Together We Can Make a Change

At First 5 Contra Costa, our work is grounded in our commitment to diversity and inclusion, equity, cultural humility, and community partnerships. These core values drive our work and our conviction that Black Lives Matter.

Over the weekend, our communities exploded in grief, pain, and outrage over the horrifying killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and the callous way a white woman used her privilege to weaponize the police against a black man in New York. Both of these events are compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has placed a disproportionate burden of illness, death and hardship on racial and ethnic minority groups.

Racism has a deep and lasting impact that terrorizes and traumatizes children and families, creating a sense of hopelessness and despair. Our community should not have to fear that they will be treated differently and harmed because of the color of their skin.

Together, we must dismantle and eradicate cultural, systemic and institutional racism. Every African-American child has the human right to grow up in a just society with access to quality education, equitable health care, and a criminal justice system that is fair.

All leaders must stand in solidarity with the African-American community. Those with influence and privilege must use it to address inequitable systems and hold one another accountable.

In this moment, all of us are called to live our values, to stand together, to work together, and to be courageous together, because all young children deserve better.

First 5 Contra Costa envisions that all young children will be healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing families and communities. We are committed to creating a space with community to listen, to learn, and to act in support of our children. Together we can create the change we want to see.

I stand for love and justice for myself and for all others.

In solidarity,

Ruth Fernández, Ed.D.
Executive Director
First 5 Contra Costa

Resources that can be shared widely with community:

How to Talk to Children About Racism

How to Find Support with Trauma and Mental Health

Additional Ways to Support Our Community

COVID-19 Further Accelerating Disparities in Housing, Income, and Race


COVID-19 has laid bare many flaws in our social safety net. In communities of color, the virus has thrown into sharp focus the many ways in which systems contribute to the increased vulnerability of Black and Brown children and families, particularly the lack of affordable housing and the constant threat of eviction.

Eviction pushes families deeper into poverty, disturbs the stability of their daily lives and lowers parents’ capacity to help their children weather those challenges. For children, the level of stress, anxiety and fear that eviction can cause can adversely affect their development and overall health. 15% of children in Contra Costa County have experienced 2 or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which increase their risk for chronic diseases, as well as their capacity for developing healthy social and emotional skills. Young children depend on stable, responsive, and nurturing relationships to buffer sustained toxic stress endured in the home environment when “basic” necessities such as food and housing are threatened.

Race and place defines who does well and who does not. A new report by Bay Area Equity Atlas shows that essential workers are disproportionately people of color, women, and immigrants. In Contra Costa, 40% of frontline workers have children at home, and 42% pay more than a of third of their income on rent.

The initial eviction moratorium enacted by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors was a good first step, but there is more to do to protect our most vulnerable families in Contra Costa County.

Here are four actions the Board can take to combat this crisis that threatens the health and economic well-being of our community.

  1. Extend the Eviction and Rent Moratorium Beyond May 31st: tie the moratorium to 30 days beyond the lifting of the County’s Health Emergency Order. As these orders are preventing many renters and tenants from working, this timeframe will allow renters breathing room to get back on their feet and find employment. The extension will also further protect low-income families and essential workers, allowing them to stay in their homes.
  2. Equitable Relief Funds: Provide economic assistance through local, state, and federal resources to cash-strapped tenants, homeowners, and small property owners. Without this assistance, tenants’ inability to pay rent will cause a ripple effect in the economy, including threatening the livelihoods of many local landlords.
  3. Extend the Grace Period: Cuts in federal and state funding, including elimination of State Redevelopment, have reduced investment in affordable housing production, and the resulting housing shortage has led to Contra Costa residents paying an average rent of $2,731. Currently, the County’s grace period only allows a total of four months for repayment. Under the current moratorium, tenants would be expected to pay up to double their usual rent for four consecutive months in order to avoid eviction during a crisis that has prevented people from earning a check through no fault of their own. The County must implement policies to keep people from being evicted as our community recovers from the pandemic.
  4. Tenant Education: Expand public education, hotlines, and other strategies. It is imperative to widely disseminate tenant protection information. There’s ample evidence from tenant community organizations that the County hasn’t done enough to spread the word, especially in economically and linguistically marginalized communities.

