As many of you have noticed while driving along Highway 1 during the harvest season, farm workers begin their day in the strawberry fields at 6:00 a.m. and often work for 10-12 hours, sometimes six days a week. From one end of our county to the other, hundreds of these families provide much of the labor necessary for our highly successful central coast agricultural industry, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country. This industry accounts for a very large percentage of the revenue that supports our community’s economy.
Our mission at Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start is to ease the transition of these farm worker families into our community and to encourage the love of learning among the most vulnerable of our children. Because many of these workers have young boys and girls who need child care during these long work days, one way of fulfilling our mission is to provide these children a safe and educational child care program while their parents are at work. Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start, based in Modesto, CA, has been providing child care up to 12 hours a day for thousands of young children ages two months to five years old in four counties—including south Santa Cruz County—for the last twenty-five years.
In these troubled financial times, our Migrant/Seasonal Head Start Program, part of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, offers some good news to our migrant field workers. This March, we will be expanding our services to meet the needs of the migrant children in north Santa Cruz County. While the numbers of migrant families may be fewer, their needs are just as great.
We need your help to find these smaller pockets of farm worker communities scattered throughout Beach Flats, Davenport, Live Oak, and the Santa Cruz mountains. Please reach us at the phone number and email address listed below if you have contacts in the agricultural community or other ideas on how to reach our young farm worker families.
Besides child care, Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start helps new families adjust to our community, helping parents access local resources, explaining social services via home visits and monthly workshops, as well as supporting them with any family crisis. Head Start has been helping low income families since the 1960’s—in fact, it is the sole survivor of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.
In Watsonville, Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start serves close to 800 children primarily through the delegate agency Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD). The PVUSD program has ten child care classrooms located at five elementary schools, but the majority of these children are cared for in more than 70 family child care homes scattered throughout Watsonville.
Contracting with family child care homes is an unusual option in the Head Start world and has been receiving increased attention and support from the Office of Head Start in Washington, DC. Many feel that the smaller scale and cozy home environment is particularly appropriate for the younger children in child care. Another advantage of this model is that it encourages the start and growth of home-based small businesses in our community.
Because these providers also care for other children from their surrounding neighborhoods, working with Migrant/Seasonal Head Start creates a ripple effect that benefits the entire community.
Please contact Maria Castro at (831) 466-5851 and help us to fulfill our mission.