New Campaign Helps East Bay Babies Reach Full Potential

(EAST BAY, CA) From the day they are born, babies are constantly changing. It’s a glorious time of exploration and growth. It’s exciting, and it can also be challenging for families to figure out what their baby or toddler needs now. That’s why First 5 Alameda County and First 5 Contra Costa are launching a campaign to let families know about Help Me Grow.

When families have concerns or questions, no matter how big or how small, Help Me Grow has answers and can provide tips, support, and information about local services. From whining to walking, from tantrums to tickles, from crying to cuddling, First 5’s Help Me Grow program helps parents get the support and resources they need for their babies and toddlers.

The first five years of life is a time of rapid brain development. It is also a time when delays in development frequently go unnoticed. In California, 70% of children with delays go undetected until Kindergarten. If parents and caregivers miss signs of delays, there are lasting consequences for children. Every second matters and it is critical that parents get answers to their questions as soon as they come up.

Help Me Grow is designed to minimize the worries of parents and caregivers by providing free and confidential support. Through its phone line, texting services, and websites, Help Me Grow offers parents information about developmental milestones and what to do if they have concerns about their baby or toddler’s development. The program also connects families to local services like parenting classes, health clinics, or food banks.

Every parent wonders if their baby is developing normally, but what if their next doctor’s appointment isn’t for six months?,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Help Me Grow supports families through every stage of their baby’s development, from first smiles to the first day of school.”

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. It includes bilingual ads in English and Spanish and is sponsored by First 5 Alameda County and First 5 Contra Costa.

“All families benefit when they have support for their baby’s development. If there are concerns, the best time to address them is during the first five years, when brains are still developing and most receptive to intervention,” said Kristin Spanos, CEO of First 5 Alameda County. “In California, most developmental concerns are not identified until children reach kindergarten. These are missed opportunities to provide relief to parents and help children when the help is most effective. Help Me Grow can change that.”

 

Help Me Grow Contact Information:

Help Me Grow in Alameda County: Help Me Grow in Contra Costa County:
Phone: (888) 510-1211

Web: www.alamedakids.org

Phone: Call 211 or text “hmgcoco” to 898211

Web: www.helpmegrowcoco.org.

First 5 Alameda County

First 5 Alameda County helps young children grow up healthy and ready to learn during the most important time in their development. We have nearly two decades of experience funding innovative programs and advocating for policies that produce better futures for our children. First 5 Alameda County is an innovative public entity created by passage of Proposition 10 in 1998 which added fifty cents per pack of cigarettes to help fund early care and education for children birth to 5.

Learn more: www.first5alameda.org.

 

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.

Learn more: www.firstf5coco.org.

Contra Costa’s New Rapid Response Hotline

In the midst of immigration recent raids that swept the Bay Area, Contra Costa County launched a new hotline and rapid-response initiative to provide free, trustworthy information and legal support to immigrant families.

Called Stand Together Contra Costa, the initiative includes a 24-hour hotline, a new multi-lingual website, rapid response for local deportation activities, legal consultations and deportation defense services, and immigrant rights education and training.

The mission of Stand Together Contra Costa is to ensure that all people in Contra Costa County, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, are afforded the due-process rights established by the Constitution. The initiative is modeled after similar programs in most Bay Area counties.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and local foundations are funding this public-private initiative. The Office of the Public Defender and a coalition of nonprofit organizations led by Catholic Charities of the East Bay are managing the program.

Immigrant families First 5-funded programs serve have expressed increasing fear and anxiety regarding misinformation, discrimination, and deportation threats they’ve experienced since the Trump Administration’s immigration crackdowns started last year. Just last week, a national survey of educators showed that these crackdowns are significantly harming children’s academic performance, attendance, and behavior.

Stand Together Contra Costa will allay some of these fears and support our Contra Costa neighbors and families.  Please share this new resource widely.

Stand Together’s 24-hour, staffed hotline can be reached at (925) 900-5151, or visit standtogethercontracosta.org.

AB11 Would Expand Developmental Screening

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.

Help Solve Child Care Facility Shortage

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.

A New Home for the Antioch First 5 Center!

The Antioch First 5 Center will soon have a new home! Located at 300 H Street in downtown Antioch, the new site is about 2700 square feet and just around the corner from the former First 5 Center location.