The time to act is now. If nothing further is done, COVID-19 will continue to burn through our communities, causing more residents and their children to risk being pushed into homelessness. Immediate action today will pay dividends for the entire county tomorrow.

Dr. Ruth Fernández, Ed.D. is Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa with over 20 years of knowledge and experience working in early childhood, with diverse communities in project management, and strategic planning and system services coordination in the education and social services sectors. Previously she spent over 12 years at the Contra Costa County Office of Education and helped to identify and coordinate educational services for educators working in early childhood education throughout the county.

Alma (last name not disclosed due to fear of retaliation) lives in Concord and is a recently single mother, having escaped an abusive relationship. She works cleaning houses to pay rent on her apartment for her and her seven year old child. Alma has now lost all her clients as a result of COVID 19 and Shelter in Place, and has also recently received a notice of a rent increase from her landlord effective June 1.

First 5 Centers Put On Graduation Ceremony Parade for Families with Preschoolers

After a year-long Kindergarten readiness class taught at the Delta and Antioch First 5 Center, families lined up in their cars decorated with hand-made signs while graduation music played, bubbles floated in the air, and celebrated their accomplishment in a unique, yet memorable way.

In previous years, a large and intimate celebration was held at the end of the class to honor the parents and children’s achievement, as well as to show appreciation for spending the year with the First Center staff to learn the different aspects of school readiness for their children. However, this year with the current shelter-in-place order, families and staff needed to get creative and pull-together to create something special.

Leading up to graduation day, staff sent families a cap and gown and were encouraged to decorate it with their preschooler. Families were then instructed to line-up in their cars while staff held up individual signs of celebration for each child who then received a backpack filled with school supplies, a Potter the Otter Kindergarten book, other goodies, and a certificate of completion.

“It was nice to see everyone, the families and our staff, and it gave us that familiar feeling of closeness,” said Shalila Melvin of the Antioch/Delta First 5 Center. “It also brought a sense of culmination and celebration for the families that will be moving on.”

In a weekly class called Road Map to Kindergarten©, an evidence-based tool that First 5 adopted for the centers, parents learn about how difficult it can be for them to be separated from their child. While parents learn how to support their child’s transition to Kindergarten, the children portion is titled “Bridge to Kindergarten” where they participate in classes that strengthen their social emotional development.

During this current time of virtual interactions and distance learning, the ceremony was also shared on Facebook LIVE so that friends and family members could share in the joy. Click here to view the ceremony on the Antioch First 5 Center Facebook page, and click here to view the ceremony held at the Delta First 5 Center.

To learn more about Kindergarten readiness classes, or about other First 5 Center classes, please click here to contact your local First 5 Center.

Día de los Libros Celebration


Join the First 5 Association, in partnership with California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and the California State Library, in celebration of Día de los Libros on Thursday, April 30.

First 5 Contra Costa (that’s us) will also be hosting additional events throughout the day to make it an all-day celebration of children, families, and reading.

Just because we’re doing the good work of social distancing to safeguard our loved ones and community from COVID-19, doesn’t mean we can’t come together (virtually)!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

10-10:30am with CA’s First Partner Jennifer Seibel Newsom

 11-11:30am with the East County First 5 Center

12-12:30pm with the Antioch/Delta First 5 Center

1-1:30pm with the Monument First 5 Center

2-2:30pm with the West County First 5 Center

Here is a Facebook EVENT page to RSVP and Share – we look forward to seeing all of you.

Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

The First 5 Association has created a landing page with more information about the event with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, as well as additional links to resources throughout the state of California: Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

Counting All Kids


How First 5 Contra Costa and its partners are helping to lead the way towards a complete count for the 2020 Census.

