Pioneers of Children’s Day Care in California
The early years of San Francisco was an amazing conglomeration of wealth and poverty. There were many millionaires and there were also hundreds of struggling families. The Sisters of the Holy Family were founded for families, and one of the needs perceived by the new Congregation was day care for the children of working parents. In 1878 the Sisters opened their first children’s day home to provide a place where the needs of the child could be attended to while peace of mind and support and assistance could be offered to the struggling parents.
When their first Day Home was started in 1878 with fourteen students it was the only institution of its kind in San Francisco. It was so successful it soon outgrew this residence and found themselves expanding to larger or new quarters each year. In 1881 St. Francis Day Home was established in North Beach, and within a few years three Day Homes were operating in San Francisco.
When the 1906 Earthquake destroyed all three Day Homes in San Francisco, they moved to the tent cities which became home for thousands of people. Here they cared for as many children as needed them, and helped with other relief work for families.
While re-building their Day Homes in San Francisco they established St. Elizabeth Day Home in San Jose, and in 1914, St. Vincent’s Day Home in Oakland.
As the need increased, Day Homes or Kindergartens were opened in Fresno and Redding, California, Reno, Las Vegas and Gardnerville, Nevada; in Helper and Tooele, Utah.
Eventually the Sisters went out to develop and set up day care in places where the Congregation could not commit personnel for long periods of time: Juneau, Alaska; Redwood City, and an infant care center in Menlo Park, California.
Through all the changes and different locations, the initial spirit remained for the children: a place to play… to learn… to grow. A safe and secure place where there is always someone to care for and protect children. A place filled with love and laughter and friends. This is a home, a special kind of home, a Day Home.