As advocates for the healthy growth and development of young children, we at First 5 Contra Costa are outraged by the horrifying reports and images of the separation of children from their families at our southern border. Our work is based on the scientific knowledge that a healthy childhood is the essential foundation for lifelong growth and development. We know that to build that foundation, every child needs and deserves loving, safe and secure relationships with their parents and caregivers.
Separating children from their parents, especially those who are escaping the stress and trauma of unsafe home communities, introduces needless and unacceptable trauma into their young lives. Severely traumatic childhood events such as these are linked to adult addiction, chronic disease, cancer and heart disease.
We cannot escape the conclusion that a federal policy to remove children from their families is akin to willful child abuse. At times throughout this country’s history, government has unjustly, yet legally separated countless children of color from their families. We recognize the relationship between this dark chapter and others in our history in which young people of color have been traumatized and oppressed.
We condemn these inhumane actions and urge our elected officials and all who stand for families to bring this terrible practice immediately to an end. The children who remain separated from their parents must be immediately reunited. There is no justification for the actions that have occurred in the past several weeks and we hope they will never be replicated.
First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to announce our new campaign to help parents meet the everyday challenges of raising babies and toddlers and help more kids achieve healthy development. Called Help Me Grow, the campaign directs parents to a new website and 211 phone line where they can find answers to parenting questions and concerns, no matter how big or small. Services are free and confidential.
The campaign includes bilingual ads in English and Spanish and is sponsored by First 5 Alameda County, First 5 Contra Costa, and the Thomas J. Long Foundation.
“From the day they are born, babies are constantly changing. It’s exciting, and it can also be challenging for families to figure out what their baby or toddler needs next,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Help Me Grow support families through every stage of their baby’s development, from first smiles to the first day of school.”
Through its phone and texting services and website, Help Me Grow offers parents information about developmental milestones, what to do if they have concerns about their baby’s development, and where to find local services such as parenting classes, health clinics, or food banks. Help Me Grow also helps families find free developmental screening to check how babies are growing and developing; referrals for children to get evaluated if there are developmental concerns; and services for children who need to catch up on their development.
The advertising campaign will run through the summer and includes online ads, brochures and posters distributed through pediatric offices in the East Bay, and outdoor ads in Contra Costa County communities.
New bilingual brochures, postcards, and posters are available for Contra Costa organizations to distribute. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a supply.
Connect to Help Me Grow:
- Visit helpmegrowcoco.org
- Call 211 to speak to a HMG Specialist
- Text “hmg” to 898211
2017 brought new challenges for many families in our community. Expanded deportation policies and an intensified anti-immigrant climate left families feeling anxious and afraid. We responded quickly in significant ways to help both families and the agencies that serve them. Many turned to the First 5 Centers for help, where they found immigration workshops, counseling, and trustworthy information.
The three Regional Groups we sponsor took action as well. Together with their partners, they successfully advocated for 6 safe haven/sanctuary policies at city councils and school districts throughout Contra Costa County. We joined them in pressing the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to approve funding for the county’s first rapid response program, which will soon provide legal assistance and reliable information to immigrant residents.
We held a successful forum for 175 local service providers featuring child development experts, attorneys, and advocates who provided the latest information on immigration policies and rights, the detrimental impact mass deportation policies have on children and families, tips for easing children’s fears, and resources to fight discriminatory detention practices in Contra Costa County.
These are issues we never thought we’d be tackling a year ago. But we found new ways to support families and bring light to their needs, as First 5 has done for nearly two decades.
2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Proposition 10, the ballot initiative that created First 5 in California. We’ve been responding to the needs of Contra Costa’s vulnerable children and families since then, and will continue to advocate and take action for kids in significant ways in the year ahead.
Look for improved services and outreach for African American families, a new curriculum on early childhood trauma, results from our first countywide kindergarten readiness assessment, expanded First 5 Center services, in addition to the many effective programs we regularly support.
Despite the challenges, or maybe because of them, First 5 is ready to act, and ready to lead. All children deserve to grow up safe, nurtured, ready for school, and able to pursue their dreams.
Sean Casey is the Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa
Well, we’re one for one!
Last week, Governor Brown signed AB435 (Thurmond), which will provide much needed relief to subsidized child care systems in Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma Counties, where the high-cost of doing business leaves many providers struggling to keep their doors open, and many low-income families without quality child care for their children.
AB435 was our first time co-sponsoring legislation. What a great start as we develop our growing role as a pro-active advocacy organization.
AB435 will provide Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma Counties with more flexibility in using state-allocated child care subsidy funds for low-income children. The current system, which undercompensates Bay Area child care providers and underserves low-income children, results in millions of dollars in child care subsidies returned to the state. Combined, the three counties returned $4.5 million in 2015.
Now because of the bill, by 2019, subsidy programs in these counties will have the flexibility to increase income eligibility guidelines and serve more children, offer higher reimbursement rates to providers, and contract with programs that can fully use available subsidies.
