A Letter of Reflection and Hope from Our Executive Director


To our community of Commissioners, friends, partners, and families,

If you’re anything like me, you’re pinching yourself and wondering: how are we already at the close of yet another year? 

Yet, when we reflect on all that First 5 Contra Costa has accomplished, it’s no surprise. From providing hundreds of families with much needed diapers and PPE to supporting hundreds of hours of parent education and advocacy and launching a trauma-informed, healing-centered Network of Care, the team at First 5 and you all, our partners and community, have shown up in powerful ways to ensure that every child in Contra Costa can make the most of their potential.

This year was not without its challenges. The pandemic remains a pressing health threat, and its economic impact continues to reverberate for low-income families hardest hit by job loss. Those same families are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to cover the cost of increasingly expensive child care. All the while, desperately underpaid early childhood educators are leaving the field for higher paying jobs. Families of color are more likely to feel the impact of these challenges, due to legacies of redlining and discrimination that have put them at an economic disadvantage. 

It’s no surprise to see our communities asking for stronger mental health support, in addition to the concrete support they need to stay healthy and housed. 

In the face of all this challenge, a word that feels present for me as I look to 2022 is believe. Many of us have heard that believing is seeing and seeing is believing. And what I’ve seen this past year are the myriad ways we have come together–agencies, nonprofits, leaders, and families–to support one another in the ever-important work of giving all children what they need to thrive in their first five years of life. The simple reality is, no one of us can do the work of raising our County’s youngest alone. Seeing us come together, I believe we can create an equitable, compassionate, healthy, and love-filled reality for our community. 

Yes, it’s been one heck of a year, and it’s hard to believe it’s over. And, thanks to all of you, we’re one year closer to realizing our vision that all of Contra Costa’s children are healthy and ready to learn in safe, nurturing environments. I invite all of us to continue believing and finding hope in that vision of success and well-being that each of us hold for children. Let us not lose sight of what is possible, for our collective synergy presents endless possibilities!

On behalf of the staff team at First 5 Contra Costa and yours truly,

Ruth Fernández, Ed.D
Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa

Update On Our West County First 5 Center Sites

The Richmond satellite site of the West County First 5 Center, closed since 2018, will not reopen. Initially closed in July 2018 for a seismic retrofit, the satellite site’s closure extended for over two years due to COVID-19. Increasing costs of operating and staffing the site coupled with family attendance were the primary factors that led to the decision to close the site permanently.

First  5 Contra Costa remains committed to serving Richmond families at the West County First 5 Center located in San Pablo, where any family with a child ages 0-5 can attend classes and connect to community resource specialists. For families where travel to San Pablo is not possible or ideal, the West County First 5 Center will continue to provide remote and online programs. Additionally, we will utilize our long standing  partnership with agencies and organizations that serve families and young children to  broaden our reach in Richmond and West County.

Visit the West County First 5 Center today! You can find a calendar of current opportunities available here. As always, we want to hear from you. If you have questions, concerns, or thoughts you’d like to share, please reach out to the Director of the West County First 5 Center, Alexina Rojas: arojas@bacr.org.

Need to reach us? Send us an email.

Need to reach us? Send us an email.


Dear community members and partners:

Please be advised that we are temporarily unable to access our office telephone lines. If you need to contact or speak with First 5 staff, please direct all communications via email, which you can find here—we will respond as quickly as possible.

If you’d like to reach one of our First 5 Centers, you can still contact them via email or phone, here. We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you for your patience!

The First 5 Contra Costa Team

We Come Together as One to Create Loving and Safe Communities

Two mom and daughter pairs, each pair of a different race and skin tone, sit on the floor and dance in front of a table of blocks.

Statement from First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director  

To our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander friends, neighbors and families: we stand with you in your grief, rage, and calls for justice in response to the anti-Asian violence we’ve recently witnessed, from Atlanta to closer to home in San Francisco and Oakland. Many of us and the families we serve see ourselves and the people we love in the lives that racism and white supremacy have stolen. On behalf of First 5 Contra Costa, I extend our support and solidarity to all those who have experienced loss and trauma as a result of the ongoing attacks on communities of color in this country.

