Oh, what a difference a year makes.
In January 2017, Yanci Panameno was “saddened” when Governor Jerry Brown released his budget proposal for the 2017–18 fiscal year, which would have suspended funding for nearly 3,000 new preschool slots in the state. At the time, the child development specialist and mother of three in the San Fernando Valley was struggling to find affordable child care for her 2-1/2 year old son, Michael.
“I see the need for families in our community to have home visiting.” -Yanci Panameno
“It’s a real problem, not just for us, but for so many families in the community,” Panameno said then.
This year, however, when the governor released his proposed budget for 2018–19 in January — which includes hundreds of millions in new dollars to benefit young children and their families — Panameno summed up her reaction to the increased funding in two words: “Like, wow.”
Panameno was pleased that the governor’s proposed $190.3 billion spending plan builds upon past investments to support families and also outlines the creation of new programs to support young children and their families. Of particular interest to Panameno were:
- An increase of 2,959 slots for full-day state preschool, beginning April 1, 2018
- The Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program, providing $167 million one-time funding to increase the availability of early care and education for children prenatal to age 5, especially low-income children and children with exceptional needs
- $26.7 million for a Home Visiting Initiative pilot program through 2021 to help parents in the CalWORKs program reach self-sufficiency by improving family engagement practices, supporting healthy development of young children and preparing for employment
“I see the need for families in our community to have home visiting,” Panameno said. In addition to the stress that comes from becoming a new parent, she said a lot of families in the community are dealing with stress from immigration fears to increases in rent. “The impact of stress brings families down emotionally. That stress reflects on the children. Home visiting can teach parents how to cope with stress. When we focus on the mental health of parents, we have the ability to help them raise healthy children.”
Home visiting is one of First 5 LA’s signature investments. This includes Welcome Baby — a free, voluntary program for Los Angeles County pregnant women and new moms that provides information, support and a trusted partner to help them through the journey of pregnancy and early parenthood.
Thanks to additional funding that came through last year to fund new preschool slots after the governor and state legislature agreed to a final budget last summer, Panameno was able to finally enroll her son in preschool last fall. And while her own son is now benefitting from early education, Panameno knows how important affordable, available preschool slots are for other families in her community, where she serves on the First 5 LA-funded Best Start Panorama City & Neighbors Community Partnership.