News & Notes:

Sean’s Message

seansmessage_800x534Post election, emotions are running high. Some people are disappointed; others are jubilant. Our concern lies in the fact that many of the families we support are afraid. And rightly so.

In the last week, hate crimes and rhetoric against people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, women and the LGBTQ community have increased. Children are afraid their parents will be deported. Young Americans who have spent nearly their entire lives in the U.S. fear the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be repealed, separating them from the only home they know. Families who rely on health insurance through MediCaid or Covered California (via the Affordable Care Act) may lose their coverage. Keep in mind half of all children in California have publicly funded health care.

As we wait to learn how the new administration’s policies will affect the families we serve, I can say this: At First 5 Contra Costa, equity will remain our guiding principle in all the work we do. The vulnerable families we support need us more than ever. We will fight for and with them. We will call out policies that harm them. We will double down on our efforts to help all children thrive.

You can, too. Here are some ways to help Contra Costa families right now:

  • Promote Covered California. It’s still active and the enrollment period runs through January 31, 2017. While we don’t know which pieces of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) will remain, it likely will take some time to “repeal and replace”. Encourage families who need health coverage to sign up now.
  • Ease children’s fears. This is a tough one in uncertain times. But loving relationships with trusted adults are key to helping children feel secure. Let children know they are safe and they are loved. A few resources:
  • Inform families about their rights. Everyone has basic rights, no matter who is President. Undocumented immigrants have these rights, too. The National Immigration Law Center has information about these rights and tips for creating safety plans. Share this information widely: English and Spanish.
  • Connect with other parents and advocate for kids. Nurturing a social network is good for parents and great for communities. The First 5 Centers are safe places where parents can expand their social circles and find support. The three advocacy groups we fund (the Central, East and West Regional Groups) bring parents together to advocate for safe, just, and equitable communities for all Contra Costa children and families.

I urge all of us who support and value families in Contra Costa to come together in denouncing those who would incite hatred and fear in our children and in our communities. We will not accept it and we will not normalize it.

Despite the challenges ahead, I have faith in California, a state with legislative leaders who made this statement last week:

“California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love….

We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”


Read Our Fiscal Year 2015-16 Highlights

highlights_1_800x5342015-16 was another productive year at First 5 Contra Costa. Our funded programs and activities continued to improve the lives of our county’s most vulnerable children in impactful ways. Here are some highlights.

Over 400 expecting and new parents received home visiting services. An in-depth survey of participants found that the programs helped mothers gain parenting knowledge and skills, support their child’s development, cope with stress and adversity, socialize with other parents, and access needed resources.

1,830 families participated in First 5 Center classes and activities. Over the course of services, parents reported an increase in parenting knowledge, child development, and where to find help for their family.

270 parents took Triple P parenting classes and said their children’s behavior problems decreased significantly by the end of the class. This was particularly true for parents struggling the most with their children’s behavior when the eight-week class began.

107 child care sites – caring for 3,500 children – participated in Quality Matters, our Quality Rating & Improvement System. 95 of the sites have been rated, and nearly all met or significantly exceeded quality standards. Only four percent earned ratings below quality standards.

55 Quality Matters sites were rated a second time. During the two-year period between ratings, each site received coaching, incentives and support focused on areas for improvement. Of the re-rated sites, 45% increased ratings, 49% stayed the same, and only 5% decreased. Thirteen of 18 family child care programs increased their ratings.

Our funded programs provided developmental screening to 1,783 children. 28% needed further assessment for possible developmental delays and 22% needed careful monitoring in one or more developmental domain.

The Help Me Grow 211 phone referral line helped 474 families find free developmental screening and other services to help children reach their optimal development.

189 children with mild to moderate developmental delays attended developmental playgroups designed to help them catch up. 74 percent of parents said their child’s developmental skills improved because of the playgroup.

Mental health consultants assisted early educators caring for children with challenging behavior. Of the 287 children who completed services, 71 percent remained in their child care setting and another 22% were moved to a more beneficial settings. Teachers, parents and consultants reported improvements in children’s behavior.

Three grassroots parents groups used their assessments of 75 parks in 5 cities to garner $2 million in funding to refurbish some of the county’s most neglected parks. They also helped get millions in federal grants to improve safety for pedestrians on heavily trafficked Concord streets.

Stay tuned for more data and outcomes to be posted on our Data Dashboard in the coming months.


Legislative Staffers Visit Contra Costa to Learn About QRIS

lao_visit_1_800x534We had the fortunate opportunity to showcase Quality Matters, our child care quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), to key California legislative staff last month.

