News & Notes:


Sean’s Message

Last month the Trump Administration announced it was adding a question about U.S. citizenship to the 2020 Census – the first time this question has been asked to all U.S. households since 1950.

California and about a dozen other states are suing to block this addition. Congress, which has jurisdiction over the census, could also intervene. The alternative is alarming and could have a detrimental impact on young children in California.

The census has been used for hundreds of years to determine how many members of the House of Representatives each state gets and to divvy up some $700 billion in federal money.

When it comes to young children, allocations for Head Start slots, WIC nutrition dollars, and reimbursement rates for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are directly tied to the population reported in the census.

Young children are already the most likely group to be undercounted in the census. In the 2010 Census, about one million children under age five year weren’t counted.  A study released in 2016 estimated that of these uncounted kids, about 40% were Latino and 75% lived in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, or New York.

A question about U.S. citizenship in a climate where immigrants are living in a heightened state of fear will significantly limit response rates. Children of immigrants, most of whom are U.S. citizens, are already undercounted in the census.  A citizenship question will only exacerbate the issue.

States like California with larger proportions of non-citizens could lose federal funding and political power. Even worse, an undercount of our most vulnerable kids will steer federal funding away from the kids who need it most.


Introducing our New Early Childhood Trauma Curriculum

Oprah Winfrey recently discovered “trauma-informed” care, and called it a game changer. We agree.

Last month with partners Community Services Bureau/Head Start and Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence, we trained 50 early childhood providers using our new early childhood trauma-informed curriculum.

Stress during a child’s early years, from poverty, abuse, or neglect can damage the early developing architecture of the brain. Serious and prolonged stress – toxic stress – can lead to lifelong difficulties in learning or later health problems.

“Throughout the country, schools, social service providers, and criminal justice organizations have adopted trauma-informed approaches,” said Wanda Davis, First 5 Contra Costa’s Early Intervention Program Officer. “We wanted to train professionals serving young children on this important topic, but most trauma-informed curriculums focus on older kids, so we created our own.”

The training helps providers understand early trauma, its impact on babies and toddlers, and how providers can assist parents in building resiliency in their children.

We engaged WestEd to produce the curriculum, which also includes a train-the trainer model. Fifteen local providers have signed on as “apprentices” and will be trained to deliver this vital information to other Contra Costa organizations and agencies that serve young children.

“Young children depend exclusively on parents and caregivers for survival and protection both physically and emotionally. Without the protection of a trusted caregiver to help them regulate strong emotion, children can become overwhelmed and develop symptoms that adults don’t understand how to respond to. This training gives providers and parents tools to respond to young children in trauma-informed ways,” said Davis. “We’re thrilled to expand trauma-informed care to help our youngest children.”

Another early childhood trauma-informed training will take place this fall. Contact Sonya Thompson to be added to the training mailing list.


We’re Hiring!

Join our dynamic team of early childhood champions – come work at First 5 Contra Costa! We have several exciting opportunities open. Please take a look and share widely with your networks.

Communications Manager:

The Communications Manager holds the overall responsibility for managing First 5 Contra Costa’s brand and serves as the principal communications and marketing strategist for the organization.

Research Analyst:

The Research Analyst provides research, evaluation, and analysis of data; internal consulting to staff on measurement, research, evaluation and select data projects; and synthesis and sharing of information with internal and external stakeholders.

Quality Improvement Coaching Specialist:

This position will provide coaching, technical assistance, and training to early care and education programs participating in Quality Matters, First 5 Contra Costa’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).

See full job descriptions here as well as some openings from agencies operating our funded programs.


Helping Kids Catch Up

An’sar, newly five years old, and his father Nelson have been going to the Bay Point First 5 Center for more than a year. They were referred to the Center when Nelson shared his concerns about An’sar’s development and social skills during a doctor’s visit.

“You know your children best as a parent,” said Nelson, a father of five. “An’sar was like most other kids. He talked on time, walked on time, but his social skills were withdrawn. He didn’t make eye contact. My wife and I were concerned.”

An’sar received developmental screening at the First 5 Center, which confirmed he was behind on his social-emotional skills and development. Soon after, Nelson and An’sar started attending a Help Me Grow Developmental Playgroup and Nelson began doing the activities he learned there with An’sar at home. He says his son improved every week. Since then, father and son have taken dozens of classes and go to the Center at least twice a week.

“An’sar is now social, has some buddies, and looks you in the eye. He even gives all the teachers hugs,” said Nelson. “An’sar likes all the classes, especially the reading class, the dancing and jumping gross motor classes, and learning about fossils and dinosaurs. The teachers there are excellent. They really pulled him out of his shell.”

Preliminary evaluation of the Developmental Playgroups shows that they improve socio-emotional skills in children, including expressing emotion and managing behavior in healthy ways and building and maintaining positive connections with other children and significant adults.

An’sar has had two additional developmental screenings since the first one. Nelson says his son is exceeding his developmental milestones, and now they’re focusing on making sure An’sar is ready for kindergarten this fall.

“At first, An’sar was like, ‘You’re not going to be with me?’ when we talked about going to kindergarten. But these classes have helped him learn to be patient, raise his hand, sit in a circle, and write his first name. He’s going to be ready for sure,” said Nelson. “First 5 is great organization, and I can vouch for that. It helped my child tremendously.”

Call Help Me Grow at 211 to learn where to find developmental screening. Find First 5 Center class schedules.