News & Notes:

Watch It: Improving Child Care Quality with the QRIS

For Parents: Find Free Summer Meal Sites

Spotlight: Call 211 If you Have Questions about Your Child’s Development

Sean’s Message


Check Out our New Website!

New_Website_200 x100First 5 Contra Costa has a brand new website, and a new name to go with it! Check it out at

The new site is now easier to use on all electronic devices, makes better use of videos, includes a section with resources and information for families, and has a more robust Spanish-language section.

We’re simplifying our website name to match our social media handles, which all use @first5coco (find us at that handle on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube!).

Please note that our staff emails are changing as well. The new email addresses will follow this format:

[initial of first name full last name]

Email sent to our old addresses will be forwarded, but we’d appreciate if you could update your address book sooner rather than later.

Click here for our staff roster.


Get the Latest Results on our Updated Data Dashboard

Dashboard_home_200 x100We’ve updated our Data Dashboard with the latest information about the impact of our investments on Contra Costa’s young children and families.

Our interactive Dashboard is divided into six sections and includes data about our investments, demographics of children and parents served, and key outcomes related to child care quality improvements, preschool, early intervention services, and support for at-risk families.

Each section includes infographics, videos, and links to parent testimonials and blogs for readers to drill down and learning more about our funded programs, such as this example showcasing the specialized parenting programs we fund:

Basic CMYK

Take a look and discover how these programs and our funded partners are helping Contra Costa’s youngest children to grow up healthy, nurtured and ready for school. We’ve also summarized highlights of the dashboard on this printed hand-out.

If you have suggestions about what you’d like to see on our Dashboard, just let us know.


Regional Group Advocacy Nets $1.3 Million for Park Improvements

Regional_Groups_200 x100City councils in Concord and San Pablo recently approved a total of $1.3 million to fund park improvement projects – and we have a dedicated group of parent leaders to thank for it.

For more than two years, members of the three Regional Groups we sponsor have been working to improve parks in Contra Costa County’s lowest income communities. Along with partners like Monument Impact, Healthy and Active Before 5, and Contra Costa Health Services, the Regional Groups began this effort by assessing 75 parks in cities including Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Pittsburg, and San Pablo.

Findings and recommendations from these assessments then went to each city’s park and recreation commissions and/or city councils to secure funding to implement the Group’s priorities for park improvements.

In Concord, the City Council allocated a total of $715,000 for improvements at Ellis Lake Park, one of the two lowest rated parks in the Group’s assessment, to pay for new bathrooms, a new play structure, picnic tables and benches, safety improvements, and a water fountain. Partial funding ($130,000) was also awarded for a new play structure at Meadow Homes, a project which will require additional funding.

CCRG members, First 5 staff, and partners attended budget and City Council meetings to make sure their priorities were included in the City’s two-year capital improvement budget. The number of parents attending, and their informative, passionate messages couldn’t be ignored. City Council members and staff found a way to pay for their recommendations – despite the fact funding was not included in earlier budgets. Construction is scheduled to begin next Spring.

In San Pablo, the City Council allocated $435,000 for park improvements for Davis Park, one of the lowest rated parks in the West County Regional Group’s assessment. Funds will be used for security improvements, new play structures, picnic tables and grills, new fencing near the creek, a diaper changing counter in the bathroom, bilingual signs, garbage cans and water fountains.

The East County Regional Group is in the process of working with staff and City Councils in Pittsburg and Antioch to acquire funding for their recommended improvements. The cities are expected to make their decisions in the next four weeks so more to come!

First 5 Contra Costa has sponsored the three Regional Groups for more than a decade, providing leadership training, research and advocacy support, and funding for projects. The purpose of the Regional Groups is to help parents have a voice in shaping decisions that affect their families, neighborhoods, and lives. The Concord and San Pablo City Councils not only listened to these voices – they acted. And soon, local children and families will reap the benefits. Congratulations Regional Groups!


Watch It: Improving Child Care Quality with the QRIS

One hundred child care sites are participating in our pilot Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS) in Contra Costa County. In our new video, you’ll hear from local family child care providers, preschool directors, and teachers about the new system and how it’s helping to improve child care quality in our county.


For Parents: Find Free Summer Meal Sites

Summer_Meal_200 x100For families who rely on subsidized school lunch for their kids, summer can be pretty stressful. The good news is that many schools and community agencies provide free lunch (and sometimes breakfast!) during the summer to prevent children from going hungry when school’s out. The not so good news is that only about 20 percent of eligible children in California access summer meal programs. Please help get the word out about this vital, yet underutilized service.

