Early childhood education workforce gets boost through area nonprofit

The MolinaCares Accord pledges $25,000 Friday, March 3, to the Family Service Association workforce development program with from left, state Assemblymember Corey Jackson and Janet McDonald behind David Demers, Ruthy Argumedo, Jane Adams, Cameron Smyth, Cheryl-Marie Hansberger and state Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh. Valley News/Diane A. Rhodes photo

Family Service Association held a special event Friday, March 3, at its Hemet Child Development Center to announce the launching of an innovative workforce development program designed to increase the number of low-income children that can be served at its centers. The program will also provide meaningful opportunities for local residents to build careers in early childhood education.

This pilot initiative is funded by The Molina Healthcare Charitable Foundation, in collaboration with Molina Healthcare of California, which pledged $25,000 to support the cost of fees and tuition for students to receive their licenses in early childhood education. The center receives funding from federal, state and local governments, First 5, private foundations and through philanthropic donations, such as the ones made by Molina and Bolton.

“During a meeting with MolinaCares Accord, the philanthropic arm of Molina Healthcare, FSA discussed the challenges we are having with staffing our child development centers and an interest in launching a workforce development program,” Cheryl-Marie Hansberger, CEO of Family Service Association, said. “Molina stepped up with a $25,000 donation.”

Ruthy Argumedo, associate vice president of community engagement at Molina Healthcare of California, said, “Molina is honored to collaborate with Family Service Association and improve the health and well-being of families in our region. The program we are launching today will provide meaningful and stable early education jobs, while expanding access to much-needed child care services.”

In addition to the investment by Molina, The Bolton Foundation is awarding the nonprofit organization $10,000 to support its critical services provided for families and children.

“We are thrilled to support FSA’s efforts, which align closely with our mission, and have been impressed with FSA’s breadth, both in terms of the comprehensive services they offer to children and older adults and their reach across Riverside and San Bernardino counties,” Steve Brockmeyer, the West Region president at the Bolton Insurance Company and a member of the Board of Directors for IMA, Bolton’s parent company, said.

“FSA is grateful for these generous donations and our ongoing partnerships with The Molina Healthcare Charitable Foundation and Bolton,” Hansberger said. “We look forward to celebrating a model partnership between our region’s government, private and nonprofit partners to collectively address our region’s early childhood education services.”

Guests at the check presentation ceremony were welcomed by Keena Chandler-Coleman, director of the Hemet center. She said FSA is one of the largest nonprofits in the Inland Empire and one of the largest non-government employers.

“Our motto is compelling: Family Strength Is Community Strength,” she said.

Chandler-Coleman began working for the agency about 10 years ago, starting as a classroom assistant.

“I have 16 years of experience providing quality care for children,” she said. “I enjoy advocating for my children, families and teachers. It is my passion to serve my community.”

Among the many dignitaries attending the event was state Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, representing the 23rd Senate District in California.

“As a former teacher and a working mother, I myself understand how important quality education is for our children and how important childcare services are to our region’s economic stability,” she said.

She said that while some of the center’s child care programs are funded through the state of California, the most effective solutions aren’t provided by the government alone.

“Nonprofits, like FSA, are important partners, especially when it comes to understanding the unique needs of local families. And this is why I selected Family Service Association as my 2022 nonprofit of the year,” Ochoa Bogh said. “Today, I would like to specifically thank both Bolton Insurance and The MolinaCares Accord for hearing FSA’s needs and springing into action. They put their money where their heart is by funding innovation solutions, like the one we will introduce today.”

Cameron Smyth, vice president of government affairs for Molina Healthcare, said when Molina learned of the challenges FSA has faced staffing its child development centers, they were compelled to help.

“If we want to improve the future health outcomes of our young children, it’s important that we launch programs like these to address the disparities in access to early childhood education,” he said, adding that the partnership also supports community members with jobs and education opportunities.

FSA board Chair Dave Demers ended the check presentation ceremony by thanking every organization that has stepped up to assist them.

“I can’t underscore enough the importance of private giving to the long-term health of a nonprofit,” he said. “While our government agencies generously fund nonprofits, the funding is not often enough to meet all of an agency’s operational needs and it’s rarely flexible enough to launch an innovative program like the one we are announcing today.”

With that, a group of children who benefit from the services offered at FSA’s Hemet Child Development Center, enthusiastically sang Raffi’s, “The More We Get Together (the happier we’ll be).”

According to an FSA news release, “the pandemic disrupted nearly all facets of the early childhood education sector. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the childcare sector lost almost 80,000 employees, or about 7.5% of its workforce, due to the pandemic. Like many organizations, FSA has found it overwhelmingly difficult to locate skilled candidates to fill vacancies at its child development centers, despite strong demands for services in the region. Sadly, a shortage of qualified staff directly impacts local families who are already struggling to keep up with the high cost of housing and runaway inflation rates.”

“Parents and guardians need access to quality child care to build strong economic foundations for their families,” Hansberger said. “As one of the largest childcare providers in Riverside County, we feel a strong obligation to push through these challenges as we know families and local employers count on us for economic recovery.”

Hansberger said that FSA was founded in 1953 by the Junior League and local faith-based organizations in the city of Riverside, who had growing concerns when they saw the deterioration of local military families in the early 1950s. The Hemet center opened in 2006 and currently 106 families receive care there. In addition, FSA serves over 13,000 community members each year.

In addition to early childhood education, the nonprofit also offers trauma-informed mental health services, obtainable senior housing, support for home-bound individuals, safe senior/community centers, child abuse prevention education and nutritious meals for older adults. Hansberger said the child care services and senior nutrition services are the most utilized programs.

FSA provides quality care for more than 700 infants and young children each day throughout its 10 child development centers in Riverside County, and with appropriate staffing FSA has the facilities to serve 500 additional children. FSA’s centers are in high-need areas and give working parents or those pursuing education, who qualify, with access to either low- or no-cost quality care for infants to preschoolers. Most caregivers with children enrolled at FSA centers are employed and require two incomes to support their family.

As a part of the workforce development program, participants will be hired to work at Family Service Association while pursuing the college courses needed to achieve state level certification as a classroom assistant or associate teacher. With this increased staffing, FSA will expand enrollment for infants and toddlers at its centers.

FSA also operates centers in Cabazon, Highgrove and Rubidoux plus three in Moreno Valley and three in Riverside.

To learn more about the Workforce Development Program or to volunteer at one of FSA’s Child Development Centers, call 951-686-1096. For more information about FSA, visit http://www.fsaca.org.