News & Notes:

Meet Our New Deputy Director

We’re pleased to introduce First 5 Contra Costa’s new Deputy Director – Ruth Fernández!

Many of you already know and have worked with Ruth in her role managing the Local Child Care Planning Council at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Ruth and the CCCOE have been longtime partners with First 5 on our early learning quality improvement work, and we are thrilled that she has joined our team.

Ruth brings over 20 years of experience working with diverse communities in project management, strategic planning and system services coordination in the education and social services sectors. For the last 12 years, Ruth has helped identify and coordinate educational services for educators working in early childhood education throughout the county. Earlier in her career, Ruth managed state contracts for KQED in San Francisco as the Early Learning Project Supervisor in KQED’s Education Network.

She is committed to community service and volunteers her time and expertise supporting educational projects in the Latino community and the community at large. Ruth earned a B.A. in Political Economies of Industrialized Societies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in Leadership from St. Mary’s College of California. She takes pride in being a lifelong learner and is currently pursuing her Doctorate Degree from Mills College of Oakland in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education.

What was your favorite book as a child?  The Little Prince

What food did you refuse to eat when you were a kid? As a young child I didn’t like spinach, but I happen to love it now.

What do you do in your free time?  I love to paint, read for leisure, love spending time in the outdoors, walking and hiking.

Did you have a favorite place to visit as a child?  As a child there were two places that I loved to visit: the beach and my grandmother’s house.  I was very close to my maternal grandma and loved visiting her to cook, help in the garden or make paper flowers with her.

What is your motto? Perspective matters. This Wayne Dyer quote is one of my favorites:If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

What would make Contra Costa an even better place for children and families? Access to health care, high quality care and education, clean and outdoor spaces, and free access to the arts. These services would support physical and socio-emotional development for children and benefit all families.

You can reach Ruth at or (925) 771-7322.


Business Group Names First 5 Outstanding Community Grantmaker

The East Bay Leadership Council named First 5 Contra Costa the Outstanding Community Grantmaker at their annual Philanthropy Awards Breakfast held last week. We were among an exceptional group of philanthropists, businesses, and nonprofit organizations recognized for making the East Bay a more vibrant and caring place.

The East Bay Leadership Council represents a group of business and community leader volunteers in Contra Costa and the greater East Bay who work together to identify and promote good business practices to help make our community a great place to live and work.

Maya Enista Smith, the Executive Director of Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation, was the keynote speaker and spoke about how to create a kinder, braver world.

Our Executive Director Sean Casey accepted the award on our behalf, and used his two-minute speech to bring attention to the importance of investing in young children and their families:

“I invite all of you to join us. As residents I’d like you to leave today as concerned about children as you are about your worsening commute. As employers, look at the talented mothers and fathers in your workforce and think how you can help them better manage both your needs and those of their families. And as we bring in new leadership for our state, consider that if we want to build a strong, competitive California, it starts by doing right by our kids.”

Thank you to the East Bay Leadership Council for recognizing our important contribution to improving the lives of young children and families in Contra Costa County.


Sugary Drink Consumption Decreases for Contra Costa Kids

Together with Healthy and Active Before 5, we launched our hard-hitting and award-winning Sugar Bites campaign in 2013 urging parents to protect their toddlers and preschoolers from sugary drinks and serve them water instead. New data show local parents are heeding the message.

Analysis of children’s sugary beverage consumption among families new to First 5 services shows a steady decline over the last four years. The data come from First 5 Contra Costa’s annual family survey, a detailed list of questions hundreds of families complete when they start participating in services we fund.

The survey asks parents if their child had a sugary drink yesterday. Back in 2012/13, 80% of respondents answered yes. Last year, the response had dropped to 63%.

Juice Drinks

Sugar Bites is a unique campaign for many reasons, one being its focus on sugary juice drinks. Three of the four print ads we’ve run feature drinks like Sunny D or Capri Sun to challenge deceptive marketing tactics used to trick parents into thinking juice drinks are healthy beverages for young children. We also ran a commercial with this message.

Juice contains as much sugar as soda, sometimes more. Sugar Bites has provided a much-needed counter message for parents barraged by misleading claims from the beverage industry. Since 2012/13, children’s consumption of juice is down 26%.

Decline mirrors state health data

Data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health survey, show a decrease in juice consumption among young children in Contra Costa County as well.

Families with children age two to six were asked if they served their children juice yesterday. In 2011, 22% of respondents said their child did not drink juice the day before. By 2015, this percentage had tripled, with 66% of children not drinking juice.

We continue to run the Sugar Bites campaign each year. For the last two, we’ve had a smaller campaign targeting Concord and San Pablo via bus ads, grocery carts, convenience stores, and window clings on sugary drinks cases in small shops. The last campaign had about 24 million media impressions (the number of times people saw the ads). First 5 Sacramento also runs the ads in the Sacramento region.

Learn more about Sugar Bites at


250 Volunteers Help Us Build New Playground

Hard work from about 200 volunteers helped transform an empty field into a vibrant new playground at City Park in Pittsburg last weekend.

This is the fourth playground the East County Regional Group (ECRG) we sponsor has made possible in East County. This time, we had some help from Kaiser, the national playground-building group Kaboom!, the City of Pittsburg, and hundreds of volunteers.

Combined with City Park’s numerous sports fields, which has activity year-round with soccer, adult and youth baseball games and even pick-up football games, the new playground will facilitate play and imagination for hundreds of kids each weekend.

It was an exhausting, but exhilarating day that will bring joy and play to thousands of young children in Pittsburg for years to come.

City Park is one of two parks the ECRG recommended that the City Council prioritize for improvements. Now both of these parks have brand new playgrounds. Way to go CCRG!