With thousands of residents staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the shelter-in-place guidelines have impacted Census outreach activities. First 5 Contra Costa and its partners have had to shift community census events and in-person canvassing to social media, digital media, and phone banking.

Although Contra Costa is self-responding at a higher percentage than the California average (57.3% compared to 49.2% as of 4/13/2020), there is plenty of work still to be done. With undercounted populations continuing to face challenges in responding to the Census, including lack of internet access, misinformation, and fear or distrust in the government (through privacy concerns and actions targeting immigrant families), an undercount in 2020 could cost Contra Costa County between $500 million and $11 billion over 10 years in federal programs.

Census Timeline Extended: online, phone, and mailed self-responses continue until October 31, 2020.

Click here to view our PSA in Spanish.

First 5 Contra Costa and its partners have been focusing on reaching families with children—as children ages 0-5 are among the most likely to go uncounted in the Census, as well as renters, low-income families, immigrants, and people of color. A complete count of all communities can help secure accurate representation and needed federal funding for children and families across Contra Costa—including programs for kids, such as schools, childcare, medical care, food assistance, housing, and public transportation.

Here are 3 ways to complete the census during our current shelter-in-place guidelines.

Respond before October 31, 2020

Complete it by mail.
All residences should have received a letter mid-March, as well as a postcard with the information to fill it out. Click here for more information on how to respond by mail. If you no longer have the form, or don’t recall receiving one, you can still complete the census online or over the phone. See below.

Complete it online.
If you have access to the internet or wifi, you can complete your Census online through your computer, tablet, or phone. Click here for more information no how to respond online. Just remember that once you start, you are not able to save your progress and must complete it in one session, or start over at another time.

Complete it over the phone.
The 2020 Census can be completed over the phone by calling 844-330-2020. You can also call the number associated with your preferred language, such as Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and other languages below. Non-English and Non-Spanish Language Hours of Operation are available Monday through Friday from 8am to 10 pm Eastern Time. Click here for support in multiple languages.


Complete the Census Today

    Click here to complete the census, or to learn more about the process.
    Click here to learn more about the Census and activities for families in Contra Costa County.
    Click here to learn more about Census from the NALEO Educational Fund is the nation’s leading non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.

Other things to know:


Helping Our Youngest Children Continue to Learn at Home


Some simple steps you can take to set up a routine at home with children 0-5

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, many schools and childcare locations have been temporarily closed and it has left parents and caregivers wondering how to balance being at home and continuing the development of their children.

Although it can feel overwhelming, it’s helpful to remember that play and interaction is a form of learning. Through play, our youngest children develop social and cognitive skills, and can gain self-confidence to try new experiences and explore new environments.

Don’t forget to check out the extremely helpful video at the bottom from Dr. Barbara Stroud, or click here to view the original in YouTube.


Planning out a schedule can help to ease some anxiety and allow everyone to feel reassured by routine (adults and children). Remember, if your children have been at child care, or school, they are used to the routine and a simple, flexible schedule will help their day feel structured.

Here is a simple routine that you can use as a reference point for how to set up your day. Feel free to adjust the times and order to suit your needs. Example: if your little one is used to taking a nap after lunch, move an activity earlier, and slide things around. Give yourself the freedom to adjust the day as it develops and find comfort that the routine is flexible.

Looking for activities? Here you’ll find a list of activities that are perfect for each age of early childhood, from the baby years on into the beginnings of grade school.


Your children are communicating with you the second they are born. “As children develop, they learn to speak and use language,” says Ruta Rosset, Speech and Language Pathologist. From smiles and coos, to single words and full sentences, stay mindful of how are children are communicating with us. Click here to find a summary of the expressive language skills children age 0-5 generally attain at key milestones in their development.


