News & Notes:

Watch It: What Will You Find at a First 5 Center?

Q&A: Meet First 5 Family Support Staff Randee Blackstock

Parenting Topic: Wash Your Hands

Spotlight: Using the Protective Factors Framework to Help Families

Sean’s Message

2014 Highlights

top10_200 x1002014 was another productive year at First 5 Contra Costa, with our funded programs serving more than 22,500 children and parents. These programs also reached an additional 1,875 early child care educators from 217 child care sites who received training and support on providing higher quality child care. Thanks to our funded partners for their work to help Contra Costa’s children grow up healthy, nurtured and ready to learn.

Take a look at some of our top highlights from 2014:

1. Expanding Developmental Screening.
For the last three years, we’ve been working to create a system to expand early screening and to link families to early intervention services. This work includes training nearly 300 providers from 58 agencies to implement routine developmental screening, which has resulted in 8,000 low-income children being screened for delays or concerns. In addition, the developmental playgroups we created for children with mild-to-moderate delays helped improve development for 300 children.

2. Improving Child Behavior.
500 children received mental health services last year, and at the end of the program they were less anxious or depressed and exhibited fewer aggressive or behavior problems. In the Triple P parenting program, parents reported that their children had fewer and less severe problems after they completed the class. Overall, Triple P is helping parents feel more competent and confident in their parenting and less stressed.

3. Engaging 100 QRIS Sites.
Our pilot child care Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) has attracted 100 child care sites, including family child care programs, Head Start, state preschool programs and child care centers. These programs serve about 3,000 children. With our partners, we also implemented a new coaching and support program for all participants to prepare for and improve ratings.

4. Partnering with Early Head Start.
Early Head Start is now part of our new home visiting collaborative, thanks to a new partnership with Welcome Home Baby to offer Early Head Start home visits. This provides an extra $245,000 annually in addition to First 5’s investment of $1.25 million and ensures more families receive high-quality home visiting services.

5. Engaging Fathers.
Both our home visiting and First 5 Center programs worked on engaging fathers last year, with dads making up about 14% of participants at the First 5 Centers. The home visiting programs hired male home visitors to support new fathers and plan to start social groups for new dads this year.

6. Strengthening Families.
We trained 81 providers from 17 organizations – including our Family Support Programs – on the Strengthening Families Framework, which includes five protective factors that prevent child abuse and help all families thrive. The First 5 Centers all used this framework to produce quality programs for the 1,860 families who participated in services last year.

7. Fostering Community Leadership.
We had 200 parents participate on three Regional Groups we sponsor to advocate for safer and healthier communities for families. Along with partners like Healthy and Active Before 5 and Contra Costa Health Services, these dedicated parents conducted 75 assessments of neighborhood parks. Results are headed to city councils and park and recreation commissions this year – hopefully followed by funding from these agencies to improve the parks.

8. Completing Round 2 of Sugar Bites.
We completed another successful round of our Sugar Bites Campaign. We placed ads on billboards, distributed posters and brochures in 133 dental offices, placed door hangers at 22,500 homes, and had ads in BART, convenience stores and bus shelters. In May, our Sugar Bites website won best health website from the nation’s leading awards program for marketing, advertising and communications. Look for more Sugar Bites this spring!

9. Co-Launching the Ensuring Opportunity Campaign.
We joined forces with three other countywide coalitions and co-created Ensuring Opportunity: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Contra Costa, with business, policy makers, faith and labor at the table along with service providers. This effort is getting a lot of traction and joining a growing movement to end poverty and narrow the wage gap.

10. Focusing on a Brighter Future.
We’re in the midst of a sea change when it comes to early childhood policy and investments. At the end of 2014, a $1 billion federal public-private investment in early childhood programming was announced. In California, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty introduced a bill to create a state plan for universal preschool. We look forward to building on this momentum and opportunity in 2015.

Contra Costa Designated a Help Me Grow Site

HMG_Slide_200 x100First 5 Contra Costa and partners have successfully led the effort for Contra Costa County to become a HMG affiliate, the eighth county in California to earn this distinction from the national Help Me Grow Center.

