We Come Together as One to Create Loving and Safe Communities

Two mom and daughter pairs, each pair of a different race and skin tone, sit on the floor and dance in front of a table of blocks.

Statement from First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director  

To our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander friends, neighbors and families: we stand with you in your grief, rage, and calls for justice in response to the anti-Asian violence we’ve recently witnessed, from Atlanta to closer to home in San Francisco and Oakland. Many of us and the families we serve see ourselves and the people we love in the lives that racism and white supremacy have stolen. On behalf of First 5 Contra Costa, I extend our support and solidarity to all those who have experienced loss and trauma as a result of the ongoing attacks on communities of color in this country.

It takes only looking at the past few weeks to recognize the pervasive systemic racism we’re up against, whether it is the shootings of six Asian American women in Atlanta and the mounting violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, the 1-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder, or the deplorable outlook thousands of migrant children and families currently face at the southern border.

These events are all part of a system of white supremacy and oppression, whose chief aim is to strip us of our humanity, divide us, and designate some of us as less worthy of safety, a home, dignity, and care. This aim is 1) morally wrong and 2) a threat to our vision that all of Contra Costa’s children are healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing families and communities.

This moment calls on us to heighten our efforts to root out systems of oppression and dismantle them, and to join, shoulder to shoulder with families and our partners, in working toward policies, systems, and services rooted in justice and a celebration of our common humanity. Only by acknowledging our shared struggles and working together will we build a world where all children thrive.

In solidarity,

Ruth Fernández, Ed.D.
Executive Director
First 5 Contra Costa



How to Talk to Children About Racism

  • The Conscious Kid, an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth: https://www.theconsciouskid.org/
  • Embrace Race, raising a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race: https://www.embracerace.org/
  • Raising Race Conscious Children, a resource for talking about race with young children: http://www.raceconscious.org/
  • Teaching Tolerance, to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy: https://www.tolerance.org/


How to Find Support with Trauma and Mental Health

  • BEAM, to remove the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. https://www.beam.community
  • Contra Costa Crisis Center, if you are in need of someone to speak with or listen, dial 2-1-1 to access the Contra Costa Crisis Center, available 24-7 to help people through crisis, and provide or connect them with culturally relevant resources in the community. https://www.crisis-center.org/
  • RYSE Center, a safe space building youth power for young people to love, heal, and lead. https://rysecenter.org/


Additional Ways to Support Our Community

First 5 Contra Costa Endorses Proposition 15 and Measure X

At our public Commission meeting on September 14, 2020, our Commission voted to endorse Proposition 15 and Measure X, both on the ballot for the November 3 election.

Our Commission endorsed these initiatives because they will generate much-needed revenue for services that our county and cities provide–services like health care, schools and childcare, affordable housing, firefighters and paramedics, and safety net services. When public entities like our county and cities can fund these services, more children and families can access them, which means that more children have what they need to grow up healthy, ready to learn, and in safe and nurturing communities. 

While we endorse Proposition 15 and Measure X, we hope every voter does their own research and votes in accordance with their values and needs. To this end, we offer up some information about Proposition 15 and Measure X, as well provide additional nonpartisan resources if you want to learn more. 

Most importantly, we encourage you to participate in the democratic process of voting! Whether volunteering at a polling place, advocating for an issue you feel passionately about, or casting a ballot, everyone has a role to play in ensuring our voices and values are represented in our city, county, state, and federal institutions. Click here for resources on voting in Contra Costa County.


What is Proposition 15?

  • Proposition 15 will change how we assess taxes on commercial property. 
  • Instead of basing the tax on a property’s original purchase price (which is how the tax is currently assessed), large commercial property owners would pay taxes based on the property’s fair market value. This would increase revenue from property taxes by approximately $12 billion annually statewide.  
  • This tax will primarily affect corporate property owners; 10% of the biggest corporate property owners will pay 92% of the tax. Homeowners, renters, and small businesses are exempt 
  • If Proposition 15 passes, it could recuperate over $340 million in public funds for our county, our cities, our schools, and vital services like housing, health care, and mental health, all of which would benefit our county’s youngest residents.

For more nonpartisan information on Proposition 15:


What is Measure X?

  • A ½ percent (0.5%) sales tax increase (excluding groceries, utility costs, health care costs) for the next 20 years
  • The tax is projected to generate $81 million annually to fund county services such as hospitals, fire and emergency services, and mental and community health services

For more nonpartisan information on Measure X:


First 5 Contra Costa Awarded Nearly $300,000 
ACEs Aware Grant

First 5 Contra Costa in partnership with Contra Costa Health Services Department, Trauma Transformed, and the Employment and Human Services Department has received $299,261 in grant funds from the Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to participate in the state’s ACEs Aware initiative.

