Early Learning

We support children and families by teaching and keeping children safe through our Early Learning Program. This allows parents to work, interview, or build job skills.

Our Early Learning Program provides children (ages 0-5) from low-income families including those who are homeless, with a safe, nurturing environment where they can learn, socialize, and thrive. We offer nutritious meals, high-quality curriculum, and targeted therapeutic interventions for children who have experienced trauma. We also support their development at home by educating parents on the latest early childhood development techniques.

To achieve our goal of securing the right to opportunity for every child in our community, we concentrate our early learning efforts on the neighborhoods and populations that need it most. Our eight early learning centers are located between Menlo Park and Daly City, with two centers dedicated to children living in transitional or emergency housing.

Our programs focus on children ages 0-5 years old, a critical growth stage when more than 80 percent of their brain development occurs. We fuel that growth by providing nutritious meals—a healthy morning and afternoon snack, and lunch—connecting families to physical and behavioral health resources, and working one-on-one with parents to ensure their needs as a family-unit are met.

The result? Confident parents eager to take an active role in their children’s education and young boys and girls ready to take kindergarten—and life—by storm.

Partners: First5 San Mateo,  Big Lift

To learn more about our Build Midway Campaign, please click the button below to be taken to our website.

Build Midway

STEM from the START


Why STEM from the START?
There are 74,000 children that live in poverty today in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. Each year at our eight early learning centers, PFS provides support for over 600 children and their hard-working families through a safe environment, nutritious meals, targeted therapeutic interventions, and high-quality curriculum. At PFS 98% of the children we serve are at the local poverty level.

Children of low-income families often have an even harder time obtaining the high-quality early learning they need. Our STEM from the Start program provides the learning children need to build a foundation for success in their lives. Our STEM educational techniques prepare children for kindergarten and beyond, increasing the likelihood of a child’s chances to graduate from high school, college, and thrive throughout their lives.

Studies Show

Recent studies of individuals over a lifespan embed the foundation for success and a lifetime of thriving in these earliest years. For those who experience a lifelong Achievement Gap, its origins are not in middle school nor high school, as was previously thought, but in the first five years of a child’s life. A child that does not have access to a high-quality early learning environment will not be ready for kindergarten, nor for success in school and in life.

The latest research provides another set of clues as we set an even stronger course for disrupting the Achievement Gap for all of our children. These recent studies illuminate that proven STEM learning, and in particular Math, correlate directly to success in school.

All children are entitled to the best early learning to disrupt and overcome the Achievement Gap to reach their full potential and thrive. Children of low-income or poverty level families are the most likely not to get the early learning support they need in their early years of life.

Read more from our blog written by Maria Romero, Vice President of Early Learning, Peninsula Family Service

What is STEM?

“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM can refer to the subjects individually or one or more working together, but can also mean a way of doing things that includes solving problems, asking questions, and exploring the world around us. For example, children learn about the concept of technology when they’re exploring tools or simple machines and investigating how they work. These can be items they use every day like a pair of scissors, or things they might see like the wheels of a car as they walk outside. For young children, we focus on STEM through exploration, play, and building curiosity about the natural world and the way things work. STEM learning is important for everyone and can happen anytime, anywhere. The real-life skills that people develop when learning STEM help make everyone better problem-solvers and learners.

To qualify, parents should be working, actively seeking employment, or unable to maintain employment due to illness or disability. Families should also demonstrate a gross monthly household income that falls within our guidelines (e.g., less than $1,400 for a family of two or $2,208 for a family of four).

Fees for full and part-time care are based on household income levels (e.g., fees for a family of two range between $0 and $362 per month).

Priority is given to:
  • Families who are homeless, enrolled in SSI, CalWORKS or TANF
  • Families with household incomes at or below poverty level
  • Children in the foster care system
  • Children with an IFSP or IEP

Need help applying? Contact Us.

Enroll Today

Our eight early learning centers are located throughout San Mateo County. Click on the name of the center to learn more about it.

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education (ECE), and it is a key steppingstone on the path of career advancement in ECE. The CDA Credential is based on a core set of competency standards that guide early childhood professionals toward becoming qualified educators of young children. It is nationally transferable and recognized by the profession as a vital part of professional development. The purpose of the CDA program is to increase the teacher pipeline for Peninsula Family Service (PFS) and for the wider community. In January 2022, PFS began this auspicious new program to train potential employees as an Early Learning Child Development Associate. Fifteen individuals comprise the first cohort of the PFS CDA credential training program—the only CDA training program in California. Our CDA students are all new to Early Learning, and excited to be embarking on a career in this field. Candidates who earn a CDA credential are well prepared to foster the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth of young children. Not only does having a CDA help educators bring out the best in children, but it also advances their careers and contributes to the status of the education profession. Eight core modules (120 hours) are taught full-time over eight weeks; the equivalent of twelve teaching units. The curriculum includes courses—taught in English and Spanish—on the following subject areas:

  • Planning a safe, healthy learning environment
  • Steps to advance children’s physical and intellectual development
  • Positive ways to support children’s social and emotional development
  • Strategies to establish productive relationships with families
  • Strategies to manage an effective program operation
  • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
  • Observing and recording children’s behavior
  • Principles of child development and learning

Once coursework is completed, cohorts need to obtain 480 hours of work experience in a center-based setting with children ages birth to 36 months, including experience in all three sub-age groups—young infants (birth to 8 months), mobile infants (9-17 months), and toddlers (18-36 months). Participants will also need to prepare a CDA professional portfolio that includes a collection of reference materials related to work with children and families. A CDA Professional Development Specialist will conduct a verification visit, observing the cohort’s work. After passing a 65-question examination, credentials are submitted to the State of California and if a passing grade is achieved, the individual receives a 5-year permit. Participants receive all training and coursework materials for free, are provided with a loaner laptop, and are paid weekly $750 for their participation and work. In just eight weeks, graduates will earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate and will then be eligible for an Associate Teacher position within the PFS Early Learning program with pay for certificate holders at $23 per hour—a marked increase in what most had been earning. Through CDA and through the PFS Teacher Lift program, giant strides are being made to professionalize the education career for individuals—including parents and single mothers—who would otherwise not have a solid career. PFS is providing hope for a better future for our eight classrooms, and for all classrooms in the Bay Area. PFS is Opening Doors, Changing Lives.