Creating strong partnerships to benefit children and families was the focus of CCRC’s San Bernardino Policy Forum, which brought together local and state leaders, child care providers, early education students, and engaged community members. Attendees engaged with panelists to understand how community partnerships can better engage in early care and education to support the well-being of young children and their families.
Opening comments made by California State University San Bernardino President Tomas D. Morales touched on the importance of quality early education. He highlighted the benefits of programs like the university’s Infant Toddler Lab School, which is both an exemplary environment for young children and supports university students with technical training. Quality Start San Bernardino County, a workforce development and quality improvement program for those serving children zero to five, was also featured in his speech.
Panelists included Oaktree Learning Center Owner and Executive Director Jennifer Carter, California Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of Schools Sarah Neville-Morgan, SBCSS Director of Early Education and Development Heather Smith, First 5 San Bernardino Executive Director Karen Scott, and San Bernardino County Preschool Services Department Assistant Director Arlene Molina.
Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes also addressed the audience and introduced Assembly Bill 596, a rate reform bill that would increase provider rates. CCRC San Bernardino Regional Director James Moses described the assemblywoman as “an incredible advocate in the county, present in her community and ready to understand needs and provide services.”
Panelists were pressed on topics including using state initiatives like Transitional Kindergarten, Universal Pre-K, and mental health to address early education and build accountability systems. Agreed upon by all is the need for innovation, inclusion, and collaboration as essential components of serving children and families in San Bernardino County. Panelists also agreed that the history of partnership building and collaboration is one thing that sets the county apart, calling it a “true strength” that showcases a “we can do this” mindset. Carter credited the “scrappy” nature of the county and its willingness to see a need and respond accordingly as one its greatest strengths. “We have this moment in time to become what this country envies, wants to be,” she said.
For the most successful childhood outcomes, panelists argued, there must be integrated systems of support with children nested in the center, surrounded by supports for the family, and bumpered by community, which includes public policy. The following were outlined as key elements of partnership:
- Platforming parents, listening to their needs and responding in tangible ways.
- Clearly communicating the options to parents.
- Innovation – creating new systems that improve communication and actionability.
- Utilizing community skill sets to address these needs.
One attendee described the discussion as exciting and hopeful. “I heard we have folks who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work together. I heard the importance of collaboration, and I am excited to see where we will be a few years from now,” said Elaina Holley, Early Learning & Development Specialist Local Planning Council Coordinator at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.
CCRC Government Relations Director Dr. LaWanda Wesley closed the program with a call to action. The Masai tribe in Africa have a traditional greeting that translates to “How are the children?” Wesley elaborated, adding: “Our well-being is tied to the children’s well-being. Allow community partners to shape children.”