“The ACEs Aware grant will support ongoing county-level efforts to develop a trauma-informed system of care that is now more than ever urgently needed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ruth Fernandez, Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa.

First 5 Contra Costa and their partners will be conducting supplemental provider training, provider engagement activities, as well as a range of communications strategies to promote the ACEs Aware initiative among the Medi-Cal provider community in Contra Costa County.

“We are excited to lead this collaborative effort for our County,” said Wanda Davis, Early Intervention Program Officer, First 5 Contra Costa. “Young children are particularly vulnerable to toxic stress as their brains continuously develop during the first 5 years. Through early detection, we can mitigate the impact of ACEs and improve health outcomes starting from birth.”

A total of $14.3 million was awarded to 100 organizations throughout the state to extend the reach and impact of the ACEs Aware initiative. ACEs Aware seeks to change and save lives by helping Medi-Cal providers understand the importance of screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and training them to respond with trauma-informed care.

“Many people will experience trauma and toxic stress at some point in their lives,” said Gerold Loenicker, chief of Contra Costa Health Services’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.“The earlier we respond to a traumatic event, the more we can mitigate its impact on the health and well-being of the person experiencing it, their families, and the communities they are part of. The ACES grant will support our work to help people recover and grow from their adverse experiences.”

The ACEs Aware grants will provide funding to organizations to design and implement training, provider engagement, and education activities for providers and organizations that serve Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

“We are looking forward to working in partnership with this amazing group of community leaders to further our efforts to help health care providers become ACEs Aware,” said California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. “This work is critical, now more than ever, given the stress so many Californians are experiencing as a result of COVID-19 and the role of racial injustice as a risk factor for toxic stress. A trauma-informed health care workforce is vital for helping our state heal.”

The grant funding will provide critical support to community organizations serving Medi-Cal providers and beneficiaries, which have been experiencing increased stress during the COVID-19 emergency. Grant activities will augment California’s efforts, underway since the summer of 2019, to develop provider training and engage providers, including the promotion of payments to Medi-Cal providers for screening their patients for ACEs.

“Contra Costa’s Employment & Human Services Department and The Alliance to End Abuse looks forward to strengthening and furthering its work around ACEs, trauma-informed care and toxic stress through this collaborative initiative,” said Alex Madsen, Division Manager, Alliance to End Abuse, Employment & Human Services Department. “Now more than ever, we should be treating ACEs, and root causes of ACEs such as generational poverty and systemic racism, as a public health crisis.”

Funding for the ACEs Aware grants was previously authorized in the 2019-20 budget using Proposition 56 funds for provider training on how to conduct ACE screening in the Medi-Cal population. In light of the COVID-19 emergency, the grant funding will provide critical support to the community organizations serving Medi-Cal providers and beneficiaries.

The full list of ACEs Aware grantees is available on the ACEs Aware Website.

Click here to download the Press Release.

# # #

About First 5 Contra Costa

First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy, nurtured and ready to learn by investing in programs and activities focused on child development.

About Contra Costa Employment and Human Services Department (EHSD)

Contra Costa Employment & Human Services Department (EHSD) partners with the community to deliver quality services to ensure access to resources that support, protect, and empower individuals and families to achieve self-sufficiency.

About Contra Costa Health Services

Contra Costa Health Services has a mission to care for and improve the health of all people in Contra Costa County with special attention to those who are most vulnerable to health problems.

About ACEs Aware

Led by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California Surgeon General, and Dr. Karen Mark, Medical Director for DHCS, the ACEs Aware initiative offers Medi-Cal providers core training, screening tools, clinical protocols, and payment for screening children and adults for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are stressful or traumatic experiences people have by age 18 that were identified in the landmark ACE Study. ACEs describe 10 categories of adversities in three domains – abuse, neglect, and/or household dysfunction. ACEs are strongly associated with at least nine out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. Part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s California for All initiative, the goal of ACEs Aware is to reduce ACEs and toxic stress by half in one generation. Follow ACEs Aware onFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Office of the California Surgeon General

The role of California Surgeon General was created in 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom to advise the Governor, serve as a leading spokesperson on public health matters, and drive solutions to the state’s most pressing public health challenges. As California’s first Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has established early childhood, health equity, and ACEs and toxic stress as key priorities.

California Department of Health Care Services

DHCS is the backbone of California’s health care safety net, helping millions of low-income and disabled Californians each and every day. The mission of DHCS is to provide Californians with access to affordable, integrated, high-quality health care, including medical, dental, mental health, substance use treatment services, and long-term care. DHCS’ vision is to preserve and improve the overall health and well-being of all Californians. DHCS funds health care services for about 13 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries

Together We Can Make a Change

At First 5 Contra Costa, our work is grounded in our commitment to diversity and inclusion, equity, cultural humility, and community partnerships. These core values drive our work and our conviction that Black Lives Matter.

