Even before the pandemic, as many as 335,000 children in San Diego County who needed childcare lacked access. Photo courtesy United Domestic Workers of America, AFSCME Local 3930

The San Diego Foundation Thursday announced it has given $1.3 million in grants to eight nonprofit programs in San Diego County through its Early Childhood Initiative in order to increase access to affordable, quality care for children, strengthen families and support jobs.

The grants, which range from $150,000 to $200,000, are intended for service and facility expansions, improved access to early intervention and behavioral health support and resources for disproportionately impacted children and families.

In a report released earlier this year, the foundation and the San Diego Workforce Partnership established a link between childcare and economic development. The report outlined how the optimal childcare and workforce system requires everyone — including local governments, school districts, parents and organizations — to work together to improve San Diego’s workforce.

Since then, the organizations claim COVID-19 has seriously impacted childhood development by increasing inequities in learning opportunities and widening the digital divide. Even before the pandemic, the report showed that as many as 335,000 children in San Diego County who needed childcare lacked access.

“We knew that childcare providers and families alike were facing obstacles before the emergence of a global pandemic and now, as a result of the economic and health crisis, those challenges have increased significantly,” said Katie Rast, director of community impact at The San Diego Foundation. “Right now, it’s critical that we invest in programs and organizations that will ensure all San Diego children and families receive equitable access to quality and affordable care.”

As more childcare providers have had to close down or limit numbers, the demand for quality, affordable care has only grown while the supply has declined, the foundation stated.

In the past year, The San Diego Foundation has granted more than $5 million through its Early Childhood Initiative and COVID-19 Community Response Fund for children, families and childcare providers.

The Early Childhood Initiative grants were awarded to the following nonprofit programs:

— $150,000 for Educational Enrichment Systems, Inc. to increase instructional quality and expand access to resources at three full-day centers in the South Bay, providing for more than 200 additional low-income children;

— $150,000 for Episcopal Community Services to expand behavioral health services for children up to 5 years old;

— $150,000 for Family Health Centers of San Diego to increase screening for adverse childhood experiences in two clinics serving low-income children;

— $150,000 for Neighborhood House Association to offer full-time annual preschool scholarships to eligible San Diego working families experiencing financial hardship;

— $200,000 for Parent Institute for Quality Education with Chicano Federation of San Diego County to implement free training for early childhood care professionals;

— $150,000 for San Diego State University Research Foundation to allow the university’s Center for Excellence in Early Development to serve as a bridge between early childhood education, mental health, and pediatrics;

— $150,000 for Somali Family Service of San Diego to promote early childhood health access, service navigation, and equity through a culturally sensitive and linguistically informed lens; and

— $200,000 for Southwestern College Foundation with International Rescue Committee to expand the number of individuals who receive training by the Southwestern College Family Studies department and obtain its Family Childcare Business Provider Certificate.

— City News Service

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