Let’s also acknowledge that all children learn and explore in a variety of ways, and have different needs and resources. Homes with multiple children of different ages and abilities also have to consider what is best for the individual child. In creating a daily routine, try and include a mixture of activities: inside, outside, reading and fine motor skills, music and play. Also, include some down time for rest and relaxation and allow children to explore independently—it can be extremely valuable and confidence building.

(But be mindful of screen time – spoiler alert, we address this next)

First 5 California has FREE online activities for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. As well as at-home activity suggestions like how to build an obstacle course, or create your own music. Find the perfect activity for children at all stages from 0-5

PBS also has great FREE online resources, including games that talk about feelings, teamwork, counting, and much more.


Even with a lot of amazing online resources being available, it is not suggested that children remain in front of screens for long periods of time (especially children under the age of 2). The day should be focused on a healthy balance of activities to keep children occupied. Here is a video from the Washington Post on a healthy balance of screen time.


It’s always helpful to stick with what feels familiar for yourself, and the children. Having the same wake-up time, snack time, play time, nap time, etc., will help the children feel like it is their typical routine. And remember to ask the children for some input. They are more likely to stay engaged if the activities revolve around their interests.

VIDEO: COVID-19 Tips for Parents from Dr. Barbara Stroud


Parent Leaders to Host Census Family Fair–an Event Focused on a Complete Count of All Children

Two parent advocacy groups—the East County Regional Group and the Central County Regional Group, both sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa— are hosting Census Family Fair events focused on a complete count of all children to secure needed federal funding and accurate representation for children and families across Contra Costa.

An undercount in the 2020 Census could cost Contra Costa County between $500 million and $1.1 billion over 10 years in federal programs, including programs for kids such as education, childcare, medical care, food assistance, housing, and public transportation.

It is critical that everyone in underrepresented neighborhoods are counted for the 2020 Census. Being counted means more money into our communities for needed programs, as well as more equitable political representation for low-income families and families of color”, said Rhea Elina Laughlin, Program Officer with First 5 Contra Costa.

The well-being of all families in Contra Costa County is dependent upon a complete count. These fun, family-friendly events will raise awareness on the impact of an accurate count and address misinformation, fearmongering, and actions targeting underrepresented communities, especially immigrant families and families of color⁠.

With a focus on undercounted communities and to address some of the challenges in responding to the Census (including internet access and privacy concerns), there will be census experts, community resources, and trusted community partners available to answer any questions and to assist with the process.

“A lot of people don’t know about the census or worry how their information will be used. We’re holding this event to help our community understand how important it is we are ALL counted”, said Chipo Washington, Chair of the East County Regional Group.

There will be two events in Contra Costa County and all services are available at no cost—kids activities will include face painting, arts and crafts, as well as music and dance.

Saturday, April 4, 2020 

11am – 1pm
Anuta Park
2485 Willow Pass Rd., Bay Point


11am – 1pm
Ellis Lake Park
1760 Clayton Rd., Concord

Community partners at both events will include:

  • La Clínica
  • Contra Costa Health Services
  • Family Justice Center
  • CoCoKids
  • First Baptist
  • First 5 Centers
  • 211
  • Center for Human Development
  • All in One


Parent Leaders Help Contra Costa County Secure Over $7 Million In Grant Funds To Renovate Local Parks

The children and families in the cities of Richmond and Antioch will get the parks of their dreams.

Through grassroots resident leadership and city/community partnerships, Contra Costa County received over $15 million (40% of the $36 million awarded to the Bay Area) from Proposition 68 grant funds to renovate and create local parks in underserved communities

The City of Richmond was awarded $12.7 million in grant funds for two projects ($8.5 million for the Harbour-8 Park Expansion and $4.2 million for the Boorman Park Revitalization) and the City of Antioch was awarded nearly $3 million for the Contra Loma Estates Park Project. There were 478 applications received and the Statewide Park Program (SPP), designed to create new parks and recreation opportunities in critically underserved communities across California, selected 62 applications statewide with three park locations in Contra Costa County.