Early screening and intervention lead to the best outcomes for children with developmental concerns, but most delays aren’t identified until after children enter kindergarten. On top of that, when concerns are detected, families often have a challenging time finding the services they need. The Help Me Growsystem aims to change that.

Help Me Grow is a system to coordinate early detection, referral, and treatment for children with developmental or behavioral concerns. The system is used in more than 20 states, including California. As an affiliate, Contra Costa will receive training and technical assistance to build a more comprehensive early development system. We also gain access to best practices and research to replicate the HMG model locally.

We’ve been working to improve the developmental service system in Contra Costa County since 2011, forming theEarly Learning Leadership Alliance (ECLA), a coalition of 30 dedicated children’s services agencies. Together, we started to expand developmental screening opportunities for low-income children. As new needs were identified, we created new developmental playgroups for children whose delays were not serious enough for state-funded services and funded the expansion of the 211 call center to more effectively help parents locate needed services.

Now, with the assistance of HMG National, we can take this system to the next level. Our goal over the next few years will be to implement the four components of the system, which include:

  • Community outreach: Helping parents to understand why developmental screening is important and request it for their children.
  • Health care provider outreach: Helping pediatricians to implement routine developmental screening and facilitate children’s access to developmental services.
  • Centralized referral system: Continuing to build the capacity of 211 to provide support and linkages to developmental services.
  • Identifying gaps and barriers: Collecting and analyzing data to more effectively connect families to community resources.

We’re excited, along with our partners in this effort, to bring Help Me Grow to Contra Costa County and help all children reach their optimal development.

Watch It: What Will You Find at a First 5 Center?

Ever wonder what it’s like at a First 5 Center?

Watch this short video and see how the five First 5 Centers bring families together, support parents, improve parenting skills, and help children to develop and grow.

Q&A: Meet First 5 Family Support Staff Randee Blackstock

Randee_200 x100Randee Blackstock has worked at First 5 Contra Costa for the last seven years and is currently a Program Assistant II for our family support programs including First 5 Centers and home visiting services. Randee provides particular support to the First 5 Centers’ Community Advisory Councils and oversees the annual First 5 Center car seat inspection project. She is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in Developmental and Child Psychology at Cal State University East Bay. When not chasing after her three-year-old son, Randee enjoys reading, wine tasting, engaging in crafty design, and collecting sea glass along the beach (while still probably chasing her son).

What food did you refuse to eat as a child? Brussel Sprouts. My Mom always told me how ‘yummy’ they were, but all I could think was “yuk”!

What is your favorite childhood memory? Our family travel and camping trips were always my favorite memories. I’ll never forget my first time visiting Yellowstone National Park and seeing the geysers and steam rise from the ground.

What is your favorite place or activity in Contra Costa County? The farmers’ markets in the county are the best. I love getting fresh fruits and vegetables and trying all the exotic new flavors they have in season.

What was your favorite children’s book? It’s hard to pick just one! I have three that I used to love as a child and still remember to this day – “The Giving Tree” by Shel Siverstein, “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, and “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl.

What would make Contra Costa a better place for young children? Not only to continue funding programs that support young children and families in Contra Costa, but also continued outreach to parents and caregivers on the importance of healthy child-parent relationships. As a parent, I always want to keep learning about how to be a better parent and better the needs of my child. It’s important to seek the services that are available to you and never feel ashamed of asking for help.

Parenting Topic: Wash Your Hands

Wash Hands_200 x100Because children’s immune systems aren’t fully developed, germs can easily lead to illness. Research shows that frequent hand washing is one of the best ways for your family to avoid getting ill. Scrubbing with soap and warm water removes up to 90 percent of germs. Here are some tips for teaching children how to properly wash their hands so they are more likely to stay healthy, especially with flu season approaching:

  • Show your child how to create a lather over the hands, between fingers and around the nails. After scrubbing for 20 seconds in warm water, demonstrate rinsing by holding your hands downward so the water flows from the back of the hands to the fingertips.
  • Kids don’t always know when they should wash their hands. But if they don’t wash frequently, they can expose themselves to germs by touching their eyes, noses or mouths. Teach them to wash before meals and after being outside, playing with pets or sneezing – and, of course, after using the bathroom.
  • To encourage them to wash more frequently, make it fun! Children may be more inspired to wash their hands if the soap is a bright color or has a fragrance, like fruit. You can also tell your children to wash their hands for as long as it takes them to sing their ABCs!

