SF officials consider ballot proposal to increase support for children, families

courtesy photoSupervisor Norman Yee is one of three supervisors proposing charter amendments to increase support of services for families and children in the city.

courtesy photoSupervisor Norman Yee is one of three supervisors proposing charter amendments to increase support of services for families and children in the city.

City officials are looking to increase support of services for San Francisco children and families through a series of initiatives as part of a potential ballot measure in the November election.

The effort strikes a personal chord with Supervisor Norman Yee, who during his eight-year stint on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education said he was hindered by a number of barriers between the school district and city officials when seeking to mitigate an issue of chronic absences among elementary students.

Such restrictions among city agencies, including the inability to share data, is what Yee is hoping to eliminate through a City Charter amendment he introduced Tuesday that would create a Children and Families Council.

The council would work to unite city departments, the school district and community stakeholders in forming a citywide strategy to support and retain families in The City.

“Much of it is with infrastructure, how much we support children and families,” Yee said of the council. “Beyond services and education, we need to talk more about housing, transportation, health needs and employment opportunities.”

Supervisors Jane Kim and John Avalos, who support Yee's legislation — which is still in the early stages — are also introducing charter amendments that would reauthorize the Public Education Enrichment Fund and Children's Fund, which guarantee money for children in The City's budget.

This year, The City provided $77 million through the Public Education Enrichment Fund — two-thirds of which went to the school district — while the Children's Fund supplied $50 million predominantly to community-based services, such as after-school programs and child care, according to Chelsea Boilard, director of programs for San Francisco-based Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth.

“The City has been incredibly generous in its support for children in San Francisco,” Board of Education Commissioner Matt Haney said. “As a school district, we can't imagine doing our work without that support, whether it's [for] art, music, physical education, or early childhood education.”

Boilard said Coleman Advocates is generally supportive of Yee's legislation and sees a need for stronger coordination and alignment across city departments and services. That includes making sure the Department of Public Health talks to the school district and Department of Children, Youth and Families to coordinate mental health services for young people and families, she said.

“It is a problem when city departments or services are operating in silos,” Boilard said. “It makes it difficult for families to navigate those services.”

Four supervisors in addition to Yee, Kim and Avalos are co-sponsoring all three amendment proposals, including Eric Mar, David Campos, Malia Cohen and London Breed. A fundraiser Wednesday night to support the ballot initiatives brought in at least $15,000, event organizer Michelle Geronimo said.

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