It takes only looking at the past few weeks to recognize the pervasive systemic racism we’re up against, whether it is the shootings of six Asian American women in Atlanta and the mounting violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, the 1-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder, or the deplorable outlook thousands of migrant children and families currently face at the southern border.

These events are all part of a system of white supremacy and oppression, whose chief aim is to strip us of our humanity, divide us, and designate some of us as less worthy of safety, a home, dignity, and care. This aim is 1) morally wrong and 2) a threat to our vision that all of Contra Costa’s children are healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing families and communities.

This moment calls on us to heighten our efforts to root out systems of oppression and dismantle them, and to join, shoulder to shoulder with families and our partners, in working toward policies, systems, and services rooted in justice and a celebration of our common humanity. Only by acknowledging our shared struggles and working together will we build a world where all children thrive.

In solidarity,

Ruth Fernández, Ed.D.
Executive Director
First 5 Contra Costa



How to Talk to Children About Racism

  • The Conscious Kid, an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth: https://www.theconsciouskid.org/
  • Embrace Race, raising a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race: https://www.embracerace.org/
  • Raising Race Conscious Children, a resource for talking about race with young children: http://www.raceconscious.org/
  • Teaching Tolerance, to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy: https://www.tolerance.org/


How to Find Support with Trauma and Mental Health

  • BEAM, to remove the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. https://www.beam.community
  • Contra Costa Crisis Center, if you are in need of someone to speak with or listen, dial 2-1-1 to access the Contra Costa Crisis Center, available 24-7 to help people through crisis, and provide or connect them with culturally relevant resources in the community. https://www.crisis-center.org/
  • RYSE Center, a safe space building youth power for young people to love, heal, and lead. https://rysecenter.org/


Additional Ways to Support Our Community

Día de los Libros Celebration 2021


Join the First 5 Association, in partnership with the California State Library, in celebration of Día de los Libros on Friday morning, April 30.

First 5 Contra Costa (that’s us) will also be hosting an additional 2-hour event that evening! Come celebrate with us!

Just because we’re doing the good work of social distancing to safeguard our loved ones and community from COVID-19, doesn’t mean we can’t come together (virtually)!

Friday, April 30, 2021

10:00 am – 10:45 am
Featuring CA’s First Partner Jennifer Seibel Newsom, CA’s Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, and father-son duo, Actor Hudson Yang and Journalist Jeff Yang

  • To access the event on 4/30 at 10 am, log on to Facebook and go to the First 5 Association Page, which will broadcast the event Live.

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
With special guest readers Amy Mockoski from Contra Costa County Library, Cecilia Valdez and Laura Rodriguez from Tandem, and Ruth Fernandez from First 5 Contra Costa. 

Here is a Facebook EVENT page to RSVP and Share – we look forward to seeing all of you.

Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

The First 5 Association has created a landing page with more information about the event with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Nadine Burke Harris, Hudson Yang, and Jeff Yang as well as additional links to resources throughout the state of California: Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

Srividya Iyengar

District II Alternate

Vidya Iyengar is the Regional Executive Director, Medi-Cal Strategy and Operations at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.  She leads the Medi-Cal line of business for the region, including enterprise-wide initiatives as part of the National Medicaid and vulnerable populations community of practice. In the previous four years she had been a Asst. Medical Group Administrator in the Greater Southern Alameda Area of Kaiser Permanente. In this role, she provided oversight to outpatient departments including Obstetrics/gynecology; surgery/surgical specialties and ophthalmology/optometry, while leading medical center wide initiatives. She joined the Permanente Medical Group in 2009 as the Director of Psychiatry in the Kaiser Permanente East Bay Area.

Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, she worked as the Ethnic Services Manager in the Contra Costa County mental health division and lead the Reducing Healthcare Disparities initiative. During her tenure in the County, she also developed the Workforce development and training program with the vision of creating competent, caring and high performing teams. She has had a breadth of experience leading treatment programs in outpatient and residential community healthcare focused on patients with a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

She is a licensed mental health clinician and has spent her early professional career as a therapist in County and community health settings. Throughout her career, she has been guided by her passion to work with underserved communities and Medi-Cal/Medicare recipients. She volunteers as the Board President of a non-profit organization serving survivors of domestic violence in the Bay Area. She serves on the advisory council of the Bay Area Women’s Healthcare Executive Council.

