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For the Littles

by Shelly Wong, Founder of It-Takes-A-Village

My fondest memories of the Pandemic are picking up a packet of freshly laundered hand-sewn Little Libby fabric masks for the 2-5 year old’s and delivering them to  Wu Yee Children's Services.  The adorable fabric selected by our makers for occasions such as Halloween or Easter adorned with pumpkins or bunnies, were gifts of love.   The hardship of the Pandemic for us Villagers has receded into distant memory, but for our recipient families at Wu Yee, their reality lives on.


Wu Yee touches the lives of over 1,000 families by providing early childcare education and family support services.   Education and childcare are the focus of what Wu Yee strives to do but to be successful, their support includes the whole child, including providing meals and medical care.  21% of Wu Yee’s families are experiencing homelessness, 63% of their income levels are 100% below the federal poverty line, the remaining 16% are eligible for public assistance, are in foster care, or have family incomes between 100-130% of the federal poverty line.


We all know how important childcare and preparation for Kindergarten is to give our children a leg up with an eye toward the best university when our children are just 5.  But the U.S. does not offer universal childcare and California does not either.  The average cost of childcare for two children in San Francisco is $4,000 per family.  Nearly 60% of the children in San Francisco live in families that struggle to afford childcare.   For many, choices are made between choosing between housing, career or childcare.  The U.S. ranks second to last out of a list of 41 rich countries for accessibility, affordability, quality of childcare, and paid leave policies.  Most countries on the rich list fund $14,000 a year to pay for toddler care.  The U.S. funds about $200 a year through childcare tax credits.  


Our society is paying for the lack of quality universal childcare.  Studies have shown that support from birth, such as what Wu Yee provides, has real long-term effects such as keeping children in school longer, through high school and college.  Students will have higher test scores through age 21 and will have better grades in reading and math.  The long-term return on investment from the costs of preschool ranges from 200-700% multiplying into higher paid salaries and less involvement in crime.   


We are trying to fix so many societal ills.  Keeping children in school K-12, expanding opportunities to go to college, working on justice and prison reform.  The truth is that without quality universal childcare, the gaps start at birth and the chasms get wider.  In California, the biggest achievement gap is preparedness for Kindergarten.  Unicef has noted that access to early caring and education experiences outside the home can have an equalizing effect on children’s development and life chances, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Social science research shows that quality preschool disrupts the preschool-to-prison pipeline. 


A program such as Wu Yee’s tries to close the universal childcare gap.  They believe education is a basic human right, but without universal public childcare, not everyone has those rights. In 2022, Wu Yee provided 650,000 nutritious meals and snacks to children, $20M in subsidies to help families pay for childcare, 471 families in their Early Learning Programs received emergency or crisis intervention and they helped create 288 new childcare spots in their family childcare homes.   Their support includes 12 Head Start and Early Head Start federally funded income-based early childcare programs.  Yet there are still 3,000 children in San Francisco alone who qualify for income-based childcare and are on waiting lists.  


I am reaching out to our 500 Villagers who volunteered to give their time, treasure, and love during the Pandemic to others in need.  I hope that although we are back in our busy schedules, we still have big hearts for the Littles who need us.  We have chosen Wu Yee and organizations such as Wu Yee to provide in-kind donations, such as what the Village has been great at doing.  We hope to start with donation drives twice a year, to provide goods that their families need.  Our first is our Holiday Toy Drive of 2023.  Toys for 0-3 years old are all educational, necessary for their development of small and large motor, and spatial skills.   Please join the Village in always making a difference to the underserved.  I hope to meet you at the Toy Box!


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