“Children’s Council has given me a voice”
Elvia McKinley has been a part of the Children’s Council community for over 25 years.
In 1989, at the age of nine, Elvia migrated to the United States with her mother and sister, fleeing the violence of civil war in Nicaragua. Having been granted political asylum, she and her family made their home in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood.
Just seven years later, she became pregnant with her daughter Rochelle. Fortunately, the staff at the Hilltop School provided her with a range of prenatal resources, including a connection to Children’s Council. She says, “I was a teen mom; my mother was single and needed to work.
I had no other support. I was so young and scared, but Children’s Council connected me to child care. Without Children’s Council, I never would have been able to get my high school diploma.”
Five years later, she and her husband had a second child, Marcus, who was also able to attend a child care program, thanks to Children’s Council. She says, “Having quality child care education from such a young age put my kids on track. They were good students all the way through high school. And I was able to finish school and work. Children’s Council set my family up for success.”
In 2014, Elvia and her husband Mark added a third child to their family, Johnny. She says, “I was working for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. I was very excited because it was in a community I grew up in and I love the outdoors.
“A few months after I started, I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were so happy to be blessed with another healthy baby boy even though it was not planned. A mother’s choices are not easy… parents are expected to do everything on their own and are not supported in this very difficult task of bringing up children. Parents cannot do it alone.”
Once again she turned to Children’s Council for support, where we connected her to a child care program near her job. “Because of Children’s Council, I was able to show up for work every morning, I knew my son was in a safe environment.
Elvia continues to work for San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and in recent years has become an early education activist through Parent Voices, Children’s Council’s parent-led grassroots advocacy group. She says, “I was hesitant at first, because I’ve always been shy to speak in public. But after one meeting, I knew these were my people.”
Elvia has testified at budget hearings with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and she’s traveled with Parent Voices to Sacramento to meet with state leaders. She says “it feels powerful to be a part of something bigger. We’re talking to decision makers and being the voice for children in California.”
She is grateful to Children’s Council on many levels, saying, “Children’s Council has helped me learn so much about early childhood development, the first five years are so important, and children need us to speak up for them. Children’s Council has given me a voice, the opportunity to work, provide for my family, and to be self-sufficient.”