News & Notes:

Early Care Providers: Join Quality Matters!

qris_oct_2016_news_800x534Licensed child care programs throughout Contra Costa County are invited to join Quality Matters, our quality improvement system which supports and incentivizes child care programs to offer the best early learning experiences possible. Currently, 108 licensed child care programs are participating in the system, and we have room for 30 more.

This year, Quality Matters is expanding in two new ways.

First, any licensed child care program located in Contra Costa County may now apply. While priority for participation will still be sites located in lower income communities and those serving infants and toddlers and/or children with special needs, space may be available for other programs to participate.

Second, there’s a new improvement-only track for participants not yet ready for the full rating system. This track is the Quality Improvement System (QIS) and is designed to prepare sites for future participation in the more rigorous rating system. Participants will receive help assessing the quality of their sites and developing improvement plans. They also will have the opportunity to attend professional development training and receive educational supports such as textbook loans, tutoring and financial incentives, and participation grants.

There are also openings available in the full rating track for Quality Matters, the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). The QRIS track requires more engagement in quality improvement efforts, but the benefits are worth it. Sites receive participation grants between $2,000 to $10,000, personalized coaching to improve program quality, their environment, and teacher-child interactions, and independent ratings every two years to assess the quality of each child care program.

Quality rating and improvement systems are being implemented throughout the United States. California is still playing catch up to more advanced systems, but we’re on our way. This is a great opportunity get in early on a movement of continuous quality improvement that is sweeping the state.

Click here to learn more and to apply.


Walking Club Taking Off in Pittsburg

walking_club_oct_2016_news_800x534The East County Regional Group, the parent advocacy group we sponsor, launched their new walking club at De Anza Park in Pittsburg one month ago, and already it’s taking off.

In its first month, the walking club attracted nearly 50 participants who ranged in age from five years old to 79.

The walking club is part of the Group’s new Pittsburg PACE (Parks, Activities, & Community Engagement) program which offers free activities to increase exercise and park use among young children and families in Pittsburg’s Trident/De Anza Park neighborhood.

De Anza Park is newly renovated, thanks to the advocacy efforts of the Regional Group and its partners. Group members hope the PACE program will improve park safety and build community among neighbors.

“We are taking back long neglected, unsafe and underused parks throughout the County,” said Rhea Elina Laughlin, First 5’s Community Engagement Program Officer. “All families with young children need safe, equipped, and fun parks near their homes. Park by park, we’re creating safe, healthy, and equitable communities across Contra Costa County.”

Kaiser Permanente Mt. Diablo Community Benefit Program is providing a $20,000 grant to fund the Pittsburg PACE program, which runs through June 2017. In addition to the walking club, the program offers free children’s sports programming like soccer and t-ball and family Zumba and yoga classes.

Of the nearly fifty residents participating in the PACE program so far:

  • 94% say they are meeting new people
  • 100% feel safer in the park
  • 79% say their children are more active
  • 66% say they’re more active

Pittsburg PACE programs take place every Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at De Anza Park, located at Trident Drive in Pittsburg.

Follow the ECRG on Facebook for regular updates and events related to the Walking Club and free children’s sports classes.


Mothers Benefiting from Home Visiting Services

benefit_of_hv_oct_2016_news_800x534After visiting with a family for a few months, a Welcome Home Baby home visitor was surprised to discover the baby was behind on his gross motor development. The young mother was very loving and attentive, always holding and kissing her baby during visits.

It wasn’t until the home visitor completed a six-month developmental screening that she discovered the baby was unable to sit up on his own. While all children develop at their own pace, developmental screening can flag concerns for children behind in their development.

The screening results led to a discussion about “tummy time” and if the baby ever had time on the floor to move and exercise large muscles. The mother revealed her family pressured her to always hold the baby and said the floor was too dirty for a baby. This changed once the home visitor explained how important it was for the baby to get playtime on the floor. The mother showed the screening results to her husband and family, and soon everyone was on board with making time for baby to build his large muscles. Within a month, he was sitting up.

Developmental screening is one of many services provided to expecting and new parents who participate in Welcome Home Baby, a home visiting program we fund for families living in Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Pittsburg, Martinez, San Pablo and Richmond.

A recent survey of nearly 60 mothers who participated in home visiting services found that the program is helping to strengthen families and increase their knowledge about parenting, child development, and how to support their family.

The parents cited developmental screening as a particularly effective tool in learning about child development, what to expect as their children grew, and how to manage concerns about their child’s development. Many mothers said they used screening information to better support their child, understand their child’s capabilities, and to communicate with others about findings.

In addition to valuing developing screening, mothers also revealed that:

  • Home visitors helped them gain skills to manage life challenges and difficulties, especially around coping with stress and anger and managing their children’s behavior.
  • Many participants grew their social support network while in the program. About half developed new friendships from participating in social groups the program sponsored.
  • Home visitors helped participants connect to beneficial resources, such as food and housing.
  • Most mothers formed strong relationships with their home visitor, the cornerstone of an effective home visiting program.

Between 2014 and 2016, the average home visiting participant was 27 years old (the range was from 15 to 41), spoke English as her primary language (55%) and identified as Latino (50%). Parents had three or four risk factors such as low incomes, Medi-Cal eligible, first-time parenthood, and/or limited social support.

Welcome Home Baby serves expecting and new mothers and fathers. Make a referral by contacting (925) 753-2156.


Q&A with Natalie from the Delta First 5 Center

natalie_webster_800x534Natalie Webster became the Delta First 5 Center’s Director in August after working for nearly four years at the Monument Community First 5 Center as an Administrative Assistant and Community Resource Specialist. She graduated from John F. Kennedy University with a Master’s in Holistic Counseling Psychology, Expressive Arts Therapy. She has led workshops on stress relief and reduction through mindfulness and expressive arts. When not running the Center, Natalie enjoys hiking, singing in a choir, planting in her community garden plot, and volunteering at the Richmond Art Center.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Peter Pan.

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

Cottage Cheese.

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

My grandparents in Mexico City.

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

Hiking (I particularly like going to the labyrinth in Briones).

What is your motto?

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do,” by Rumi.

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

Affordable child care and housing.