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Spotlight On Success: Building Up the Child Care Supply through Faith-Based Organizations

Currently, San Mateo County faces a shortfall of 19,000 child care, preschool, and after school spaces. Existing providers are being squeezed by the Silicon Valley real estate market; renters are seeing unaffordable increases, and those looking to open new sites or expand face challenges such as lack of usable, affordable space and extreme development expenses and timelines. However, many individuals and organizations in the community are learning and developing new childcare spaces.

Opening childcare centers is not new to Heather Hopkins. After noticing a need for more childcare spaces that could accommodate the ever-changing schedules of busy families, she opened Toddle, a flexible childcare center that serves children ages two to six in Menlo Park. Today, Heather has joined forces with Build Up for San Mateo County’s Children to help address the critical shortage of quality childcare facilities in San Mateo County by establishing child care centers on the grounds of existing faith-based organizations.

To Heather, the opportunity for faith-based organizations to help local children and families thrive by closing the educational opportunity gap is one that makes perfect sense. “If faith-based organizations knew the real benefits of using their space for early learning, it would be an obvious next step,” she explains with vigor. “There is perfect alignment with early learning and faith-based organizations because the goal of each is to help a person to be the best they can be.”

With the help of funding from First 5 San Mateo County, and other public and private sources, Build Up has enlisted the help of Heather to work with Build Up’s director, Christine Padilla, to explore opportunities within faith-based organizations, become liaisons, and provide technical support in the community. The team helps to assess an organization’s potential for hosting onsite early learning programs and assist with the permitting, licensing and renovation processes to open (or expand) child care facilities. They also connect faith-based organizations with early learning partners so that they can operate high-quality preschool and child care programs.

Currently, Heather and Christine are working with eight faith-based organizations in the community – St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Sturge Presbyterian Church being two that are farthest along in the process. “If the churches were trying to do this work alone, they’d get so frustrated they would have quit early on,” said Heather. “We’re able to help them overcome the obstacles and understand the many complicated steps in the permitting process. Their vision for providing quality childcare on their church grounds is going to become a reality; it’s a win-win for everyone.”


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20 Years of Community Investment Celebration

On December 17th, First 5 San Mateo County (F5SMC) celebrated its 20 Years of Community Investment Celebration at the San Mateo City Hall.  Many community partners, officials, former and current Commissioners attended the celebration including the former and first F5SMC executive director, Kris Perry.

F5SMC presented the Spotlight on Excellence Awards to Carolina Balladares, Manager of Watch Me Grow and Family Resource Center at Gatepath, and to the Learning Wheels, On the Road to Reading Program from SSF Public Library.  The Spotlight on Excellence Award is presented for exceptional contributions made to San Mateo County children prenatal through age 5 and their families, by a group or individual.

F5SMC also presented community partners awards to San Mateo County Health and Human Services Agency, San Mateo County, and also acknowledged departing Commissioners, Michael Garb and Anne Campbell.


Wildfire Recovery Effort 2018

All of us have been watching the news of the Camp Fire with concern and sadness for those affected. In response, First 5s across California and their early childhood partners are stepping up to aid affected families with babies and young children. These devastating fires have left families, schools, and child care providers without the basic necessities they need to care for our youngest children.

To that end, The California Children and Families Foundation, the sister organization of the First 5 Association of California, has established a relief fund to support First 5 counties in their rebuilding efforts.

In the coming weeks and months, these funds (100%) will be directed to counties for recovery services, such as: mental health support for evacuated families, supplies for damaged family childcare homes and preschools, additional family programs to support children affected by the fires, and temporary child care supports. All donations to this specific fund will be used by First 5s in their communities for recovery efforts focusing on the needs of children 0-5 and their families. Click on the link or the image above to donate.

From all of us at First 5 San Mateo County, we thank you for your support.