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.
Last week, First 5 Contra Costa was thrilled to meet with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier for a tour of the East County First 5 Center in Pittsburg, and a discussion of our “Help Me Grow” program to improve early screening and intervention. Rep. DeSaulnier is carrying a bill this year that would significantly increase federal funding for developmental services, so children in our counties and others who need help are identified sooner, and helped faster.
Far too often, children arrive at their first day of kindergarten with signs of obvious developmental, behavioral or social challenges. In many cases, this can be prevented through timely developmental screening and early intervention, one of the most important things we can do to promote children’s health in their first years. Yet only 29% of California children receive timely developmental screenings.
First 5 Contra Costa has worked hard to ensure every pediatric provider in our county uses a standard developmental screening tool at recommended intervals. The County’s 211 information and referral service now has trained developmental specialists available to navigate parents to the programs and resources their child needs. And each of our five First 5 Centers—including the one Rep. DeSaulnier visited–has regular developmental playgroups for children with mild to moderate delays and their parents.
But children with more intensive conditions need more intensive services, and those remain harder to access. California’s Regional Center system and school districts are not sufficiently funded to meet the needs of children with autism and other significant developmental conditions. That’s why we’re so excited about Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill.
The bill—The Funding Early Intervention is the Right IDEA Act (HR4107)—would increase funding in two parts of existing law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA), over ten years. The IDEA makes free and appropriate education available to eligible children with disabilities from birth to 21 years of age. The DeSaulnier bill would increase funding for Part C of the IDEA, which gives states early intervention funds for infants and toddlers. It would also increase funding for preschool programs serving children with disabilities. Funding levels in both of these areas have eroded to the point that per-child spending is now only about 35% what it was more than two decades ago. Every year, 1 in 4 California children is at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral or social delays.
In Contra Costa we’re doing all we can to meet the needs of these children, their families and communities so that every child has their chance to develop to their full potential. But to do so, we’ll need help from our state and federal governments to ensure early childhood programs are fully funded. Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill is a strong step in the right direction.
For more information on Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, please visit:
For more information on the Help Me Grow program and early intervention and screening, please visit:
For more information on your local First 5 Center and upcoming programs and activities, please visit:
Seventy percent of children with developmental delays go undetected until kindergarten. Developmental screening can help detect delays much earlier, but too few California children receive them. AB11 will change that.
Introduced by Assembly Members Kevin McCarty and Rob Bonta and co-sponsored by the First 5 Association, AB11 would require pediatricians to provide babies and toddlers with routine developmental screening using a validated screening tool. The requirement would apply to children who receive health coverage through Medi-Cal.
According to Children Now, which graded California’s developmental screening practices a “C-“ in their 2018 California Children‘s Report Card, California ranks near the bottom among states for the rate of young kids who receive screening. Screening rates are even lower for children of color.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children receive developmental screening when they reach 9, 18, and 30 months old. California’s MediCal program has adopted these recommendations, but there is confusion in the medical field about developmental screening practices. Pediatricians often do not use a validated screening tool to identify children at risk for developmental delays, or use screening tools inconsistently.
First 5 Contra Costa has expanded developmental screening services locally in the last few years, screening about 3,000 low-income children every year. We’ve helped community and county health clinics and other pediatricians serving low-income kids adopt screening practices in line with AAP recommendations.
This is a great start, but ensuring all children get the screening and developmental services they need requires policy change. AB11 would provide explicit language requiring how and when pediatricians conduct developmental screening. This will help more young children access timely and effective intervention services and reach their greatest potential.
Contra Costa County has a shortage of child care slots and facilities, and a new assessment underway will both illuminate the severity of the problem and offer solutions. The Contra Costa County Local Planning and Advisory Council is leading the assessment and we’re proud to be a sponsor.
The data gathering process includes a community stakeholder survey to help identify potential partners and untapped facilities that could potentially house licensed child care programs. The community survey is for business leaders, developers, faith-based organizations, city planning departments, large nonprofit organizations and realtors.
If you know people through your personal or professional networks representing these groups, please share the survey link with them. The more input we receive, the more solutions we can devise to solve this critical issue for kids and our community.
Click here to view the Contra Costa County Early Care and Education Facilities Stakeholder Survey.
Governor Brown issued his budget proposal last week, as he does every January. Many organizations, like the California Budget & Policy Center, offer smart analyses and explanations of what is in the Governor’s budget. The good news is that this year’s budget offers early childhood advocates a lot to be excited about, including investments in early childhood education, health, and family support – all of the things that First 5 believes are critically important for children and families to succeed.
A lot of work and revision will happen between now and when the budget becomes final in June. But the January budget is significant because it signals the Governor’s priorities and the budget projections give the legislature a sense of the dollars available to work with.
For Contra Costa children, the budget holds a lot of promise.
The budget includes many improvements to early childhood education programs. It increases funding for subsidized child care programs; increases the number of high-quality preschool slots; and creates a new online community college for early childhood education, which should lead to more qualified child care teachers. Those are big, important moves that will support, strengthen and grow California’s early childhood system. Exactly how many parents, children and providers would be affected in Contra Costa is not yet clear, but currently there is an estimated shortage of 29,000 child care spaces in the county. There is a lot of room for improvement.
Another exciting proposal is the plan to increase funding for family support services. These are the services designed to help families who are vulnerable because of poverty or other factors that put them at risk for maternal depression, poor academic outcomes for the children, or interaction with the child welfare system.