First 5 Contra Costa Awarded Nearly $2.4 Million in ACEs Aware Implementation Grant


First 5 Contra Costa, in partnership Contra Costa Crisis Center and La Clínica Pittsburg Medical, has been selected to receive an ACEs Aware implementation grant totaling $2,355,708 from the Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to participate in the state’s ACEs Aware initiative.

“Our first round of ACEs Aware grants brought medical, behavioral health, and community organizations together to imagine a system that prevents, screens for, treats and heals from ACEs,” said Dr. Ruth Fernández, Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa. “This latest funding will take this dreaming and put it into practice. When medical providers like La Clínica and community resources like the Crisis Center can integrate their work, our county is all the readier to interrupt and heal cycles of toxic stress.”  

First 5 Contra Costa and their partners will seek to mitigate the toxic stress response, build resilience, and limit the intergenerational transmission of ACEs by screening children age 0 to 5 years and their primary caregivers and connecting them with buffering resources and support structures in their communities. Recognizing the impact of maternal toxic stress on a child’s development, the work will have a strong focus on screening prenatal and postpartum mothers and creating supports and community referral systems that connect them with the resources they most need.

“Our program encourages caregivers to focus on their own wellbeing as a way to create a stable home and to build resiliency in their children. This is important for all mothers, but especially so for those with toxic stress related to their own ACEs,” said Dr. Barbara Botelho of La Clínica Pittsburg Medical. “At La Clínica, many of our patients have traumas stemming from both poverty and discrimination. By partnering with the Crisis Center and First 5, we hope to provide the material support and the tools to help them heal.”



In addition to screening caregivers and children ages 0-5, the project will build resilience in children and mothers by referring them to community supports, including: 

  • Mental health services for the mother to address positive ACES screening or other mental health issues including postnatal depression
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Support for basic needs, with a particular focus on addressing food insecurity and homelessness
  • Community-building opportunities
  • Parenting classes and education on normal infant development
  • Resources for cultivating parental wellbeing

“In our work building a Network of Care, we’ve learned that our medical community is well aware of ACEs and the effects of toxic stress. Where they’ve struggled is answering the question, ‘what’s next?’ after they screen for ACEs,” said Wanda Davis, Early Intervention Program Officer, First 5 Contra Costa. “This latest round of ACEs Aware grant funding will answer that question by connecting providers and systems of care to one another. When it comes to screening, treating, and healing ACEs, we don’t have to go it alone.” 

The second round of ACEs Aware grants focuses on planning and implementing networks of care across the state, including developing information technology platforms that provide the connectivity and integration necessary to move from screening, to treatment, to healing.

“The science is clear: Without intervention, Adverse Childhood Experiences and the resulting toxic stress response can lead to lasting negative mental and physical health outcomes,” said California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. “These grants will strengthen the capacity of our networks of care to support health care providers to effectively screen, treat, and heal patients with ACEs.”

A total of $30.8 million in second round ACEs Aware grant funding was awarded to 35 organizations across California to build and strengthen robust “networks of care” to effectively respond to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress with community-based health and social supports that meet the needs of children, adults, and families.

The full list of ACEs Aware grantees is available on the ACEs Aware Website.

Click here to download the full press release.

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About 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 child development.


About La Clínica

The mission La Clínica is to improve the quality of life of diverse communities by providing culturally appropriate, high quality, and accessible health care for all.


About Contra Costa Crisis Center

The mission of the Contra Costa Crisis Center is to keep people alive and safe, help them through crises, and provide or connect them with culturally relevant services in the community.


About ACEs Aware

Led by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California Surgeon General, and Dr. Karen Mark, Medical Director for DHCS, the ACEs Aware initiative offers Medi-Cal providers core training, screening tools, clinical protocols, and payment for screening children and adults for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are stressful or traumatic experiences people have by age 18 that were identified in the landmark ACE Study. ACEs describe 10 categories of adversities in three domains – abuse, neglect, and/or household dysfunction. ACEs are strongly associated with at least nine out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. Part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s California for All initiative, the goal of ACEs Aware is to reduce ACEs and toxic stress by half in one generation. Follow ACEs Aware on FacebookTwitterLinkedInand Instagram.


