Finding quality, affordable child care can be difficult for financially struggling families.

But there is help.

The San Bernardino County Preschool Services Department provides a comprehensive child care program for children up to age five at sites throughout the County.

“Our goal is to remove any barrier that might prevent children from being successful in school,” said Preschool Services Interim Director Phalos Haire. “We are ultimately trying everything in our power to break the cycle of poverty.”

The Preschool Services Department has been funded by the County since 1965 following the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which provided funding for Head Start -- then just a summer program aimed at giving young children a “head start” when they started school.

Formally established as a County department in 1999, the Preschool Services has continued its legacy of providing high quality learning environments for children and an abundance of resources and opportunities for their parents.

Today the agency -- which gets the bulk of its funding from the federal government -- provides early learning services for more than 6,000 children and pregnant women at more than 60 sites across the County with the help of nonprofit, private and school district partners.

The department recently began partnering with private daycares that serve qualifying children to enhance their educational programs and to provide health and dental screenings.

“The great part about this is the kids who aren’t part of our program benefit from our children being enrolled at the same daycare,” Haire said.

In addition to providing child supervision and regular health screenings, the department works with agencies such as the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, Transitional Assistance Department, the County Library, and the Housing Authority to provide a range of services to parents of preschoolers, including job training, an online high school diploma program, housing assistance and more.

In 2013, the department started a Fatherhood Engagement Program that was aimed at making fathers feel more comfortable in engaging in their child’s education. Some fathers noted that in some education programs they felt invisible during meetings with their children’s teachers.

“It doesn’t make them feel like an equal partner,” Haire said.

Through the program, fathers learn about how their involvement in their children’s lives can positively affect their growth and development and about the negative consequences their lack of involvement can have on youngsters.

The program also offers a list of simple, inexpensive activities fathers can do with their children, such as making bird feeders out of plastic bottles.

“It’s not about the project,” Haire said. “It’s about the process and you being there with your child.”

The effort helped contribute to the creation of the Inland Empire Father Involvement Coalition, which partners with more than 40 other organizations -- including First 5, Sheriff’s Department, Inland Regional Center, and others -- to help educate fathers about how important it is for them to be engaged in all aspects of their child’s life.

For more information, visit hs.sbcounty.gov/psd

(Janice Rutherford represents the 2nd District on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. This column originally appeared in "The Rutherford Report.")

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