Corazón Healdsburg has a history of connecting Healdsburg and north county residents to a bevy of assistance programs, strengthening the Latino voice in Healdsburg and creating dynamic cultural events for all to enjoy. Over the years they’ve also provided key child care and early childhood development programs amid a shortage of child care resources in Sonoma County.

According to a 2019 report by the Child Care Planning Council of Sonoma County (4Cs) and the Sonoma County Office of Education, Sonoma County suffers a shortage of almost 5,000 child care spaces across all ages.

Child care financial assistance is also sparse. According to a report issued in 2019 by First 5 Sonoma County, 3,100 infants qualify for subsidized child care but only 445 spaces are available.

Logan Morales

Pasitos program graduate Logan Morales.

Corazón is working to bolster affordable, and in some cases free, child care services in the area with four childhood development and child care programs that are run in collaboration with several county-based organizations.

The programs include Avance Pasitos, adult education, free child care and the Early Childhood Workforce Development Program.

“We do a lot of partnerships with existing organizations. A lot of it was pre-COVID just because it has been hard and we haven't been able to get back into the office quite yet to resume as we did before. Pre-COVID we had a strong partnership with Avance Pasitos through Community Action Partnership,” said Marcy Flores, a program manager with Corazón. 

Avance is a class for parents with children from newborns to age 3. Through the program, parents learn about early childhood development, learning activities and parenting.

The corresponding program Pasitos, is a playgroup/care program for parents and their children ages 2.5 to 4. The playgroup focuses on fun activities that support school readiness.

“They work with the parent and the child simultaneously,” Flores said of the program. “We would celebrate their graduation and moving on, then they would just stay with us, with our preschool, and we would work with them (students) to get them ‘kinder’ ready.”

Additionally, Corazón offers free child care for anyone who participates in their adult education classes, since child care is often a barrier to adult education.

Corazón’s adult education classes include English as a second language and financial literacy.

Cheryl Morales, a mother of two, said her kids loved attending adult education child care.

“They gave me the opportunity to go back to school and pursue better learning in computer skills and child development. I gained all this thanks to their child care center. My kids loved going. Every time I would go to class my oldest son would be learning his shapes, numbers, reading, singing, etc. And I would be able to check in with my baby girl when I needed to,” Morales said.

In partnership with Sonoma County Adult Education, Sonoma County 4Cs and the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), Corazón also offers a program that helps participants obtain an in-home day care license in order to create child care programs from home.

“What we did at Corazón was provide the space, provide the outreach and provide the financial incentive for families to be able to take time off work to join this program,” Flores said. “Since there is a lack of child care services in this area, we decided that this would be an amazing opportunity for our community.”

Corazón’s child care center and related child care programs have been on hold due to COVID-19.

Flores said they’re in constant communication with the city of Healdsburg, SRJC and Sonoma County Adult Education in order to determine when they can restart their programs.

“As of now we do not have our child care center open because of COVID, but it is something that we are in continuous conversation about with city partners to see how we can support particularly the 0 to 3 range because a lot of our families are struggling to go back to work or go back to school because of childcare, so that (child care) is going to be our focus when we start back up,” Flores said.­­­

Staff Writer

Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine has been a staff writer with The Healdsburg Tribune and SoCoNews for over two years. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism.

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