The Governor proposed to create a new home visiting program for first-time mothers who receive assistance through the CalWORKs program. If passed, this would be an important new program that would match new parents with trained professionals who would provide regular home visits on a voluntary basis. Home visiting programs have been shown to promote healthy child development and academic success, improve health outcomes, and support families’ economic security.
Again, the number of families who could benefit from this program is unclear at this stage. Home visiting programs operating today can only reach a tiny fraction of all the families who might benefit from them. Contra Costa Health Services’ Nurse Family Partnership program has reached over 300 families. Other programs operating in the county, including First 5 Contra Costa’s Welcome Home Baby, reach hundreds of other families. Without adequate funding, it’s no wonder these programs cannot meet the needs of the 15,000 Contra Costa children under age 6 who live in poverty.
The Governor’s budget makes it clear that early childhood advocates, who have been telling the Administration for years about the need to prioritize children, have made an impression. Given the big needs of our young children, the Governor’s proposals highlighted here are welcome, though they will not suffice. The administration and legislature need to keep their eyes on the many complex and critical needs of our children in this and every budget cycle.
Sarah Crow is First 5 Contra Costa’s Strategic Information and Planning Manager
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.
2017 Quality Matters ratings are in!
We have new ratings for 40 licensed child care programs participating in Quality Matters, Contra Costa County’s quality rating and improvement system that helps programs offer the best care possible.
Combined with ratings completed last year, we’ve rated 108 licensed child care programs. Nearly 90% are meeting benchmarks and standards for quality care. View all ratings here.
How ratings work.
Quality Matters rates child care programs using a scale of one to five on elements including:
- Providing positive, engaging teacher-child interactions
- Providing a safe, healthy and stimulating environment
- Teacher training and qualifications
- Using recommended assessments to check if children are learning new skills and developing on track
- Ratio and class size (centers only)
Family child care programs, private centers, and public centers, such as Head Start or state preschool programs, participate.
Programs are rated every two years and receive intensive coaching, training, financial incentives and support to maintain or improve ratings. Of the 40 programs rated in 2017, 28 were rated for a second time and 12 received their first rating. Ratings of “3” or above mean programs have met quality standards and benchmarks.
Results for the 28 re-rated programs in 2017 show that:
- Nearly every program is meeting quality standards and benchmarks.
- 11 programs increased their ratings, many moving from a 4 to a 5, a rating difficult to achieve.
- 16 programs received the same rating.
- Only one program decreased its rating.
In the five years since we launched Quality Matters, 83 child care programs have been rated twice. Eighty-four percent of these programs earned the two highest ratings, and most are state preschools or publicly-funded programs serving low-income children.
First 5 Contra Costa developed Quality Matters with the Contra Costa County Office of Education, Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education, CocoKids, and Contra Costa, Diablo Valley, and Los Medanos Community Colleges.
To learn more or apply to participate, visit qualitychildcarematters.org.
Early care and education providers spend every day helping children learn and grow. Now it’s their turn.
The Professional Development Program (PDP) is accepting applications for 2017-18 from early childhood educators working with children birth to age 5 at licensed or licensed-exempt programs in Contra Costa County.
For nearly 20 years, the PDP has helped ECE providers advance their education and training in early childhood education, and rewarded them when they do. This year’s PDP is no exception.
Participants will receive financial incentives ranging from $300 to $1,250 when they earn six units of college coursework, attend reflective practice seminars, complete training hours, or qualify for lost wages reimbursements.
“The PDP has helped thousands of early care professionals in Contra Costa County become better trained teachers,” said First 5 Contra Costa’s Early Childhood Education Program Officer Edirle Menezes. “Children learn best in stimulating environments with well-trained teachers. We are fortunate to have thousands of these dedicated teachers in our county.”
When providers sign up for the PDP, they also receive support. First 5 Contra Costa funds three academic advisors in the child development departments at Contra Costa, Diablo Valley, and Los Medanos Community Colleges to help child care providers map out their college coursework, apply for stipends, textbook loans, or permits, and find tutoring. The three advisors met with over 700 local child care providers last year alone.
We partner with the Contra Costa County Office of Education and the Local Planning & Advisory Council for Early Care and Education (LPC) on this successful program. Combined, our efforts invest over $1.2 million annually to improve ECE teacher quality in Contra Costa County, with funding from local Proposition 10 funds, AB 212, and First 5 California.
FTo apply for the 2017-18 Professional Development Program, click here.
Summers winding down and the first day of school is around the corner. Here are some tips for making that first day as smooth and enjoyable as possible for kindergartners new to school:
Get immunized: Make sure your child is ready to start the school year by visiting your pediatrician and getting the required vaccinations for school enrollment.
Set your clocks for school schedules: A good night’s sleep helps young students to succeed in the classroom. Put children on a schedule before school starts and have them go to bed and wake up earlier. Let your child become involved with picking clothes – lay them out the night before. Continue reading
The First 5 Contra Costa Board of Commissioners voted to support AB 435 (Thurmond) at our April meeting.
AB 435, the Contra Costa Child Care Subsidy Pilot, would authorize Contra Costa County to develop an individualized child care subsidy plan with flexibility to adjust eligibility guidelines, increase reimbursement rates for providers, and fully utilize subsidized funding the state allocates to Contra Costa County.
This bill is modeled after successful legislation that increased local flexibility of child care subsidy dollars in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco. The bill does not call for new funding from the state. First 5 Contra Costa is co-sponsoring AB 435 with the Contra Costa County Office of Education.