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 helpmegrow@first5coco.org to order a supply.

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Meet Benjamin

Benjamin Estrada didn’t have custody of his four-year-old daughter when he started taking classes at the West County First 5 Center.

“For me, I had to start over. I had to build from the bottom up. I had made a decision that I was going to be a better parent, and the First 5 Center gave me a vision for how that could be possible,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin began visiting the center weekly while working to gain full custody of his daughter. Most of the time, he was the only dad in the class. But that never stopped him.

“My favorite class was the Triple P class. It really goes in depth about parenting. And you learn about all of your child’s developmental stages, and why the first five years are so important. The First 5 Center maps it out for you and makes it understandable. It helps you be a better parent,” he said.

Benjamin is now a single father with full custody of his daughter, who’s about to turn 10, and an active member of the West County Regional Group we sponsor. He also participates on the PTA at his daughter’s school.

“I went to the first Regional Group meeting and haven’t missed one since. We decide what to stand up for, for other parents and children. It’s so fulfilling and empowering,” Benjamin said. “The First 5 Center staff embraces everyone who walks through their door. They still embrace me when I come. I tell all my neighbors to go there.”

Learn more about the First 5 Centers and the West County Regional Group.

Relief for Stressed Parents

TriplePA program we’re funding is helping to reduce parent’s stress, anxiety, and depression, while building parenting skills at the same time.

Called Triple P (or Positive Parenting Program), the program has been used throughout the world to improve parenting skills and prevent child abuse by fostering positive and nurturing relationships between parents and children. Triple P is also effective in helping parents to manage difficult child behavior.

We’re funding Triple P services in partnership with Contra Costa Health Services, Mental Health.  We each allocate $75,000 for the program, with our funding used for parents with young children.  The nonprofit C.O.P.E. Family Support Center provides some of the Triple P classes and trains organizations to implement the curriculum.  To date, 62 providers have been trained.  Classes take place throughout the county, including the First 5 Centers, family homeless shelters, and children’s mental health programs. Continue reading

Homeless Shelter Reports Increase in Young Parents

More young parents are seeking shelter services says SHELTER, Inc., the organization that runs the Mountain View family homeless shelter in Martinez.

During the last six months, 41% of the parents served (7 out of 17 households) were younger than 22 years old. Many of these parents spent their youth in foster care or group homes and have limited family support, if any.

According to the Contra Costa Crisis Center, the top request from families with young children calling 211 last year was for housing and homeless services.  They recorded over 2,800 calls from Contra Costa families with children under age 5 experiencing housing issues.

One reason for the increase, according to staff at the shelter, is the lack of entry-level jobs available. These jobs typically were held by younger people with limited work experience, but because of the recession, the young parents are competing with people who have more work experience and better job skills.

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First 5 Contra Costa’s 2011 Highlights

2011 was another interesting and productive year at First 5 Contra Costa. We spent much of the year responding to the State’s attempt to divert $1 billion in First 5 funding, which forced us to make major program cuts for the first time.  Just two weeks ago, the Fresno Superior Court sided with First 5 and declared the State’s raid on First 5 funds “invalid.” We’ll know by February if the State decides to appeal.

Despite the political and economic pressures of last year, the tireless work of First 5 Contra Costa and our funded partners carried on.  Continue reading