Low-Cost Programs to Enrich the Lives of Yolo County Youths

PUBLISHED FEB 12, 2024 11:17 A.M.
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Looking at the figures compiled by the site KidsData.org about Yolo County, it's clear that the county is family-friendly when compared to California as a whole. Availability of childcare is greater; emotional and behavioral health a little better. There are fewer teen births, and a slightly lower rate of childhood poverty—and most happily, fewer homeless youths.

But since no child should be hungry and even one homeless young person is too many, Yolo County can rely on a network of nonprofit organizations and government assistance programs that can help those in need.

In a wealthy country like the United States, diverse opportunities abound to help children thrive emotionally, physically and mentally. However, as the cost of living continues to rise throughout California, some parents and guardians may lack the resources to provide these enrichment activities.

Below are some free and/or low-cost programs and services available for families and children in Yolo County, including early childhood development programs, after-school activities, educational opportunities, recreational training, and more.

    1. Early Child Development Programs and Services

    First 5 Yolo County—This statewide government agency’s Yolo County chapter helps parents raise healthy, safe and prepared children. The nonprofit’s programs and services for families and children include The CHILD Project: Road to Resilience, Welcome Baby, Yolo Crisis Nursery and ABC Home Visiting. It also offers early educational opportunities like Every Child to Read, which provides options in English, Spanish and Russian at local libraries to encourage literacy and socialization.

    Help Me Grow Yolo County—A program of the Northern California Children’s Therapy Center, Help Me Grow Yolo strives to provide access to developmental screening for children up to 5 years old, in addition to screenings for maternal wellness, mental health, home safety and basic needs. It receives funding from First 5 Yolo and Yolo County Health and Human Services. In addition, Help Me Grow Yolo renders a variety of services, including speech, occupational, physical, feeding and sensory integration therapies and an infant development program, available to families regardless of their financial barriers.

    2. Educational Programs and Services

    The Head Start Advantage—Presented by Yolo County Library as part of Yolo County Office of Education’s Early Childhood Education programs, the Head Start/Early Head Start program provides services for families and children up to 5 years old. The program stresses the importance of both family and community involvement in fostering growth and development. Recruitment for fall enrollment begins the previous January of each year and continues throughout the year, with outreach in media, fliers, brochures, newsletters and posters, door-to-door canvassing, mailing lists and information booths.

    Beanstack—Beanstack is a free web and mobile application that connects children and their families with book recommendations and educational reading activities tailored to interests, ages and reading levels. A part of Yolo County Library’s reading programs, the app presents summer and yearlong programs and also includes book and activity logging, badges, and registration for all members of the family under one account.

    McKinney Vento Education Services for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program—This program from the Yolo County Office of Education aims to implement the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which ensures educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The Office of Education extends assistance with school enrollment, attendance and academic success; referrals to community resources and tutoring services; transportation resources to attend school; school supplies; professional development, consultation and training; and parent consultations.

    Rise, Inc.—Rise, Inc. offers a variety of services for the rural community, including SunRISE Child Development Centers, counseling, and youth employment through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for those ages 16-24. Rise also operates a Parent Engagement Program that focuses on preschool readiness for children up to age 5, in addition to a Success Program for children from first to eighth grades.

    3. Family Programs and Resources

    Children’s Home Society of California Yolo County—The Yolo County chapter of Children’s Home Society of California reaches out to children and families at risk with services that provide safe, healthy and secure environments for youth. Programs offered include the Child Care Resource & Referral Program, Child Care Payment Program, and Family Child Care Home Education Network.

    Yolo County Children’s Alliance—Yolo County Children’s Alliance helps families (especially those who are non-English speaking) access services, learn valuable parenting skills, and find support with family strengthening programs. Programs include health care, developmental screening, food access, and resources and referrals.

    WarmLine Family Resource Center—Serving six counties (including Yolo), WarmLine Family Resource Center extends services to families of children up to 3 years old. As a Family Empowerment Center, it also offers specialized training, peer-to-peer support, information and referral services.

    Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—The Women, Infants, and Children program provides services to California residents who are pregnant, breastfeeding, just had a baby (or recent pregnancy loss) or have a child or care for a child under age 5, and who have low-to-medium income or receive Medi-Cal, CalWORKs (TANF) or CalFresh (SNAP) benefits. Services include practical nutrition information and everyday healthy living tips; nutrition experts who specialize in nutrition for mothers and their children; support and information about breastfeeding; help to find health care and other valuable community services; and benefits to afford healthy foods.

    Car Seat Safety Program—Yolo County’s Car Seat Safety Program aims to reduce the number of injuries from motor vehicle crashes associated with children ages 12 and under, installing car seats and fittings regardless of socioeconomic conditions, race, ethnicity, gender, ages and abilities. Other services rendered by the program include a Violators Class for those who have received tickets in Yolo County for car seat misuse; a Seat Recycling Program for used and unsafe car seats; and educational classes and check-up events.

    4. Community Programs and Resources

    Davis Community Meals—Low-income and homeless individuals and families can seek housing, food and human services from Davis Community Meals. Currently, the organization offers programs in emergency shelter and transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, meals, resource center/day shelter, family transitional housing, street outreach, and pathways to employment.

    Empower Yolo—Empower Yolo provides resource centers for community services to improve the health, social, educational and economic outcomes of Yolo County residents. With locations in Woodland, West Sacramento, Knights Landing and Davis and a 24-hour crisis line, Empower Yolo offers legal services, safety shelter and housing resources, crisis support, counseling, and youth programs.

    Mercy Housing—Offering shelter to those in need throughout Yolo County, with families making up 70% of residents, Mercy Housing also provides resident services that help individuals and families learn skills and gain perspectives to help them achieve stability.

    Yolo Food Bank—With various locations throughout the county, in addition to programs such as Eat Well Yolo, the Yolo Food Bank provides meals to individuals and families throughout the region. There is also a Kids Farmers Market program, which gives Yolo County’s elementary-schoolers access to local produce and nutrition education.


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