We expect to open in a few months after completing some minor tenant improvements. In the meantime, First 5 Center classes and activities will occur in Antioch at nearby locations in February and March:

  • Find First 5 Center classes and activities happening in Antioch here.
  • Antioch families are welcome to sign up for classes at other First 5 Centers as well. Class calendars for each site are here.
  • Families who want a developmental screening for their child, or who have questions about Help Me Grow developmental playgroups, should call the Antioch/Delta First 5 Center (925) 516-3880.
  • The East County Regional Group is holding its monthly meetings in downtown Antioch. Contact Alejandra Plascencia (925) 771-7338 for location information.

Get the latest information on our First 5 Center site updates webpage.

The Governor’s Budget Proposal and Contra Costa Kids

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

Reflections on 2017

2017 brought new challenges for many families in our community. Expanded deportation policies and an intensified anti-immigrant climate left families feeling anxious and afraid. We responded quickly in significant ways to help both families and the agencies that serve them. Many turned to the First 5 Centers for help, where they found immigration workshops, counseling, and trustworthy information.

The three Regional Groups we sponsor took action as well. Together with their partners, they successfully advocated for 6 safe haven/sanctuary policies at city councils and school districts throughout Contra Costa County. We joined them in pressing the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to approve funding for the county’s first rapid response program, which will soon provide legal assistance and reliable information to immigrant residents.

We held a successful forum for 175 local service providers featuring child development experts, attorneys, and advocates who provided the latest information on immigration policies and rights, the detrimental impact mass deportation policies have on children and families, tips for easing children’s fears, and resources to fight discriminatory detention practices in Contra Costa County.

These are issues we never thought we’d be tackling a year ago. But we found new ways to support families and bring light to their needs, as First 5 has done for nearly two decades.

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Proposition 10, the ballot initiative that created First 5 in California. We’ve been responding to the needs of Contra Costa’s vulnerable children and families since then, and will continue to advocate and take action for kids in significant ways in the year ahead.

Look for improved services and outreach for African American families, a new curriculum on early childhood trauma, results from our first countywide kindergarten readiness assessment, expanded First 5 Center services, in addition to the many effective programs we regularly support.

Despite the challenges, or maybe because of them, First 5 is ready to act, and ready to lead. All children deserve to grow up safe, nurtured, ready for school, and able to pursue their dreams.

Sean Casey is the Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa

Our Top 2017 Highlights

Our Notable 2017 Accomplishments

2017 was another productive and effective year at First 5 Contra Costa!

Combined, our funded services and activities benefited more than 27,605 children, families, and providers. Here’s a snapshot of some of our notable accomplishments from 2017.

Reaching more families at First 5 Centers.

We spent several months assessing the First 5 Center structure and demographic changes in Contra Costa County to improve how First 5 Center services are delivered.

This resulted in a plan that will increase the number of families who benefit from these valuable services in East County. Over time, we will shift from funding three small sites to funding two large centers in Pittsburg and Antioch. Services will continue in East County throughout the transition. Look for routine updates on new sites and classes in East County here.

The First 5 Centers are a key resource for parents and communities, which is why we’ve committed to funding them long-term. Last year alone, the Centers reached 2,100 parents. Families who took parenting classes made significant improvements in their knowledge of child development, patience with children, and the amount of time they spent with their kids.

Child care quality is improving.

156 child care programs participated in Quality Matters, our Quality Rating & Improvement System. 110 of these programs have been rated, and about half are publicly funded programs serving low-income families. Nearly 90 percent of the rated programs meet or exceed quality benchmarks on criteria including providing positive, engaging teacher-child interactions and safe, healthy and stimulating environments, teacher training and qualifications, and ratio and class size.

Quality Matters programs are rated every two years and receive intensive coaching, training, financial incentives and support to maintain or improve ratings. Last year, 28 programs were re-rated. Thirty-nine percent increased their rating, and 57 percent maintained quality ratings. Only one site’s rating decreased.

In addition, more than 600 early childhood teachers increased their education through the Professional Development Program. The college support, tutoring, and training provided resulted in 26% of teachers earning a degree or higher level on the early childhood teachers’ credentials permit.

Children with developmental delays are getting help earlier.

We continued to expand the Help Me Grow system to support early screening and intervention for children with developmental needs.

More than 3,000 children in our funded programs and via public health nursing received developmental screening services. For children screened in our programs, half were on track with their development. Twenty-five percent of the children had mild to moderate delays and another 25% needed a more formal assessment for serious developmental concerns.

