The Heising-Simons Foundation’s Education program invests in opportunities that seek to break the link between demography and outcomes. One area of focus for this strategy is elevating family voices to improve public services for families of young children in California, and ensure children receive the early experiences that support their long-term learning and development.
In 2018, the Foundation supported VIVA Social Impact Partners to gather stories from families, including their perspectives, experiences, and opinions on navigating public services, highlighting some of the challenges and promises California’s families see for their children and their future. These stories are now online at California Family Voices.
Using focus groups and interviews in three California counties—Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Mateo—California Family Voices captures lived experiences, highlighting the significance of including family perspectives in the discussion around systems change and better educational outcomes for children. It’s important to consider how California’s public support systems are affecting families and how they understand and experience the landscape of services available to them.
VIVA Social Impact Partners focused the project on public assistance programs, as nearly a quarter of California’s young children live in poverty. Access to these programs is critical as they allow families to receive support from public agencies, and as a result, create better lives for their children.
California Family Voices tells families’ stories in their own words. Visit the website to meet these families under the “Meet the Families” pages, or explore different aspects of navigating public services on the “Public Service Perspectives” pages.
There is still a significant amount of work to do to ensure families, as the true experts about their children, are front and center when it comes to early childhood. Join us in engaging with families and learning from them to inform our everyday work.
Critical Factors Affecting School Readiness
Public supports have significant and lasting effects on the children who benefit from them. While multiple factors affect children’s ability to thrive in early education settings and prepare them for school, research shows that the factors most likely to impact school readiness and early academic success are:
- Adequate prenatal care and healthy birth weight
- Health insurance access and utilization
- Healthy development
- High-quality early childhood education
- Optimal language development
- Social-emotional development
- Consistent parenting and positive discipline
- Family income
These critical factors affecting school readiness are supported by federal, state, and local public services that can give families access to free or low-cost health care, food and nutrition, early childhood education, parenting tools and supports, and financial assistance.