We were proud to work on AB435 with Assemblymember Thurmond and the Contra Costa County Office of Education. We are also incredibly grateful to our many partners who supported this bill and helped push it over the finish line. We’ll be working hard over the next several months to develop our plan for implementing the bill.
AB435 will be a powerful tool for Bay Area early learning systems to ensure that every dollar allocated is spent and as many children as possible get the high-quality child care experience they deserve.
The Trump administration’s heartless decision to roll back DACA will harm children and families.
About a quarter of DACA recipients, 800,000 young adults whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children, live in California. Since 2012, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has provided recipients with work permits, the ability to go to college, and most important, protection from deportation.
These young Dreamers contribute to our schools, churches, cities, and communities. They’re our colleagues, neighbors, and friends. About 25% are parents to U.S. born children, and over half have U.S. citizen brothers or sisters.
The Trump administration has placed this successful program, and thousands of futures, in jeopardy.
The anxiety surrounding a family’s immigration status can be detrimental to the health and development of children. A recent study found that when parents received DACA status, it significantly improved their children’s mental health almost immediately. Simply put: children had less stress and anxiety when their parents no longer feared being deported.
The current administration’s immigration crackdown has eroded these gains for children. Reversing DACA will only exacerbate this.
All children deserve to have safe, secure childhoods. They should not live in fear that their parents or siblings will be taken away at any moment, or be further traumatized when a loved one is deported, leaving many in sudden poverty.
DACA is admittedly an imperfect, short-term solution to a much larger need for comprehensive immigration reform. But it is also the most compassionate path for “those who believe in their hearts and in their minds that they are American” as President Obama said when he created DACA in 2012. We hope our leaders will stand up for DACA so that all children are supported in safe, nurturing families and communities.
Sean Casey, Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa
Almost half of all kids in Contra Costa County have immigrant parents. As champions for the most vulnerable among us, we wholeheartedly refute policies that cause harm to immigrant families and our community.
Immigrants move to America to make better lives for themselves, and to contribute to our culture and community. That’s the American Dream. Or at least it always has been.
Today’s political climate – with its unsound Executive Orders and inhumane deportation policies – is putting more and more families in harm’s way, especially non-citizens, people of color, and Muslim Americans.
Immigration policies that break families apart threaten young children’s safety, stability, and development. Children should not live in constant fear their parents will be taken away at any moment. Children should not be further traumatized when a loving parent is deported or by policies that promote racial hatred.
“We are in very uncertain times,” said Governor Jerry Brown when he released his 2017-18 State Budget proposal last week. The Governor is anticipating a $1.6 billion deficit, the first deficit projected after four years of growth, due to lower revenues collected. The anticipation of major policy shifts from the incoming Trump administration and the Republican Congress only adds to the uncertainty. The impact of reduced (or eliminated) federal funding flowing to California will likely be reflected in the May Budget Revise, if known.
Post election, emotions are running high. Some people are disappointed; others are jubilant. Our concern lies in the fact that many of the families we support are afraid. And rightly so.
In the last week, hate crimes and rhetoric against people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, women and the LGBTQ community have increased. Children are afraid their parents will be deported. Young Americans who have spent nearly their entire lives in the U.S. fear the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be repealed, separating them from the only home they know. Families who rely on health insurance through MediCaid or Covered California (via the Affordable Care Act) may lose their coverage. Keep in mind half of all children in California have publicly funded health care.
As we wait to learn how the new administration’s policies will affect the families we serve, I can say this: At First 5 Contra Costa, equity will remain our guiding principle in all the work we do. The vulnerable families we support need us more than ever. We will fight for and with them. We will call out policies that harm them. We will double down on our efforts to help all children thrive.
We’ve been working to improve early childhood experiences for nearly 20 years – and new research shows it’s paying off.
Last month, researchers from Stanford University released new data comparing 40,000 children who started kindergarten in 1998, 2006, and 2010. They found that children from the poorest and wealthiest families improved in early literacy and math assessments. Despite the Great Recession and growing inequality in the country, children in poverty made the largest gains.
The lead researcher said the achievement gap is closing “not because schools are getting more equal, but because something in early childhood is becoming more equal.” According to researchers, the leveling force may be parents.
In his January budget draft, Governor Brown proposed consolidating three pre-kindergarten programs into one $1.6 billion block grant to the counties. Local education agencies would receive, and determine how to disperse, these block grant funds.
California’s state-funded preschool programs include varied funding streams, eligibility requirements, and curriculums. These programs consist of the California State Preschool Program ($880 million), a small block grant for quality rating and improvement systems ($50 million), and Transitional Kindergarten ($725 million).
Streamlining the current system is a reasonable objective; however, we believe that improving California’s early care and learning system is too important and too large an investment to be carried out in the budget planning process.