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.

Meet our New Deputy Director!

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.

 

AB435 will improve child care subsidies in Contra Costa

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.

New Playgrounds Coming to Concord

The Monument Community of Concord is celebrating two new playgrounds with a parade and ribbon cuttings after the Central County Regional Group we sponsor urged the city council to improve parks in their community.

The effort began in 2013 when the CCRG and partners assessed conditions at parks in the Monument neighborhood of Concord. Two parks, Ellis Lake and Meadow Homes, needed the most improvement, lacked bathrooms, and had more crime and safety issues.

After the parents presented their concerns at several city council meetings, council members agreed to allocate $1.1 million to renovate the two parks.

At Ellis Lake Park, the city expanded the playground by 2,900 square feet, and installed benches, lighting, drinking fountains, a safety barrier near a small lake, and new public restrooms which include a tot-sized toilet and sink rarely found in city parks. Meadow Homes Park received a 4,900-square-foot playground with structures for older and younger children.

The parents group is also tackling crime and safety issues by sponsoring community meetings with police and forming neighborhood watch programs. First 5 Contra Costa and the First 5 Center program adjacent to Ellis Lake Park, will also provide free sports classes and other children’s activities to keep the parks filled with families and deter crime.

The new play structures at Meadow Homes

The celebration events will take place on October 7th, starting at Meadow Homes Park at 10:00 a.m. After the ribbon-cutting there, families will form a parade to Ellis Lake Park to enjoy face painting, arts and crafts, a bike rodeo, and more.

The new playground projects were funded by the City of Concord in response to the Monument Parks Assessment conducted by the Central County Regional Group, First 5 Contra Costa, Monument Impact, and Contra Costa Health Services.

First 5 Contra Costa and the three parent advocacy groups it sponsors have partnered with city officials to refurbish eight neglected parks in low-income communities throughout the county.

Learn more: www.first5coco.org.

 

Child Care Sites Earn High Ratings

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.

Quality is improving.

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.

DACA Reversal Harms Children

The Trump administration’s heartless decision to roll back DACA will harm children and families.

About a quarter of DACA recipients, 800,000 young adults whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children, live in California. Since 2012, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has provided recipients with work permits, the ability to go to college, and most important, protection from deportation.

These young Dreamers contribute to our schools, churches, cities, and communities. They’re our colleagues, neighbors, and friends. About 25% are parents to U.S. born children, and over half have U.S. citizen brothers or sisters.

The Trump administration has placed this successful program, and thousands of futures, in jeopardy.

The anxiety surrounding a family’s immigration status can be detrimental to the health and development of children. A recent study found that when parents received DACA status, it significantly improved their children’s mental health almost immediately. Simply put: children had less stress and anxiety when their parents no longer feared being deported.

The current administration’s immigration crackdown has eroded these gains for children. Reversing DACA will only exacerbate this.

All children deserve to have safe, secure childhoods. They should not live in fear that their parents or siblings will be taken away at any moment, or be further traumatized when a loved one is deported, leaving many in sudden poverty.

DACA is admittedly an imperfect, short-term solution to a much larger need for comprehensive immigration reform. But it is also the most compassionate path for “those who believe in their hearts and in their minds that they are American” as President Obama said when he created DACA in 2012. We hope our leaders will stand up for DACA so that all children are supported in safe, nurturing families and communities.

Sean Casey, Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa

Support Available for ECE Providers

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.”

First 5 funds Academic Advisors for ECE providers at the county’s three community colleges.

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.

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.

Getting Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten

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

We want to hear from you!

First 5 Contra Costa is hosting focus groups to help us improve services for African American families. We are looking for parents who have participated at First 5 Centers, in home visiting services, or other programs we fund to attend the focus groups. A light meal, child care, and $40 gift card will be provided.

The focus groups, along with a needs assessment currently underway, will help create improved services for African American families. We’re allocating $200,000 to pilot these services later this year.

While we are proud of the services we provide at First 5 Centers, we recognize that not all families have benefited from them.  Only 6% of families served by First 5 Centers are African American. We’re looking to change that, or create new services altogether.

Join us for the focus groups!

Richmond: August 3, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Call to register: (510) 210-5271.

Pittsburg: August 14, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Call to register: (925) 967-4709.