Staff representing the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, and the Assembly Budget Committee toured two school-based preschool sites in West Contra Costa Unified (WCCUSD).

Staff from the LAO, a nonpartisan organization that provides fiscal and policy advice to the State Legislature, requested site visits to understand how counties are implementing QRIS programs. Contra Costa was selected to represent the Bay Area leg of the tour. Staff from the First 5 Association and First 5 California are also arranging tours in El Dorado County and Riverside.

The tour began at Murphy Elementary School in El Sobrante, a state preschool site which earned a top 5 rating in 2016. Murphy had been rated a 3 in 2014, but with coaching, incentives and other support, increased its rating (and quality) in the two-year period.

lao_visit_3_800x534The group then visited the preschool at Bayview Elementary in San Pablo, which is in its first year as a level-3 rated program. Fifteen preschools in WCCUSD are participating in Quality Matters. Every preschool is meeting quality standards, and most are exceeding them.

Following the tours, the team from Sacramento met with Quality Matters partners and supporters, including the Contra Costa County Office of Education, Contra Costa County Local Planning & Advisory Council for Early Care & Education, the Contra Costa Child Care Council, Diablo Valley College, and Community Services Bureau (Head Start and Early Head Start).

Partners provided information about the various components that make our system so successful: strong collaboration, onsite coaching and support, and workforce development for early childhood education professionals at the three community colleges.

We were joined by Matt Duffy, the new Superintendent for WCCUSD and Karen Sakata, the Superintendent of the Contra Costa County Office of Education along with staff representing Supervisor John Gioia.

Kelli Tharp, owner of Little Sweet Peas child care center in San Pablo, provided one of the most compelling presentations, sharing her journey from being a family child care provider to a private center owner working toward a Ph.D. in child development. Coaching, Ms. Tharp said, is critical in motivating programs to make quality improvements. The visit ended with local partners discussing challenges the system faces without adequate funding and resources.

Learn more about Quality Matters here.


Q&A: Meet the New Bay Point First 5 Center Director


Janet Rivera, the new Director of the Bay Point First 5 Center, was born and raised in San Francisco. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development with a specialization in Social Change. She moved to Contra Costa County 14 years ago and most recently worked at Los Medanos College helping child care providers advance their education and training through the First 5 Professional Development Program. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her family and go to the beach.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was Charlotte’s Web.

What food did you refuse to eat when you were a kid?


Did you have a favorite place to visit as a child?

My favorite place to visit as a child was the park.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Contra Costa County?

Visit the Lafayette Reservoir.

What is your motto?

“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.” -Bob Marley

What would make Contra Costa an even better place for children and families?

Quality teachers and preschool programs.


Parent Leaders Join Rent Control Fight in Concord

ccrg_rentcontrol_2_800x534Olivia, a member of the Central County Regional Group, a parent advocacy program we support, lived in Concord for the last 15 years until skyrocketing rents pushed her out. She recently moved to Bay Point with her daughter, leaving behind her beloved school, friends, and the only community her daughter has ever known.

Olivia isn’t alone. Concord, the largest city in the county, is the latest community to be affected by the Bay Area region’s housing crisis. Rents have increased up to 60% in the last six years.

Olivia and other members of the Central County Regional Group have joined the Raise the Roof Coalition to work with the City on rent control issues. The coalition is made up of Concord renters, homeowners, faith-based groups, labor, and nonprofit organizations working to bring affordable housing to Concord.

The coalition sought the Regional Group’s participation since their advocacy with City Council has been so effective in bringing park improvements and pedestrian safety to Monument families with young children. Rising rents also personally resonates with these parents.  Most of the group members live in the Monument Community and nearly all are renters. Many have already experienced high increases in rents or have been impacted by the current crisis.

The City of Concord does not have a rent control or a “just cause” evictions ordinance to prevent landlords from evicting tenants without a sound reason, such as nonpayment or violating a lease.

The Raise the Roof Coalition is hoping rent control and just cause policies will be enacted, but in the short-term, is pushing the City Council to pass a moratorium on rent increases over 3 percent. The moratorium would only last for 45 days, but could be extended up to two years. Either timeframe requires a super majority (or 4 of 5 Council members) for approval.

“Concord is a diverse community and a place that many hard working families call home,” said Rhea Elina Laughlin, First 5 Contra Costa Community Engagement Program Officer. “But rents that increase 10 to 20 percent every year, or without warning, do not bring stability for residents and families, especially families already struggling to make ends meet.”

Regional Group members plan to attend a Forum later this month to learn more about tenant and housing rights.

The Concord City Council is expected to discuss the rent increase moratorium on November 29 – the Regional Group and their allies will be there.