Find more hand washing tips for kids and frequently asked questions about hand washing, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial soap.

Spotlight: Using the Protective Factors Framework to Help Families

Protective Factors_200 x100For the last few years, First 5 Contra Costa has been using the Protective Factors framework in our approach to working with families.

Developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Protective Factors framework is designed to prevent child abuse and neglect by focusing on five critical areas that help children and families thrive. The five Protective Factors are:

  1. Parental Resilience: Resilience helps parents to manage the challenges and stress of everyday life.
  2. Social Connections: Families have a network of friends, family members, neighbors and community members to provide emotional support and help solve problems.
  3. Concrete Support in Times of Need: Families can meet basic economic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and health care; services are provided during times of crisis.
  4. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Parents have accurate information and appropriate expectations about child development to promote children’s healthy development.
  5. Social and Emotional Competence in Children: Children can interact positively with others, self-regulate behavior and effectively communicate; children with development delays are identified early and receive appropriate assistance.

When these Protective Factors are present, they help create nurturing, responsive, and stable relationships and learning environments for children. As a result, child outcomes improve. Building Protective factors with and for families also counteracts the presence of adverse childhood experiences caused by traumatic stress.

We use the Protective Factors in our First 5 Centers and home visiting programs. This approach helps make sure all family’s needs are met. For example, at a First 5 Center a parent will learn about child development, can get a developmental screening for their child, will make friends with other families, can meet with a counselor to find services or support, learn how to manage difficult child behavior appropriately, and find opportunities for their children to interact with other children.

Over time, we hope to see more programs that serve families in Contra Costa to shift their practice, policies, and systems toward the Protective Factors approach.

Sean’s Message

sean_portraitLast month, President Obama announced $1 billion in public-private investments focused on young children. “Early education is one of the best investments we can make,” the President said during the day-long summiton early childhood funding. The $1 billion investment includes:

$250 million in federal preschool expansion grants awarded to 18 states.
$500 million to expand Early Head Start and child care programs for children birth to age 3. Contra Costa County will receive $1.1 million.
The launch of Invest in US, a new initiative coordinated by the First 5 Years Fund to provide a call to action for greater investment in early childhood.
$330 million from corporations and foundations to enhance the quality of early education for thousands of children.

This is all great news for the nation’s youngest children, where only three in ten 4-year-olds currently attend quality preschool programs.

California applied for a Preschool Expansion Grant and was not among the 18 states selected. First 5 Contra Costa was included in the grant proposal. If awarded, funds would have expanded quality early learning opportunities for low-income children in our community.

Despite not being selected for what could have been a $35 million grant, I am encouraged by the action that took place. The President and a growing number of philanthropists, economists, corporations, and elected officials have officially challenged America to invest in our future and focus resources on children’s earliest years.

In California, it should inspire us to continue the many great things we have in our state to support young children and their families. Last year, First 5s invested over half a billion dollars in local programs for children, parents, and educators. The California legislature made a priority of increasing funding for early childhood programs last year and the Preschool for All Act of 2015 has already been introduced in this year’s session. California is home to corporations and foundations with significant resources and understanding of the value of investing in early childhood.

Investing in early childhood is not a red state or blue state issue. It’s an issue that affects the future of everyone in America. And now the case for these critical investments, as a way to level the playing field and build our future workforce, is being made on the national stage. As the President said, “It’s the essential promise of America that where you start should not and will not determine where you will go.”

From all sectors, all branches of government, and all communities across California, let’s keep our eyes on the future and do the necessary work now to build the system that ensures all children arrive at kindergarten healthy and fully ready to learn.

— Sean Casey, Executive Director