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Caring for Yourself to Care for Your Family

On any given day, especially during a global pandemic, self-care is probably the last thing on a parent’s mind. Balancing the responsibilities of family, household and career can make self-care feel out of reach altogether. However, now more than ever, making your own well-being a priority is the best gift you can give your family. Creating time to care for yourself puts you in a better position to offer comfort and encouragement to your child when they need it most.

Paying attention to your needs as an individual can help you best care for your child and caring for yourself can take on many different forms. Self-care may look like taking a few minutes to go on a walk, finding time to listen to some of your favorite music or simply taking a few moments to yourself to breathe. You can even consider incorporating some of these things into your schedule with your child, allowing you to practice self-care without needing to find separate time away from your kids.

As time and resources for self-care might be limited, or non-existent, we encourage you to practice caring for yourself in some accessible and time efficient way.

Keep Routines  

When possible, keeping routines for you and your child can be looked at as a form of self-care. Keeping some structure and normalcy can help prevent some of the stress that comes with the unknown of COVID-19. By keeping a routine, you may even be able to find an extra few minutes in the day for yourself to talk a walk or sit outside! But make sure to be kind to yourself if your routine doesn’t always go as planned.

Check-In With Yourself Daily

Practicing being compassionate with yourself is a great form of self-care, and one that can be done ongoing throughout the day. Being kind and patient with yourself, especially as we deal with the uncertainty of COVID-19, can help slow things down and can help you best care for those around you.

Reach Out

Do you have friends who are parents, or a family member you can talk to?  If you are feeling overwhelmed, try to take a few minutes to call, text or video chat someone you trust. Reaching out for support is an act of caring for you and your family.

Remember, supporting your emotional well-being is important to be able to support your child’s emotional well-being. You are deserving of the same love, patience and understanding that you provide your family with.

Visit our COVID-19 page for more information on self-care and other helpful resources for you and your family.

Child Care Was Always Essential

Written by Christine Padilla, Director of Build Up for San Mateo’s Children

San Mateo County, along with five neighboring counties, were the first in the nation to implement shelter-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We couldn’t be prouder of our local leadership. As we led then, I hope we will continue to lead to ensure all our communities recover together. Through this difficult time, the child care industry has risen to navigate through this public health crisis. We are certain that one thing rings true; child care is, and always has been, essential. Child care is critical community infrastructure that is connected to every aspect of our economy and overall community wellbeing. Across San Mateo County, we have a growing shortage of child care and preschool spaces; close to 11,000 spaces are needed for children ages birth to four years old, with a projected need of 14,000 by 2025. Now more than ever, we must work to preserve all existing spaces, or this already fragile sector may not be there to help us recover.

While we know disparities have always existed in our county, this pandemic has heightened the awareness of the vulnerabilities in our community. The child care sector has long been overstrained and undervalued with predominantly women-owned small businesses and nonprofits working to meet the needs of the community. Child care is costly to operate and families often struggle to pay for it, while providers carve out at best a “living wage”. To make it through recent closures and economic hardships, child care providers are in need of substantial support. Without support, families may find their provider unable to reopen when they return to work.

We greatly appreciate the initial investments made through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help mitigate the impact of the current public health crisis on children, families, and child care providers. The emergency funding provided through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), along with other supports provided in the package, such as unemployment insurance provisions and loans for small businesses, are a critical first step in helping child care providers and families survive the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19. As the scope and magnitude of the situation evolves, it is clear that additional focused support is needed that reflects the child care provider’s essential status in providing care to the children of front-line workers and serving as the foundation for future recovery.

Child care’s essential status deserves and needs dedicated relief funding, with flexibility for even the smallest center owners and family child care home-based providers who may not have accountants or financial advisors to assist with accessing benefits in the relief package. Early education advocates are asking Congress to include $50 billion in emergency funding to address the specific needs of early care and education providers, families and children in a fourth relief bill. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a long-time underinvestment in child care infrastructure. Our community and economy need child care providers to function, and now is the time to rise up and support this unique sector.

While legislators consider additional stimulus packages, locally, we have a rare opportunity to not only repair, but reimagine a sustainable child care system for San Mateo County. Now is the time to do what our county does best: collaborate, coordinate and support each other. I hope this call for federal funding sparks local government and philanthropy to work towards a timelier solution to not only preserve, but build up, our invaluable child care system.

Christine Padilla is the director of Build Up for San Mateo’s Children, a cross-sector initiative designed to grow and improve the supply of child care and preschool facilities in San Mateo County.

Spotlight on Success: Challenging Communities to Change the Child Care Crisis

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How can San Mateo County close the gap of 19,000 needed child care, preschool and after school spaces? According to Christine Padilla and Sarah Kinahan of Build Up for San Mateo County’s Children (Build Up SMC), there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to this problem—every city and person requires something different. And to make a real difference, these leaders also know that solutions must be practical.

