Association of Children’s Rights and Services
It was during the 1960s, with the growing strength of the civil rights movement, that the U.S. reformed its immigration policy. The Immigration Act of 1965 abolished the “national origins” quota system allowing immigrants to come into the U.S. in equal numbers. This paved the way for immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America to arrive in an unprecedented way. Not since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act had the number of Chinese immigrants coming to the United States been equal to the number of immigrants from elsewhere.
Many immigrants moved to San Francisco to discover they could only find employment in ethnic enclaves, like Chinatown, working for low wages in restaurants, garment factories, and other poor paying jobs. Both parents had to work outside of the home to make ends meet — which created a high demand for child care in Chinatown, where little or no care or referral services existed for Chinese speakers. Community organizers (parents, teachers, and social workers) banded together to come up with a solution which resulted in the birth of the Association of Children’s Rights and Services (ACRS) incorporated in December 1976.
However, even once services were established, community members, particularly immigrant residents, did not see social services as a resource for them. They feared that if they used public services there would be retaliation from the government. ACRS worked tirelessly to earn the trust of the community doing endless hours of outreach. Eventually, Cantonese speakers began to trust the Agency and referred to ACRS as “Wu Yee” meaning “protector of children.” It was not long after it became the Agency’s official name.
ACRS Becomes Wu Yee Children’s Services
Concurrently, San Francisco was realizing its social service systems were not adequately serving the diverse needs of the city and began examining its shortcomings and seeking community organizations to partner with. With strong ties and experience serving immigrant families, Wu Yee Children’s Services emerged as a leading organization to both push the service systems to fill the gaps and reach out to underserved communities.
All Children Need the Best Start
Fast forward to the present, our guiding inspiration continues to be San Francisco’s children. We firmly believe that nothing is more essential than excellent child care and education, right from the start. We see our children as tomorrow’s leaders and encourage them to view themselves as global citizens. We continue to be a community-centered organization able to adapt to meet the diverse needs of the City’s children. “Providing every child with the best start possible” is our NorthStar as we expand to meet service gaps throughout San Francisco.
The reality is that inequality continues to define potential even when it comes to fundamental rights like education. Wu Yee Children’s Services continues to forge ahead and reach more neighborhoods because we know a child’s zip code, ethnicity, or income level should not determine their chances of getting the best start possible.
The need for early childhood education and care is still greater than the supply. As a result, thousands of young children who qualify for income-based education and services are on waitlists instead of classrooms.
Education is a basic human right in the United States, yet not all of our youngest learners have access to education and care that is right for them and their families. We must do better.
Recent events serve as a harrowing reminder that U.S. institutions have been built on exclusion. These systems continue to divide us by discouraging connectivity and collaboration to keep us in “our place,” as defined by the long standing perspectives of the few people who hold position and power. However, we know “our place” is the same today as it was when we were founded — to challenge the status quo. To disrupt this cycle of exclusion, we must disrupt the system by helping our communities stand up for one another.
Wu Yee is committed to the success of all children. But we can’t do it alone. Our decisions and actions are led by asking what is best for each child. Every day, we partner with parents, as well as countless individuals and organizations across San Francisco, to provide a network that strengthens and connects a diverse, resilient community around our children. We are dedicated to carrying the torch passed on by our fearless founders, Catherine Ko, Ruth Yee, Miranda Li, Yan Wong, Siu Yip Wong, Alice Lau, Stella Chan, Karen Chin, and Sai Ling Chan Sew and countless others who paved the way for our children today.
We know that making change is a participatory practice and while we do not have all the answers, we will always listen and engage, dig deeper, and contribute more to push forward to a healthier, kinder, more inclusive world for our children. We will not be freed from a system of inequality until every child has access to every opportunity that they deserve. The success of all our children relies on all our communities working together to provide every child with the best start possible.
We believe that when we stand up for children, we stand up for one another. Will you join us in our commitment to build a diverse and resilient community for our children to thrive?
Chief Executive Officer