Improving Children’s Well-Being

As we strive to create a sense of normalcy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major concern for Episcopal Community Services (ECS) is the well-being of the region’s children. The loneliness, loss and gaps in learning, socialization and physical and behavioral health care are resulting in long-term challenges – some we may not fully understand yet.

ECS is uniquely positioned to help improve the care San Diego’s children receive by increasing access to affordable early childhood education through its Head Start programs and strengthening the mental and behavioral health of children and their families through Para Las Familias.

“ECS has seen the impacts of the pandemic on children firsthand – stress, isolation, education gaps and personal loss,” Elizabeth Fitzsimons, CEO of ECS shared with GB Magazine. “The inequalities which existed before the pandemic have only been exacerbated as shutdowns unfolded and children’s primary care providers were under magnitudes of stress. We now face an even larger chasm in longstanding inequalities for our youngest community members.”

This summer, ECS facilitated a discussion with key leaders – including Alethea Arguilez, M.A., with First 5 San Diego; Willough Jenkins, M.D., with Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and UC San Diego; and Erin Hogeboom with San Diego for Every Child – to explore how children are faring in their post-pandemic reality.

“The kids are not all right,” said Hogeboom. “The economic inequities that already existed for our disenfranchised communities have been heightened, and families continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

“By age three, a child’s brain has developed to 80%. By age five, their brain is developed 90%,” shared Arguilez. “There is a finite window of opportunity to support our little ones and we cannot assume they are resilient enough to heal on their own. Children need proactive support and resources to overcome the challenges of the past two years.”

ECS has 17 locations throughout southern San Diego County for Head Start and early Head Start, which increases access to early childhood education and development services for more than 2,000 young children in income-eligible families.

The organization’s bicultural and bilingual Para Las Familias serves 250 children and their families to strengthen the foundational bonds that will set kids on track for healthy relationships, self-confidence and success in school and beyond. San Diego Foundation and the Dr. Suess Foundation recently awarded ECS a $70,000 grant to support Para Las Familias and help ECS continue to provide these critical mental and behavioral health services at no-cost.

“Being able to help children from the earliest age will allow them to reach their unlimited potential,” shared Fitzsimons. “For every child we serve, we see the immediate impact in their family. From there, the ripple effect is exponential. As we see an increasing demand for our programs, we are seeking new partnerships and opportunities to deepen our impact and allow us to help even more children in our community.”

For more information, visit www.ecscalifornia.org.