Build Up SMC is a critical initiative that is working to grow and improve the supply of child care and preschool facilities in San Mateo County. Utilizing a multi-pronged approach, Build Up is seeking to alleviate the child care shortage through the reuse of existing available spaces, inclusion of child care in new developments, partnerships with large employers, and generating new capital funds.

Build Up’s approach goes beyond Early Childhood Education (ECE)—at its core is multi-sector relationship building that improves the lives of families, the infrastructure of the community and the economies of cities within San Mateo County. “With such a significant shortage, we needed to move outside the ECE circle, we needed more people to be an ‘advocate’ for the cause because it affects us all,” Padilla said.

Leaders within the organization focus on child care as a benefit that supports employee retention and productivity, along with creating a sustainable work-life balance for parents and caregivers. Kinahan brings attention to the fact that the child care crisis is an economic and community issue that impacts overall life potential.

“It takes a lot of leg work and relationship-building to sustain progress,” Kinahan said. “It’s not often something that’s on a city council’s radar, but as soon as we share the impact the child care crisis has on everyone, it’s eye-opening for them.” Child care is part of community infrastructure, interrelated with housing and transit. According to Padilla and Kinahan it is about taking care of our environment, our workforce, our children and their future. Build Up envisions child care located close to homes, jobs and transit that makes the community better as a whole, for everyone in it.

Tackling this issue city by city and person by person is not accomplished without great difficulties. As Padilla acknowledges, different cities have different needs and challenges and San Mateo County is unique with vast disparities across the county that can’t always be seen. It can sometimes take time to get buy-in from cities and achieve the funding that is needed to tackle this crisis. To continue progress, further support from cities and communities is needed.

In the next year, Build Up SMC will be taking on these challenges with a variety of strategies, including growing its capital fund. Gilead Sciences, Inc., Build Up’s first corporate donor, recently provided a $50,000 grant to Build Up SMC. Using this funding, Build Up SMC will be rolling out mini grants for small at-home child care facilities so these small businesses can increase their capacities. These exciting opportunities coincide with SB234, new state legislation that makes it easier for licensed family homes to expand the number of spaces they offer.

And perhaps most importantly, Build Up SMC will continue with expanded community awareness and relationship-building in order to create change across the county. “Helping different sectors recognize the interconnectedness between child care, the economy, and workforce, as well as overall community wellness, is essential to move forward. The Child Care shortage is not an isolated problem and it impacts communities on numerous levels.” Padilla said.

Learn how you can be an advocate for Build Up SMC and sign up for the First 5 San Mateo County newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news.

Spotlight on Success: Opening Doors for Children at Puente de la Costa Sur

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All children in San Mateo County deserve to learn in nurturing, safe and affordable child care, staffed by qualified child care professionals. Knowing that early childhood education is one of the most critical factors to future success, organizations like First 5 San Mateo County (F5SMC) are working hard to make that a reality.

An exemplary catalyst of creating solutions for local families is Puente de la Costa Sur (Puente), an active part of San Mateo County’s rural community. In 2016, Puente opened one of the area’s first bilingual parent cooperatives, “Sueños Unidos” (“United Dreams”). This co-op model allowed local volunteers—such as parents, grandparents and aunts—to access affordable child care while assisting Early Childhood Education professionals. With guidance from professional teaching staff, volunteers come one day a week and provide care on a rotating basis.

With the help of F5SMC, the co-op’s childcare center was able to obtain the funding necessary to fully support program operation within months of opening. Looking forward, Puente has its sights set on becoming a licensed early childhood education provider. In the meantime, they ensure quality programming by providing professional development opportunities for staff through F5SMC and the San Mateo County Office of Education, along with additional programs for children ages 0-5.

One of these programs is “Abriendo Puertas” (“Opening Doors”). This special program gives support to parents as leaders with a ten-session curriculum delivered through popular education tools in partnership with the La Honda-Pescadero School District and community parents. In addition, Puente provides home visits to families with children ages 03. The program also gives parents and children access to safety net services, health and wellness services and developmental education.

It was through Abriendo Puertas that Puente staff first met 1-year-old Eddie*. From the very beginning, they were concerned about Eddie’s health, as he appeared very thin and low energy, with little language skills for his age. When he joined the childcare co-op, teachers referred Eddie’s parents to a pediatrician but were unable to obtain enough information from them to truly help. Puente staff then decided to accompany Eddie’s parents to one of his appointments and later determined that he was extremely anemic. With the help of a variety of vitamins and iron-rich foods, Eddie was back on the road to a healthy start. Eddie has not only gained weight, but he now laughs, runs, and even plays with other kids.

*Names changed to protect privacy

First 5 San Mateo County on PenTV Voice

May 1, 2019

Executive Director, Kitty Lopez, visited Peninsula TV Voice to update the community about First 5 San Mateo County’s investment in the community over the last 20 years and where it is headed in the future.