Office of the California Surgeon General

The role of California Surgeon General was created in 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom to advise the Governor, serve as a leading spokesperson on public health matters, and drive solutions to the state’s most pressing public health challenges. As California’s first Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has established early childhood, health equity, and ACEs and toxic stress as key priorities.


California Department of Health Care Services

DHCS is the backbone of California’s health care safety net, helping millions of low-income and disabled Californians each and every day. The mission of DHCS is to provide Californians with access to affordable, integrated, high-quality health care, including medical, dental, mental health, substance use treatment services, and long-term care. DHCS’ vision is to preserve and improve the overall health and well-being of all Californians. DHCS funds health care services for about 13 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries

Our Children Are Watching, And They Are Learning From Us

This is a moment where we, as the adults in their lives, must step up.

On Wednesday, we witnessed an assault on American democracy at the US Capitol. Our democracy is the means by which we uphold our ideals of liberty, justice, prosperity, and community. They are the very ideals that create the conditions for young children and families to thrive. They are integral to who we are and what we do at First 5 Contra Costa. 

It is enraging that this attack came alongside blatant displays of racism and white supremacy. Throughout history and up until this current moment, our country’s legacy of racism has put up hurdle after hurdle in giving all Americans a voice through their vote

And yet, in the face of these challenges, our democracy has grown to include more Americans in its representation. This election is a shining example: voters faced a global pandemic, massive disinformation campaigns, and voter suppression here in California and beyond. But thanks to the tireless work of our local elections officials and community organizers, we turned out in record numbers in Contra Costa to vote. 

This week’s events call on us to build on the strength of our growing democracy, while also reckoning with our racist past and present. We must actively work to create a future for ourselves and our children where all belong, are heard, and valued.

As ambassadors and advocates of young children and their families, we at First 5 feel and embrace the weight of our leadership. We are called upon to be the voices and stewards of civility, honor, peace, and love. Our actions and responses today shape our children’s future.

This is why, we must now come together, as a community and as a nation, to defend the democratic values and principles that make possible our visions of liberty and justice for all.” 

Ruth Fernández, EdD
Executive Director
First 5 Contra Costa


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For Young Children:

Offering comfort (during tough times), Sesame Street

Exploring Emotions, Sesame Street

“When You Feel So Mad, That You Want to Roar”: Dealing with Angry Feelings Daniel the Tiger, PBS Kids.


For Parents, Caregivers, Teachers, Providers

Talking to Kids About Tragedies and Civil Unrest, First 5 LA

Talking to Kids About the Attack on the Capitol, National Education Association

Struggling To Discuss Tough Topics With A Kid? Here Are Books That Might Help, NPR

Resources for Teachers, Beyond the Spotlight

How to talk to your kids about the chaos at the Capitol, National Geographic

Racism and Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News, Child Mind Institute

Residents to Design the Park of their Dreams


Parent leaders with Contra Costa County Regional Groups are organizing virtual workshops—to be conducted over Zoom—to make final design decisions on major renovations to local parks. This parent-led community design workshop is a crucial step in ensuring the transformation of community parks to reflect the unique identities, needs, and desires of neighborhood residents. It’s a natural outgrowth of the community-driven approach this effort has taken since the beginning. In 2018 the regional groups led participatory community park needs assessments that resulted in the identification of priority parks across the county, one of which was DeAnza Park, in addition to Boorman Park in Richmond.

“These projects are an example of what we can accomplish together when we work in partnership across our organizations and follow the leadership of residents. Children and families will benefit from this new park for generations to come”, said Rhea Elina Laughlin with First 5 Contra Costa.

Public parks are essential spaces for promoting community health, and in particular, physical activity, outdoor play, and mental well-being among families with young children. Early childhood is a critical time in the life course for promoting health and preventing chronic disease. With improved access to quality parks in their own neighborhoods, the youngest children of Contra Costa County are more likely to benefit from opportunities for a healthy start to their lives.

As public health officials continue to advise that people gather outdoors to avoid exposure to COVID-19, safe and culturally relevant outdoor spaces are more critical than ever. This is particularly the case for communities where most families live in multi-family or apartment housing and have little access to private outdoor space. Parks are not just physical spaces for exercise and play, but communal spaces for connecting with friends and family during this difficult time.