Summer meals are typically provided for children ages 2 to 18 at schools, libraries, or community-based organizations located in low-income neighborhoods. Nutritious meals are free to all children and there is no application, sign-up, paperwork, or identification needed. Just show up with your kids.

Some of these programs also serve parents thanks to a Y&H Soda Foundation grant allocated to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

Find Local Programs

Click here for site locations, times and important dates for Antioch, Brentwood, Mt. Diablo (Bay Point, Concord, Pleasant Hill), Oakley, Pittsburg, and West Contra Costa (El Sobrante/ Pinole/ Richmond/ San Pablo).

In addition, libraries in Contra Costa are participating in a growing movement among California libraries to become summer meal sites. The goal is to reach more children by providing fun activities in addition to a healthful meal. Contact these branches for more information about the “Lunch at the Library” program:

You can also call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE or text “FOOD” to 877-877 to find the summer meal sites closest to you.


Spotlight: Call 211 If you Have Questions about Your Child’s Development

211_200 x100“Do you want to speak with a specialist about how your child is doing for his or her age?”

That’s the question every parent with a child age five or younger is asked when they call 211, a National free phone service, administered locally by the Contra Costa Crisis Center, linking callers to needed community services and support. Even if parents are calling about housing or child care needs, they all get the opportunity to speak to a child development specialist.

First 5 Contra Costa recently allocated $60,000 to the Contra Costa Crisis Center to implement the program and make the Crisis Center’s 211 program even more responsive to families with young children. By partnering in this way, it helps First 5 Contra Costa implement Help Me Grow, a national model that increases early detection of children’s developmental concerns and their ability to access early intervention services. A telephone line, such as 211, that seamlessly connects parents to information and resources is an essential component of the Help Me Grow system.

“Approximately 5,200 parents with children birth through age five call 211 in Contra Costa every year. With Help Me Grow, we can now reach families who are not in the system, children who are not yet diagnosed, and parents who want help boosting their child’s development,” said Kelly Scherer, the Contra Costa Crisis Center’s new Help Me Grow Specialist. “Our goals are to support parents and to catch developmental delays in children as early as possible.”

Scherer was hired in November 2014 and has been getting the Crisis Center’s Help Me Grow expansion off the ground by training 211 call specialists, reaching out to community programs, and assisting in the creation of a new, updated database to link families to existing programs. In the last three months, she served 105 parents, providing assistance with developmental screening services, referrals to community programs, and follow up to make sure parents accessed referred services.

Because most callers contact 211 for assistance with basic needs, such as housing or food resources, Scherer has learned that parents are most receptive to child development information once these basic needs are met. Then, she says, parents are more open to discussing developmental screening services, free parenting classes, or activities they can do to help their children learn and develop.

“The 211 Help Me Grow phone line helps minimize the frustration parents often feel when they can’t find the services they need,” said Scherer. “Now they can call 211, have their questions answered, learn about helpful community programs, and get child development information – all in one place.”

For more information, contact the Contra Costa Crisis Center by dialing 211 and ask for Kelly Scherer or the Help Me Grow Specialist.


Sean’s Message

sean_portraitKids did better than expected in California’s budget this fiscal year, with an additional $329 million earmarked for quality health and early education programs for young children.

Early care and education gains in the budget include $265 million for an additional 16,000 subsidized child care and preschool slots, rate increases to providers and teachers, and a one-time $24 million commitment to the Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS) for infants and toddlers.

The Governor and state lawmakers also agreed to expand Medi-Cal coverage to an estimated 170,000 undocumented immigrant children under the age of 19. The enacted budget includes $40 million for the expansion in 2015-16, with an increase to $132 million annually. Enrollment is expected to start next spring.

Also worth noting is the inclusion in the budget of California’s first-ever state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This EITC is expected to assist 2 million very low-income Californians (those earning between $7,000 and $14,000). Combined with the successful federal EITC, these tax credits could significantly boost incomes for California’s most vulnerable families.

This budget is a positive step in the right direction for helping families struggling to make ends meet. But California still has a long way to go. Even with the increase in child care and preschool slots budgeted for next year, there’s still fewer subsidized slots today than in 2008.

One in five Contra Costa children still live in poverty. A prosperous future for them, and all of us, has to include the highest possible quality early learning, access to health services and strong family support. The investment in the needs of today’s children is the best investment for our future.

— Sean Casey, Executive Director