800 under-resourced children, “Our teachers really are heroes. We hope these decals will demonstrate our sincere appreciation and also increase awareness on the importance of the work that they do out of their passion for children and education.”
“The Week of the Young Child provides an opportunity for all of us to renew our commitment to ensuring that all young children and their families have access to high quality child care, said Supervisor Dave Pine. “These investments can mitigate the effects of poverty, eliminate the school readiness gap and lead to positive outcomes for all children.” Sarah Kinahan, Child Care Partnership Council Coordinator, echoed this sentiment, stating that we must “focus attention on the importance of early learning, inspire policymakers and leaders to place young children at the forefront of public policy and education initiatives, and highlight the early learning programs and services that help children succeed in school and in life.”
These investments cannot wait. According to Christine Padilla, the Director of Build Up for San Mateo County’s Children, “Investments in early learning and care are prerequisites for our economy and our community to re-open and thrive.” Over the past year, businesses, parents and local leaders have realized that child care is essential. Underscoring this point, Dayna Chung, Executive Director of Community Equity Collaborative said, “Since the pandemic, 3 million women nationwide have left the workforce due to child care shortages, driving participation to a 33 year low and leaving 40% of businesses unable to fill vacancies.” Child care advocates, including Peninsula Family Service CEO Heather Cleary, point to chronic underfunding and systemic inequities as additional imperatives for recognizing the sacrificial service of this under-resourced workforce and urgency for increased support and investment.
4C’s of San Mateo County will be mailing the decals to child care providers and will coordinate with other partners on distribution, according to Executive Director David Fleishman. If you would like to request a decal for yourself or your organization, email First 5 SMC, sponsor of the ‘child care heroes’ decal, at email@example.com. You can click here to download a free Child Care Hero Zoom Background and e-Decal. To learn more about ways you can support investments to grow and improve child care access in San Mateo County, visit https://buildupsmc.com. You can also learn tips for speaking up for kids at https://sanmateo4cs.org/families/advocacy/.