News & Notes:

Watch It: Concord Parents Work to Improve Parks

Parenting Topic: Serving Kids Juice

Spotlight: Andre and the Inclusion Program

Sean’s Message


Dr. Perry Child Trauma Training Draws 300 Providers

01_Bruce_PerryLast month, a sold-out crowd of 300 children’s service providers from public health, early education, and child welfare attended a day-long training from the nation’s expert on early childhood trauma, Dr. Bruce Perry.

Contra Costa is one of several communities working to become “trauma informed,” which Dr. Perry said is really about providers becoming “developmentally informed”. When providers from all disciplines, whether preschool or the criminal justice system, better understand how children develop, it improves the way traumatized children are diagnosed and treated.

What can cause early childhood trauma?

Interruptions in development such as mother’s use of drugs and alcohol while pregnant
Disruption in the parent-child attachment, which can be caused by a mother who struggles with depression
Adversity any time in life caused by a traumatic event or child abuse
According to Dr. Perry, children are made resilient by having attentive and attuned caregivers early in life. When caregivers respond appropriately and positively when a child feels stress, it helps children feel safe, develops a positive parent-child bond and promotes healthy brain development. Dr. Perry’s research has documented how the impact of trauma during early childhood can contribute to poor brain development and later health problems.

“The risk for heart disease is higher from adverse childhood experiences than from smoking,” said Dr. Perry. “But the good thing about resilience is you can build it.”

The training was sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa, East Bay Community Foundation, Early Childhood Leadership Alliance, and Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence.

See this Contra Costa Times article to learn more about the training. Visit to learn more about Dr. Perry’s work.


New Sugar Bites Campaign Targets Juice Drinks

02_SB_slideOur Sugar Bites health campaign is back. And this time we’re taking a bit out of sugary juice drinks.

“Most parents know that soda isn’t good for young children, but deceptive marketing tactics trick them into believing that juice drinks are a healthy alternative. They’re not,” said Contra Costa Health Services pediatrician Dr. Diane Dooley. “Eight ounces of soda and eight ounces of apple juice both have 27 grams of sugar.”

According to researchers, sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the diets of children and contribute to childhood obesity. While national preschool childhood obesity rates appear to have declined, rates are three to five times higher for African American and Latino preschoolers compared to white children. Unless trends change, health advocates say nearly half of Latino and African American children born after the year 2000 will develop type II diabetes in their lifetimes.

“Drinking a large amount of sugar without the fiber in fruit that makes you full is not good for anyone, especially young children,” said retired cardiologist and former Richmond City Council member Dr. Jeff Ritterman. “Even diluted juice drinks can give kids cavities and increase diabetes in the future. My advice to parents is to serve children water or milk.”

The Sugar Bites public awareness campaign consists of bilingual English and Spanish ads on BART platforms, transit shelters, billboards, and convenience store windows in Bay Point, Concord, Pittsburg, and Richmond. Pamphlets and posters will also be distributed in health centers, nonprofit organizations, and child care programs.

“New evidence shows that children who are overweight or obese by kindergarten are five times more likely to be obese as adults,” said Cally Martin, First 5 Contra Costa’s Deputy Director and the Chair of the Healthy and Active Before 5 collaborative. “One remedy is simple: Serve kids water instead of sugary drinks.”

To order FREE juice drink Sugar Bites brochures, magnets, or 11×14 posters, contact Tracy Irwin You can preview the materials here.


Evaluation Results for our First Sugar Bites Campaign

03_sb6According to a new survey, parents are more likely to serve their children water or milk instead of sugary drinks after seeing our first Sugar Bites campaign, which ran last spring and summer.

In October, we conducted on-the-street interviews with 99 parents with young children to assess the reach and impact of our Sugar Bite campaign. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and took place in Concord, San Pablo, and Richmond.

Most of the parents surveyed had seen the ads at least three to four times in places including transit shelters, BART, or convenience stores. When asked about the campaign’s ads, which were designed to elicit visceral reactions from parents to protect their kids from these harmful products, participants responded as follows:

  • 95% felt the campaign was memorable
  • 90% felt the campaign was convincing
  • 84% reported being affected/highly affected by the campaign
  • 83% said they agreed/strongly agreed with the message in the ads

While the survey didn’t measure behavioral outcomes, it did assess parents’ intentions about making healthy drink choices. A majority (almost 65%) of all participants reported they were more likely to serve their children more water or milk as a result of the campaign.

In addition, nearly 60% of the parents said they were more likely to talk to their children about sugary drinks because of the campaign. In fact, nearly half had already discussed the subject because their children raised it after seeing the ads. When asked if they were likely to serve less soda or juice, 54% said they would serve less soda and 39% said they would serve less juice.


Watch It: Concord Parents Work to Improve Parks

After working successfully to improve traffic safety in the Monument Community, parent advocates on our Central County Regional Group are now applying their advocacy skills to improving parks and playgrounds in Concord. Last November, Group members began their process by visiting Monument Community parks to rate the safety and quality of each park. Their findings were recently reviewed and shared at a workshop attended by Concord City Council members, including Vice-Mayor Ron Leone and Councilmember Edi E. Birsan, along with City staff to evaluate priorities and plans for future improvements. The Group will ultimately share its recommendations with the full City Council, police department, and park and recreation department.

