2014 was a productive year at First 5 Contra Costa. Our funded programs served more than 22,500 children and parents. In addition, 1,875 early child care educators from 217 child care sites received training and support on providing higher quality child care. Thanks to our funding 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:
For the last three years, we’ve been working to create a system to expand early screening and link families to comprehensive early intervention services. This work includes training 280 providers from 58 agencies to implement routine developmental screening, which resulted in 8,000 low-income children being screened for delays or concerns. In addition, the developmental playgroups we created to assist children with mild-to-moderate delays helped improve development for 300 children. And just two weeks ago, we were designated a Help Me Grow county, a national model to organize community services for effective early screening, referral and intervention.
500 children received mental health services last year. By discharge, children were less anxious or depressed and were exhibiting fewer aggressive or behavior problems. In the Triple P parenting program, parents reported that their children had fewer problems and the problems were less severe than before they took the class. Overall, Triple P is helping parents feel more competent and confident in their parenting and less stressed.
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.
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.
Both of 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 we fund hired new male home visitors to support new fathers. They plan to start social groups for new dads this year.
We have trained 81 providers from 17 organizations – including our Family Support Programs – on the Strengthening Families Framework, which include five protective factors that prevent child abuse and help all families thrive. When these Protective factors are present, they help create nurturing, responsive, stable relationships and learning environments for children, and child outcomes improve. The First 5 Centers all used this framework to produce quality programs for the 1,860 families who participated in services last year.
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 Health Services, these dedicated parents have 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.
Last year we completed another successful round of our Sugar Bites Campaign, this time focused more on sugary juice drinks. 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!
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. Look for more to come in 2015, including work on a minimum wage increase.
From the President to Congress (at least some) to our own state legislature, 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. Early childhood education is on the public agenda. We look forward to building on this momentum and opportunity in 2015.