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Pilot Program Transforms Waiting Area for Kids and Families at Lake Elsinore Office

The next time parents and their young kids visit the Department of Public Social Services Self Sufficiency office in Lake Elsinore, the family will find a fun, educational way to pass the time while waiting for assistance.

In August, a play and learning space was built inside the Minthorn Street office complete with child-size chairs, a table, 50 children’s books in English and Spanish, a rug, and materials for kids to play with.

John Skupski lit up when he saw the new space and enjoyed reading a book to his 3-year-old daughter, Lilliana.

“This is something truly needed for the kids,” Skupski said. “Education is important and we thank DPSS for what you’re doing for us.”

The new Family Read, Play and Learn Space is part of a pilot project and partnership between California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and Too Small to Fail, the early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation.

Through the partnership, the pilot project transforms waiting areas into welcoming, language-rich environments for families. The goal is to empower parents and caregivers with tools and information to support young children’s early development.

“Parents have a lot on their plates and COVID -19 exacerbated that,” said Patti Miller, CEO of Too Small to Fail. “If we can make their time at a social services office an engaging, learning environment, that’s what we’re committed to doing.”

The pilot project includes transforming waiting areas in Riverside, Napa and San Joaquin counties. Through fall 2022, researchers will study the potential effect of the changes, including if family engagement and child literacy increases. The goal is to expand what works to other California counties.

“These are children of clients we serve and we think this is good for them and their families,” said CDSS Research Specialist Michael Billingsley.

“Many of our offices have re-opened and we think this is a nice way to welcome parents and kids back to our facilities,” said Ratnesh Prasad, the regional manager at the Lake Elsinore office.

Children will also be able to take home tote bags that include free books.

“We want to extend the learning at home,” added Miller. “It helps kids develop a love for reading at a really early age.”

John Skupski reads a book to his 3-year-old daughter, Lilliana, in the new Family Read, Play and Learning Space at the DPSS office in Lake Elsinore.

(from left to right) CDSS Research Specialist Michael Billingsly, DPSS Regional Manager Ratnesh Prasad, CalWORKs supervisor Leroyna James and Patti Miller, CEO of Too Small to Fail gather in the new Family, Read, Play and Learn Space at the Riverside County