Saturday, September 12
11am – 2pm

Boorman Park Design Party

Click here to RSVP

Parent leaders with the West County Regional Group (WCRG)—in partnership with First 5 Contra Costa, the City of Richmond, and Healthy & Active Before 5—and the residents near Boorman Park in Richmond will come together to make final design decisions on major renovations to the park. Vallier Design Associates have prepared design options for two age-appropriate playgrounds, a fitness zone, family restrooms, and a community gathering and education space.

“We are thrilled for this Boorman Park transformation! Our children can’t wait to play in the brand new park that we helped to create for our community”, said Maria Isabel Barrera with the West County Regional Group.

The Boorman Park renovations are made possible by a $4.16M grant from the Parks, Recreation, and Water Bond Act (Prop 68) awarded to the City of Richmond. Funding was secured in part by the grassroots advocacy of parents in the First 5-sponsored West County Regional Group and the leadership of the City of Richmond.



Saturday, September 26
10am – 12pm

DeAnza Park Community Design Workshop

RSVP link (TBA)

Parent leaders with the East County Regional Group (ECRG)—in partnership with First 5 Contra Costa and Healthy & Active Before 5—and the residents near DeAnza Park in Pittsburg will come together to make final design decisions on major renovations to the park. DeAnza Park residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed design for fitness equipment and a repaved walking path.

The community design workshop is just one facet of a community driven process for creating new and equitable parks in critically underserved communities. From the very beginning, community advocates have been central to these projects. The DeAnza park renovations are the result of combined support from a foundation grant, the City of Pittsburg, and First 5 Contra Costa. Funding was secured in part by the grassroots advocacy of parents in the First 5-sponsored East County Regional Group.

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Regional Groups are parent advocacy groups of residents working to make communities healthier, safer, and more equitable for young children and families. Three groups exist in Contra Costa County and work in partnership with the First 5 Contra Costa Community Engagement and Advocacy Program: East County Regional Group (ECRG), West County Regional Group (WCRG), and Central County Regional Group (CCRG).

First 5 Contra Costa Endorses Proposition 15 and Measure X

At our public Commission meeting on September 14, 2020, our Commission voted to endorse Proposition 15 and Measure X, both on the ballot for the November 3 election.

Our Commission endorsed these initiatives because they will generate much-needed revenue for services that our county and cities provide–services like health care, schools and childcare, affordable housing, firefighters and paramedics, and safety net services. When public entities like our county and cities can fund these services, more children and families can access them, which means that more children have what they need to grow up healthy, ready to learn, and in safe and nurturing communities. 

While we endorse Proposition 15 and Measure X, we hope every voter does their own research and votes in accordance with their values and needs. To this end, we offer up some information about Proposition 15 and Measure X, as well provide additional nonpartisan resources if you want to learn more. 

Most importantly, we encourage you to participate in the democratic process of voting! Whether volunteering at a polling place, advocating for an issue you feel passionately about, or casting a ballot, everyone has a role to play in ensuring our voices and values are represented in our city, county, state, and federal institutions. Click here for resources on voting in Contra Costa County.


What is Proposition 15?

  • Proposition 15 will change how we assess taxes on commercial property. 
  • Instead of basing the tax on a property’s original purchase price (which is how the tax is currently assessed), large commercial property owners would pay taxes based on the property’s fair market value. This would increase revenue from property taxes by approximately $12 billion annually statewide.  
  • This tax will primarily affect corporate property owners; 10% of the biggest corporate property owners will pay 92% of the tax. Homeowners, renters, and small businesses are exempt 
  • If Proposition 15 passes, it could recuperate over $340 million in public funds for our county, our cities, our schools, and vital services like housing, health care, and mental health, all of which would benefit our county’s youngest residents.

For more nonpartisan information on Proposition 15:


What is Measure X?

  • A ½ percent (0.5%) sales tax increase (excluding groceries, utility costs, health care costs) for the next 20 years
  • The tax is projected to generate $81 million annually to fund county services such as hospitals, fire and emergency services, and mental and community health services

For more nonpartisan information on Measure X: