San Mateo County is experiencing a critical shortage of approximately 19,000 child care, preschool and after-school facilities. The impact of this crisis is felt everywhere and by everyone; not just for parents and families. As CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, or SAMCEDA, I know this is particularly true for our local workforce. From growing traffic to employees needing to miss work unexpectedly — or even worse, being forced to relocate to another city — businesses are hurting.
Rarely acknowledged in our community is how critical the need is for affordable, high quality child care to recruit and retain families. A 2017 report showed that sixteen of our 27 zip codes are now considered “child care deserts.” Gaps between supply and demand persist because of numerous barriers, including the high cost of real estate and construction, lack of availability of qualified staff, and the planning, zoning and permitting process. Before programs can be built or expanded upon, these barriers need to be addressed.
So, what’s next — who is responsible for solving this crisis? An early learning facilities needs assessment report conducted by Brion Economics found that the shortage of early care and education facilities is a multisector issue requiring multiple types of stakeholders, such as school districts, faith-based organizations, corporations, nonprofits, cities and real estate developers.
The responsibility is on all of us to work collaboratively and support children’s learning and development while creating sustainable systems for our local economy to thrive. Fortunately, leaders in the community put their heads together in 2018 to develop “Build Up for San Mateo County’s Children.”
With an ambitious goal of increasing the child care supply by 3,000 spaces in 2020, Build Up is engaging local companies to encourage them to create child care facilities for their employees, track local real estate and identify resources to build new facilities, and generate funding to renovate existing facilities. Build Up is also working with cities and the county to improve policies for child care development and provide technical assistance to child care operators.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. has become Build Up’s first corporate donor with a $50,000 grant for its Child Care and Preschool Capital Fund. As a leading employer in the county, Gilead is well-positioned to understand the challenges working families face and model employer best practices in contributing solutions to this shortage.
Beyond Build Up, other members of SAMCEDA serve as prime examples of how to create more sustainable systems. Each year, Oracle provides funding to reserve enrollment priority spaces for their employees at Shores Child Care Center in Redwood City, and Genentech has contracted with Bright Horizons since 1989 to operate two large employee centers in South San Francisco. The County of San Mateo also contracts with Bright Horizons to operate a 92-space child center that prioritizes county employees at reduced rates. Funding from these partnerships in turn helps expand existing operations, as evidenced by the recent 100+ space expansion of Shores Child Care Center.
A recent study estimated a need for $420 million in capital funding to fill the gap of early care and education spaces. Build Up is seeking additional philanthropic contributions at any level from individual and corporate donors to grow the Child Care and Preschool Capital Fund and meet the full capital needs. Donors can support specific projects or contribute to the general fund.
Build Up’s leadership is provided by First 5 San Mateo County, the Child Care Coordinating Council (4Cs) of San Mateo County, the County of San Mateo, the San Mateo County Office of Education and the Center for Early Learning at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. For more information visit buildupsmc.com.
Rosanne Foust is president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association. Ms. Foust serves on the boards for First 5 San Mateo County and Build Up Advisory.