The parent advocacy groups—West County Regional Group and East County Regional Group, both sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa—served as the community partner for two of the three projects. The regional groups led participatory community park needs assessments that resulted in the identification of priority parks (Boorman Park and Contra Loma Estates Park) in the highest need of attention. In partnership with First 5 Contra Costa, Healthy & Active Before 5, the City of Richmond, and the City of Antioch, resident leaders organized a series of in-depth community workshops to create the future vision and design of both parks. The funding will make the community’s dream for their local parks a reality.

To promote increased park use among young children and families, a collaborative team of West Contra Costa County residents, early childhood advocates, and community organizations initiated a community-led research project to assess the quality of public parks in the city of Richmond, CA.

The total funding approved for grants throughout the State was $254.9 million, with $36 million awarded to the Bay Area. With SPP embracing meaningful engagement with local residents where park designs represent each community’s unique recreation needs and creativity, the grant applications from Contra Costa County represented parent leadership, an innovative model, and a commitment to a community-driven process.

“Parks are important for our children to grow up healthy. Just because we live in a low-income area, does not mean our children should have less. Our kids and communities deserve quality parks to play in and be active”, said Leydi Maldonado, Chair of the parent advocacy group, West County Regional Group.

Similarly, residents mobilized by the East County Regional Group have worked with the city of Antioch for years to bring needed investments to Contra Loma Estates Park. Residents’ support and advocacy led the City of Antioch to make unprecedented improvements and the partnership played an instrumental role in receiving the grant award.

“This investment will shape childhoods for generations to come. We are thrilled that Richmond and Antioch children will have the innovative, fun, and safe places to play outdoors that they deserve. These park grants represent what we can accomplish together when we partner with residents and bring multiple organizations together to transform neighborhoods”, said Rhea Elina Laughlin with First 5 Contra Costa.

The East County Regional Group leads a workshop for the community to envision the park of their dreams.

 Public parks are essential spaces for promoting community health, and in particular, physical activity, outdoor play, and mental well-being among families with young children. It is well established that early childhood is a critical time in the life course for promoting health and preventing chronic disease. With improved access to quality parks in their own neighborhoods, the youngest children of Contra Costa County are more likely to benefit from opportunities for a healthy start to their lives.

“Promoting and advocating for local policies that increase access to safe and healthy open spaces for children and families to play, connect, and be active is integral to First 5 Contra Costa’s mission to promote optimal development for all children” Ruth Fernandez, Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa.

Boorman Park Concept

Additional information:

Regional Groups are parent advocacy groups of residents working to make communities healthier, safer, and more equitable for young children and families. Three groups exist in Contra Costa County and work in partnership with the First 5 Contra Costa Community Engagement and Advocacy Program: East County Regional Group (ECRG), West County Regional Group (WCRG), and Central County Regional Group (CCRG).

First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy, nurtured and ready to learn by investing in programs and activities focused on children during their first five years—the most important time in children’s development.

Click here to learn more about our Regional Groups:

How the Public Charge Ruling Adversely Affects Our Families and Young Children

As an organization dedicated to the well-being of all families and their young children, we were appalled by the “public charge” ruling that adversely affects immigrant families in our community. We are deeply concerned that this rule expansion will inhibit families from applying for programs and services—or stop receiving them entirely—even if they are eligible or needed.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled (5-4) to allow the Trump administration to move forward with the public charge restriction unveiled last August, which disproportionately targets immigrant families by making it more difficult for immigrants seeking to come or those trying to obtain lawful permanent statuses in the United States.

This decision will have life-altering implications for families needing access to services for themselves, or their children. By depriving immigrants of basic needs such as food and housing, the expansion continues to deepen and amplify the climate of fear and deprivation that has become prevalent within immigrant communities and communities of color. It will continue to threaten the health, nutrition, housing, and well-being of young children everywhere.

