New Campaign Helps East Bay Babies Reach Full Potential

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 to order a supply.

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When Parents Decline Developmental Screening

SFP_6424When staff at the Bay Point First 5 Center observed that a two-year-old boy attending classes wasn’t speaking at all, they broached the subject with his mom. She quickly replied, “He’s fine. I know what he needs.”

Primary caregivers, such as parents, know their children best. Talking to a family member who is uncomfortable about getting developmental screening for their child can be a delicate dance. Here’s how staff at the First 5 Center approached it.

The First 5 team first acknowledged that the mother is the expert on her child. The staff explained that developmental screening is one way to help her learn more about her child’s development. They also suggested she enroll her son in a literacy and sign language class to boost his language and speech. She declined the screening but tried the class.

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Volunteers Create Learning Garden, Outdoor Classroom in Concord

Monument_volunteer_storyphotoFifty volunteers from Keller Williams Realty in Walnut Creek descended on the Monument Community First 5 Center last week to transform an unused dirt lot into a vibrant learning garden and outdoor classroom for preschoolers and their families.

The event was part of Keller Williams’ annual RED Day campaign, a day of service for Keller Williams associates to give back to important causes in their communities. The Monument Community First 5 Center was the recipient of these generous services this year. Continue reading

Finding Community at a First 5 Center


Nain and her daughter at the West County First 5 Center in 2007.

When Nain Lopez drives by the West County First 5 Center, her daughters always point and say, “There’s our First 5.”

The Lopez family began taking First 5 Center classes seven years ago, even before the San Pablo site was open. At the time, Nain was new to the U.S., caring for her infant daughter Yenuen without family nearby and with few friends. Isolated and alone, and adjusting to her new life as a stay-at-home mother, Nain was experiencing postpartum depression.

She decided to take an infant massage class at the Center, and she’s been going ever since. She now attends with her four-year-old daughter Rebeca. Nain says the classes and families she met at the First 5 Center helped her recover from postpartum depression and became her lifeline. Continue reading

Developmental Screening Helps Every Child

The following is a letter sent to the Delta First 5 Center from a parent whose daughter benefited from developmental screening.

Screening_PosterDuring the early stages of development of my daughter Evalyn Grace, I felt she was underdeveloped in her communication skills. Being a first time mother and hearing constantly, “every child is different” and “do not compare her to other kids,” I began to feel as if I was doing something wrong.  I did feel she was different.  She did not interact with others well.  I did compare her to other kids her age; she was not talking like them.

I began to feel overwhelmed and alone towards my opinion of where my daughter should be developmentally.  Her developmental growth was inconsistent. She would go months without trying a new word. I was later referred to First 5 for developmental screening shortly after Evalyn’s second birthday.

During her first screening, Ms Rhea (First 5 staff member) asked her to repeat a sound. After a few tries, Evalyn had a breakdown. As usual, when asked to make a sound or word she would start breathing heavily, turn red, and cry after not being able to speak.

We began attending classes at First 5 where Evalyn was able to be in an environment with more children her age. Ms. Rhea was able to refer us to the Lynn Center. I was happy to see improvement after attending First 5 for four months. It was a rough start, but I was finally seeing growth in her development in all aspects. After a year attending First 5, Evalyn was able to participate in group exercises and say her name during the introduction songs. Continue reading

New Support Group for African American Mothers

Rich_group1“Be the rainbow to someone’s day.”

That was the closing inspiration at the West County First 5 Center’s new African American mothers support group, a place for mothers and caregivers to come together, talk, vent, exchange ideas, and make new relationships without feeling like they’re attending just another parenting class.

The group, called Kahawia Uzazi (Swahili for Brown Parenting), has attracted about a dozen mothers and caregivers to the Center’s Richmond location since it started eight months ago.

According to the group’s facilitator Alisa Robinson, “The group gives mothers a comfortable outlet to discuss whatever issues they might like to discuss in a familiar, non-judgmental environment with people they may have many things in common with.” Continue reading

Support for East County Dads

Meet Greg Harris, a stay-at-home dad in Brentwood.  He recently started a father’s group at the Delta First 5 Center for East County dads.  Here’s why: 

I  suddenly became a stay-at-home dad when I lost my job last year. I woke up one Monday morning, my wife went to work, and I looked at my three-year-old daughter and thought, “Now what?”

In those early days, we spent our time at the park, taking classes at the Delta First 5 Center, and going on lots of walks. It wasn’t long before we had formed a new bond. It was amazing.

One morning my wife, daughter, and I were at the farmer’s market and saw a booth for a local parent’s club/playgroup. When I told the organizer I was the stay-at-home parent she said, “Oh, we don’t really want dads in our group.”

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Helping Families Achieve Financial Stability

Bay Point First 5 Center’s Andrea Foti provides financial coaching and education to East County families.

In the last three years in Contra Costa County, the cost of child care has increased by 25%, unemployment by 74%, and the number of CalFresh (food stamps) recipients by 123%. Meanwhile, wages rose by only 2%.

A family of four in Contra Costa with one school-age and one preschool-age child would have to earn $69,069 annually to cover basic costs including housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and taxes. This level of self sufficiency is out of reach for most of the families our funded programs serve, especially when you consider that last year 48% of our families earned $15,000 or less. Continue reading

See the New First 5 Center in Richmond

In an effort to provide high-quality programs to even more Richmond families, the West County First 5 Center opened a new satellite site in the city’s Iron Triangle neighborhood last May.

With its main site located in San Pablo, the Center has provided classes to Richmond families over the years by offering programs at various community centers. Now the new site, located at 317 11th Street, will serve as the primary location for all Richmond-based programs.

We recently visited the new site and invite you to watch our video tour!

For more information, please contact (510) 232-5650 or click here for a schedule of classes offered at the new site this month.