Early Childhood Initiative

The goal of The San Diego Foundation Early Childhood Initiative is to increase access to affordable, quality early care for children in San Diego, strengthening families and supporting a competitive regional workforce.

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 to uplift children, families and childcare providers.

This includes efforts to strengthen the regional ecosystem, increase cross-sector collaboration, and promote systems-level change through strategic and collective impact.


The San Diego Foundation has $250,000 in total funding available for the Early Childhood Initiative 2021 Responsive Grant. Organizations may request a maximum of $25,000 each in funding support.


The 2021 ECI Responsive Grant aims to support nonprofit organizations addressing emerging needs in the San Diego region. According to the December 2020 report Roadmap for Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma represent an urgent public health crisis with wide-reaching health and societal impacts. Informed by this report, as well as by regional data and local stakeholders, this important issue is recognized as one that is impacting many children, families, and service providers that deliver care in San Diego County. Ensuring young children have opportunities to thrive, and families have access to supportive services is crucial to nurturing early childhood development and care. For this reason, the 2021 ECI Responsive Grant will focus on supporting the following strategies: abuse prevention; mental and behavioral health support and early intervention; and health equity.


The following are strategies that support the goal of the ECI grant that will be eligible for funding for the 2021 grant cycle. Organizations will be asked to identify the primary strategy they plan to employ in their application. All applicants are encouraged to address service and support for low-to-moderate income families, and communities experiencing negative social determinants of health.

  1. Abuse Prevention: Strengthen and expand access to prevention, intervention and recovery services for children ages 0-5 and their families, including family strengthening efforts that expand abuse prevention and related services.
  2. Mental/Behavioral Health & Early Intervention: Strengthen and expand access to mental and behavioral health services for children ages 0-5 and their families as part of an effort to increase intervention and developmental support for children and parents, and decrease and mitigate trauma.
  3. Health Equity: Respond to the needs of children ages 0-5 and their families experiencing negative social determinants of health, historic inequities and/or racial bias. These strategies should include access to critical resources and must also identify plans to connect children and families to care for children 0-5 and related services.

Grant Guidelines

Apply for Grant

Proposals are due on Friday, April 23, 2021 by 5:00 p.m. PST.

Learn About 2020 Grantees

Who does this initiative help?

Early childhood care and education is essential to the health, development and future success of San Diego children and the regional economy. Children who are provided with early education opportunities do better in school as they grow older and are more likely to attend college and be prepared for careers in the workforce.

However, more than 38 percent of San Diego children ages 3-5 are not enrolled in preschool or kindergarten and 9,600 children are on a waitlist for subsidized care. Additionally, according to a Harvard University study, access to care and coordination of services in San Diego remain a challenge, and the cost of child care is a major barrier for local families.

Increased early childhood education opportunities for San Diego youth, as well as systems-level change, improve quality of life throughout the region and lead to a stronger economy and more vibrant communities.

The Early Childhood Initiative was launched thanks to a $13.8 million gift from the Guy C. Clum Fund at The San Diego Foundation and builds upon a regional vision that supports both immediate impact initiatives and systems-level change in early education.

Join us in expanding equity and opportunity in San Diego by giving local children and families greater access to quality, affordable early childhood education and care throughout the San Diego region.

Support Early Childhood Education & Development


In order to better inform regional policies and programs, we partnered with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Workforce Partnership to create two reports that build regional understanding and awareness, by strengthening local data and research on early childhood education to better identify challenges and opportunities in San Diego:

Childcare + Workforce Report Icon

Workforce + Childcare
San Diego Workforce Partnership and The San Diego Foundation report

Supporting Families Report Icon

Supporting Working Families
San Diego Regional Chamber Foundation report

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