See our fantastic advocates in action in this short video:

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Partners on this project include: Contra Costa Health Services, the Monument HEAL project (Kaiser and Michael Chavez Center), Healthy & Active Before 5, and the City of Concord.


Parenting Topic: Serving Kids Juice

pt_juice2When developing our new Sugar Bites campaign, we realized there are a lot of misperceptions about 100% juice and juice drinks. To start, what’s the difference between the two?

Juice drinks are beverages that do not contain 100% fruit juice and are loaded with added sugar and unnecessary calories. They have little nutritional value. These beverages are called juice drinks, fruit drinks, cocktail, beverage, or punch.

If parents do serve their children juice, it is important to make sure to limit it to 100% fruit juice and serve no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day, the amount allowed per the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s only ½ to ¾ cups of 100% juice a day. Most preschoolers, however, drink twice the allowable amount every day.

Keep in mind that consuming either too much juice or juice drinks can contribute to tooth decay and childhood obesity, so when it comes to juice, follow these tips:

  • Ideally, serve real fruit instead of fruit drinks. Serve kids water when thirsty.
  • Try adding slices of fruit to a glass of water.
  • If served, significantly limit 100% fruit juice. Read labels to make sure the juice is 100% juice. Other “juice” or “fruit” drinks have a lot of added sugar and calories. 100% juice still has a lot of natural sugar so keep portions small, no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day.
  • Nutritionists recommend that 100% juice, if served, should be given only once during the day with a meal or snack, rather than “watered” down and served all day.
  • Read drink labels and look for hidden sugars. They have many names like: sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, barley malt, honey, molasses and more.

Learn more at


Spotlight: Andre and the Inclusion Program

sl_andreWhen Andre, a preschooler with Down syndrome and delayed communications skills, began attending a West County Head Start preschool program, his teachers turned to the Inclusion Program for support.

At the time, Andre was exhibiting frequent outbursts and uncooperative behavior. Although he had attended programs for children with special needs, he hadn’t participated in a typical preschool setting. Routines like circle time and lining up, and social skills like sharing were new and overwhelming to both Andre and his teachers.

First 5 Contra Costa allocates $330,000 to the Inclusion Project, which is run by the Contra Costa Child Care Council, to help children with special needs succeed in typical child care settings. In the program, Inclusion Facilitators visit children in their child care settings and provide coaching, training, and specialized equipment for teachers. Parents also receive support to ensure consistency between home and early care settings.

“It was very important to me that Andre attend a typical preschool. Without the Inclusion Program, he wouldn’t be able to,” said Julissa, Andre’s mom. “The teachers really responded to the strategies my Inclusion Facilitator Joanne suggested.”

One of the most successful strategies developed for Andre was for the teachers to start using visual cues to communicate. For example, when it’s time to wash hands or sit in circle time, the teachers now show Andre a photo depicting the activity.

“The visual cues have helped so much. Now Andre understands what to expect. With some redirection from the teachers, he’s no longer throwing himself on the floor or having a tantrum,” said Julissa. “Andre has learned to be interactive, just like all children need to learn. This will be so important when he starts kindergarten.”

Joanne, Andre’s Inclusion Facilitator, has also helped Julissa navigate the disability service system and participated in the development of Andre’s Independent Education Plan (IEP) with the school district. Last year, the Inclusion Program assisted 101 children at over 50 child care sites in Contra Costa County.

To make a referral or learn more, contact: (925) 676-5442 ext. 3113.


Sean’s Message

sean_portrait2014 really is shaping up to be the year for preschool!

President Obama, in his proposed 2015 budget released earlier this month, pushed for an additional $750 million to lay the groundwork for his “Preschool for All” initiative, a $75 billion federal investment in early childhood education. As proposed last year, this would be funded by a federal tobacco tax.

The president’s budget would also increase access to voluntary home visiting programs by expanding Early Head Start programs. The President is doubling down on his commitment to providing quality early learning experiences for low-income children who need it most. Let’s hope Congress gets on board – since just about everyone else is.

Law enforcement, economists, and governors in red and blue states are pushing for universal preschool as a way to level the playing field for our most disadvantaged children. Although California’s governor hasn’t exactly gotten on board (yet), it hasn’t stopped state leaders from pushing for greater early childhood investments.

In January, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg introduced the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014 (SB 837) to expand and improve transitional kindergarten (TK). Phased in over a five-year period, the program will eventually provide TK for all four-year-olds in California, with an extra year of Head Start for children living in poverty. School districts and charter schools would be allowed to contract with private TK providers who meet quality standards.

In addition, the California Strong Start Program (SB 1123), introduced by Senator Liu, would redesign the General Child Care Program for infants and toddlers and establish a comprehensive, evidence-based, locally controlled program for children birth through age three in California. Details are still to come, but Early Edge California suggests this blueprint.

First 5 just celebrated 15 years of investing in young children. It’s exciting to see early childhood education finally get the attention it deserves.

— Sean Casey, Executive Director