“This is yet another inequitable attack on our families. The ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling will have a chilling effect on our community’s health and education as families continue to live in fear, and chose to seclude and withdraw from essential health services,” said Dr. Ruth Fernández, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa.

First 5 Contra Costa believes that it is our shared responsibility to ensure the safety and healthy development of all children. We will continue our unwavering commitment to support, advocate, and partner with immigrant families, continue to fight for equitable access to needed services, and strive towards a future in which every family can thrive.

Although the rule is limited to individuals actively applying for lawful permanent status in the United States, not their families or children, we anticipate a continued wave of drop-off in services that has been reported nation-wide since last fall.

“This will continue to have a direct and devastating impact on the lives of our most vulnerable children and their families. It is a dehumanizing act impacting the wellbeing of immigrant families who contribute greatly to our communities,” added Dr. Ruth Fernández. “As leaders in Contra Costa County, and as a community, we must continue to speak up, advocate, and take action against this injustice.” 

In an effort to combat the fear and misinformation, we encourage our communities, our county, and our state to join us in our commitment and movement for united, safe and loving communities.

For more information on First 5 Contra Costa’s efforts towards a safer, healthier, and more equitable Contra Costa County, please reach out to our Community Engagement and Advocacy Program:

To learn more about how Northern California communities are impacted by the public charge rule, below is a partial list of organizations from the California Immigrant Policy Center that can help answer questions and concerns:

For additional immigration services providers:

For additional information and resources:

First 5 Contra Costa Welcomes Dr. Ruth Fernández as the New Executive Director

First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission applauds and welcomes Ruth Fernandez as the new Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa

After an extensive search, First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to announce that Ruth Fernández has accepted the position of executive director effective on January 13, 2020. Ruth had previously served as Deputy Director at First 5 Contra Costa since November 2017 and will continue to lead First 5’s mission to foster the optimal development of Contra Costa children, prenatal through 5 years of age.

“It gives me great pride to start 2020 by leading First 5 Contra Costa’s mission on behalf of young children and their families. It is our duty as community leaders to eradicate the systemic barriers that disproportionately affect the lives and wellbeing of children–they are our most precious resource. I am elated for the opportunity to continue to serve the county in this role.” said Ruth Fernández, First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director.

Ruth brings to her role an exceptional combination of knowledge and experience working in early childhood, as well as over 20 years of experience working with diverse communities in project management, and strategic planning and system services coordination in the education and social services sectors. In 2019, she earned her Doctorate degree from Mills College of Oakland in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. She also has 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. Prior to her role as Deputy Director at First 5 Contra Costa, Ruth worked at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) for over 12 years and helped to identify and coordinate educational services for educators working in early childhood education throughout the county.

The First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission is confident that Ruth’s knowledge, leadership skills, and experience in working in early childhood will continue the organization’s success and vision that all of Contra Costa’s young children will be healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing  families and communities.

Dr. Ruth Fernández with Marilyn Cachola Lucey, Commission Chair for the First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission.

“Ruth’s vision for First 5 and her track record of program innovation, strategic partnership development, and effective leadership, made her the inspired choice. We are excited to usher in the next era for First 5, with Ruth at the helm.” said Marilyn Cachola Lucey, Commission Chair for the First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission.

First 5 is grateful to the search firm CPS HR Consulting, First 5 staff, and the Children and Families Commission for their role and ongoing support in the decision-making process. Please join First 5 Contra Costa in welcoming Ruth and share in the excitement as we enter into a new chapter of our continual support of parents and families, and strengthening systems that give our youngest children the best start in life.

Dr. Ruth Fernández with Commissioners John Jones and Supervisor Diane Burgis

Click here to download the press release.

About First 5 Contra Costa:

First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy, nurtured and ready to learn by investing in programs and activities focused on children during their first five years—the most important time in children’s development.

First 5 Contra Costa
1485 Civic Court, Suite 1200
Concord, CA 94520