Today marks a new chapter for California’s families with the inaugurations of not only Gavin Newsom as California’s 40th Governor, but also Tony Thurmond–former Contra Costa Assemblymember and West County School Board member–as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Both have publicly committed to ensuring that every child has the best start in life and is fully ready to engage and succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
“The research very strongly supports investing in early childhood to reap education, health, and social benefits later in life. Governor Newsom will likely waste no time in putting into action the early childhood policies he promoted in his campaign,” said Sean Casey, First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director.
“The leadership from the Governor, Superintendent Thurmond, and an equally supportive legislature could very quickly transform California’s early education system in ways we haven’t seen since the creation of the higher education system in the 1960’s,” he added.
First 5 Contra Costa stands ready to help implement these exciting possibilities in the months and years to come. “Everything we’ve done up to now, whether by building quality in early education, training the next generation of providers, or supporting and strengthening families, has prepared us for the time when public investments make high-quality early childhood education and family support universal,” said Mr. Casey.
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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 has invested more than $140 million in Proposition 10 tobacco tax funds to help Contra Costa’s children get the best possible start in life.
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
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.
We are 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.
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.
Licensed child care programs throughout Contra Costa County are invited to join Quality Matters, our quality rating and improvement system which supports and incentivizes child care programs to offer the best early care and education possible. Public and private centers and family child care programs can apply.
Quality Matters rates programs every two years on their level of quality on elements including teacher-child interactions, environment, teacher training and qualifications, use of recommended child assessments, and ratio and class size (centers only). Throughout the process, programs receive training, personalized coaching, and participation grants between $2,000 to $10,000 to prepare for their rating and improve quality. This comprehensive support really works.
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.
“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.
Child care quality is improving in Contra Costa County and we have the ratings to prove it!
Fifty-five licensed child care programs were recently re-rated as participants in Quality Matters, our pilot child care Quality Improvement and Rating System (QRIS), and the results are outstanding:
- 26 sites increased their quality ratings
- 27 sites stayed the same (three of these were already 5’s, the top rating)
- Only two ratings decreased (note that both still meet quality benchmarks)