First 5 Association Responds to Master Plan for Early Learning and Care

First 5 Association of California issued the following statement in response to the release on Tuesday of the California Health and Human Services Agency’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: Making California For All Kids. The following quotes can be attributed to Melissa Stafford Jones, executive director of the Association:

We applaud the Governor’s commitment to the development and learning needs of young children, which is a sound investment in California’s future that will yield benefits for all.

The COVID crisis has made more extreme a long-term need to fundamentally reform the child care system, which has long been under-funded and reliant on the low wages of an essential workforce. We look forward to seeing the imperiled child care field supported in concrete ways through this plan, both immediately and in the future, so California can one day meet the full child care needs of its youngest children and their families.

We also welcome the implementation of universal preschool for four-year-olds; expanded Pre-K for income-eligible three-year-olds and three-year-olds with disabilities; increased wages for child care workers; streamlined eligibility and administration of infant-toddler care; and improved data sharing, all of which are long overdue. We look forward to learning more about the financing and timing for these initiatives, and how racial equity will be embedded in their implementation.

We’re very pleased by the call for greater wage replacement and longer duration of leave in the Paid Family Leave program, which is an important recognition of the link between early learning and family wellbeing. We appreciate that the plan acknowledges the importance of a whole child approach. Children learn best when they live in supported environments, free of trauma and toxic stress, with access to health and developmental services.There is more we can do in California to address the critical factors that influence a child’s ability to learn, such as mental health and trauma, family economics, systemic racism, and physical health. We are eager to work with the administration and legislators on implementing the current plan, and on additional plans to enhance the child and family environment that are so integral to early learning.