Early Childhood Education & Development

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, according to a 2014 study by Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, 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 wait list for subsidized care. In addition, 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, will improve quality of life throughout the region and lead to a stronger economy and more vibrant communities.

Investment in early childhood education stems from a multi-year partnership with San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency through the Strong Families, Thriving Communities initiative. This work revealed that disparities in our child welfare and juvenile justice systems stem from negative social determinants of health, including poor access to education for children.

The Early Childhood Education & Development Initiative is supported by the Guy C. Clum Fund at The San Diego Foundation. Thanks to a $13.8 million gift, the Early Childhood Education & Development Initiative will build upon a regional vision that supports both immediate impact initiatives and systems-level change in early education.

In the Media

Strengthening the Region

Investing in early childhood education and development, particularly for at-risk children, can drastically reduce social costs such as those related to poor health, poverty and crime.

A critical time to shape productivity in a child’s life is from birth to age five, when the brain develops rapidly to build the foundation of cognitive and character skills.

At-risk children who do not participate in high-quality early education programs* are:

  • 25 percent more likely to drop out of school
  • 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent
  • 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education
  • 60 percent more likely to never attend college
  • 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime

*Source: Gender Equity in Early Childhood Education by Kelly Grace and Dana Stiles.


Children who have been exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk of substance abuse, failure in school and aggressive behavior later in life. All these factors affect the health of our community and economy.

Thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Guy Clum, South Bay Community Services has been able to expand the number of youth served by the Mi Escuelita Therapeutic Preschool, a facility designed specifically for children affected by domestic violence and abuse to help break the cycle of violence, help children heal and start on the right path for school. In addition, SAY San Diego has built a workplace-based early childhood education center to support local children and families, while serving as a showcase site to advance a broader, regional program with other San Diego employers.

In order to better inform regional policies and programs, the Early Childhood Education & Development Initiative at The San Diego Foundation has 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:

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

smiling woman with toddler

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