Nearly 300 children with moderate delays participated in Help Me Grow Developmental Playgroups at the First 5 Centers. About 25% of children screened after the eight-week playgroup no longer showed signs of delay.

First 5 Contra Costa had several policy victories.  

The three Regional Groups of parent leaders we sponsor continued to rack up major victories. Using their assessments of 75 parks in 5 cities, these parent leaders have secured $2.5 million in funding. Four new playgrounds were installed in neglected parks this year alone. They also offered over 40 sports and exercise classes to improve safety and usage at the new playgrounds.

The Regional Groups fought hard for protections for immigrant families and racial justice. They pressed six school districts and cities to adopt sanctuary policies, and helped sway the County to approve funding for Contra Costa’s first rapid response network to support immigrant residents.

2017 also launched our new strategic information and policy department at First 5 Contra Costa. With new staff capacity, we created a policy protocol for the Commission to engage in advocacy work at the state and federal levels, and successfully co-sponsored legislation for the first time. AB435 will allow for greater local flexibility in the use of state funds for subsidized early learning in Contra Costa County, serve more children, and ensure allocated state funding is fully used.

Thank you to our many partners and contractors for another productive year. Onward to 2018!

Antioch Getting New First 5 Center

Exciting changes are underway for First 5 Center services in Antioch!

The Center is moving to a new location in downtown Antioch, and will open soon. Until then, First 5 Center classes and activities will take place at nearby locations in January and February 2018:

  • Find First 5 Center classes and activities happening in Antioch here.
  • Antioch families are welcome to sign up for classes at other First 5 Centers as well. Class calendars for each site are here.
  • Families who want a developmental screening for their child, or who have questions about Help Me Grow developmental playgroups, should call the Antioch/Delta First 5 Center (925) 516-3880.
  • The East County Regional Group will still hold meetings in downtown Antioch. Contact Alejandra Plascencia (925) 771-7338 for location information.

Long-term, First 5 Contra Costa plans to open a much larger regional First 5 Center in Antioch in order to serve more families. We’ve already started meeting with a group of Antioch parents to consult us on locations and will have more community input sessions in 2018.

Another change to note is that starting January 1, the nonprofit Aspiranet will provide First 5 Center services in Antioch. This agency also runs First 5 Centers in Brentwood, Concord, and Bay Point. We thank Brighter Beginnings for their many years of service operating the Antioch First 5 Center.

See updates about First 5 Centers in East County here on our website.

Contra Costa Kids Drinking Less Sugary Drinks

Together with Healthy and Active Before 5, we launched our hard-hitting and award-winning Sugar Bites campaign in 2013 urging parents to protect their toddlers and preschoolers from sugary drinks and serve them water instead. New data show local parents are heeding the message.

Analysis of children’s sugary beverage consumption among families new to First 5 services shows a steady decline over the last four years. The data come from First 5 Contra Costa’s annual family survey, a detailed list of questions hundreds of families complete when they start participating in services we fund.

The survey asks parents if their child had a sugary drink yesterday. Back in 2012/13, 80% of respondents answered yes. Last year, the response had dropped to 63%.

Juice Drinks

Sugar Bites is a unique campaign for many reasons, one being its focus on sugary juice drinks. Three of the four print ads we’ve run feature drinks like Sunny D or Capri Sun to challenge deceptive marketing tactics used to trick parents into thinking juice drinks are healthy beverages for young children. We also ran a TV commercial with this message.

Juice contains as much sugar as soda, sometimes more. Sugar Bites has provided a much-needed counter message for parents barraged by misleading claims from the beverage industry.

Since 2012/13, children’s consumption of juice in Contra Costa County is down 26%.

Decline mirrors state health data

Data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health survey, show a decrease in juice consumption among young children in Contra Costa County as well.

Families with children age two to six were asked if they served their children juice yesterday. In 2011, 22% of respondents said their child did not drink juice the day before. By 2015, this percentage had tripled, with 66% of children not drinking juice.

We continue to run the Sugar Bites campaign each year. For the last two, we’ve had a smaller campaign targeting Concord and San Pablo via bus ads, grocery carts, convenience stores, and window clings on sugary drinks cases in small shops. The last campaign had about 24 million media impressions (the number of times people saw the ads). First 5 Sacramento also runs the ads in the Sacramento region.

Learn more about Sugar Bites at www.cutsugarydrinks.org.