Over the weekend, our communities exploded in grief, pain, and outrage over the horrifying killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and the callous way a white woman used her privilege to weaponize the police against a black man in New York. Both of these events are compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has placed a disproportionate burden of illness, death and hardship on racial and ethnic minority groups.

Racism has a deep and lasting impact that terrorizes and traumatizes children and families, creating a sense of hopelessness and despair. Our community should not have to fear that they will be treated differently and harmed because of the color of their skin.

Together, we must dismantle and eradicate cultural, systemic and institutional racism. Every African-American child has the human right to grow up in a just society with access to quality education, equitable health care, and a criminal justice system that is fair.

All leaders must stand in solidarity with the African-American community. Those with influence and privilege must use it to address inequitable systems and hold one another accountable.

In this moment, all of us are called to live our values, to stand together, to work together, and to be courageous together, because all young children deserve better.

First 5 Contra Costa envisions that all young children will be healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing families and communities. We are committed to creating a space with community to listen, to learn, and to act in support of our children. Together we can create the change we want to see.

I stand for love and justice for myself and for all others.

In solidarity,

Ruth Fernández, Ed.D.
Executive Director
First 5 Contra Costa

Resources that can be shared widely with community:

How to Talk to Children About Racism

How to Find Support with Trauma and Mental Health

Additional Ways to Support Our Community

How the Public Charge Ruling Adversely Affects Our Families and Young Children

As an organization dedicated to the well-being of all families and their young children, we were appalled by the “public charge” ruling that adversely affects immigrant families in our community. We are deeply concerned that this rule expansion will inhibit families from applying for programs and services—or stop receiving them entirely—even if they are eligible or needed.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled (5-4) to allow the Trump administration to move forward with the public charge restriction unveiled last August, which disproportionately targets immigrant families by making it more difficult for immigrants seeking to come or those trying to obtain lawful permanent statuses in the United States.

This decision will have life-altering implications for families needing access to services for themselves, or their children. By depriving immigrants of basic needs such as food and housing, the expansion continues to deepen and amplify the climate of fear and deprivation that has become prevalent within immigrant communities and communities of color. It will continue to threaten the health, nutrition, housing, and well-being of young children everywhere.

“This is yet another inequitable attack on our families. The ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling will have a chilling effect on our community’s health and education as families continue to live in fear, and chose to seclude and withdraw from essential health services,” said Dr. Ruth Fernández, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa.

First 5 Contra Costa believes that it is our shared responsibility to ensure the safety and healthy development of all children. We will continue our unwavering commitment to support, advocate, and partner with immigrant families, continue to fight for equitable access to needed services, and strive towards a future in which every family can thrive.

Although the rule is limited to individuals actively applying for lawful permanent status in the United States, not their families or children, we anticipate a continued wave of drop-off in services that has been reported nation-wide since last fall.

“This will continue to have a direct and devastating impact on the lives of our most vulnerable children and their families. It is a dehumanizing act impacting the wellbeing of immigrant families who contribute greatly to our communities,” added Dr. Ruth Fernández. “As leaders in Contra Costa County, and as a community, we must continue to speak up, advocate, and take action against this injustice.” 

In an effort to combat the fear and misinformation, we encourage our communities, our county, and our state to join us in our commitment and movement for united, safe and loving communities.

For more information on First 5 Contra Costa’s efforts towards a safer, healthier, and more equitable Contra Costa County, please reach out to our Community Engagement and Advocacy Program: http://www.first5coco.org/funded-programs/regional-groupsparent-advocacy/

To learn more about how Northern California communities are impacted by the public charge rule, below is a partial list of organizations from the California Immigrant Policy Center that can help answer questions and concerns:

For additional immigration services providers:

For additional information and resources:

First 5 Contra Costa Welcomes Dr. Ruth Fernández as the New Executive Director

First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission applauds and welcomes Ruth Fernandez as the new Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa

After an extensive search, First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to announce that Ruth Fernández has accepted the position of executive director effective on January 13, 2020. Ruth had previously served as Deputy Director at First 5 Contra Costa since November 2017 and will continue to lead First 5’s mission to foster the optimal development of Contra Costa children, prenatal through 5 years of age.

“It gives me great pride to start 2020 by leading First 5 Contra Costa’s mission on behalf of young children and their families. It is our duty as community leaders to eradicate the systemic barriers that disproportionately affect the lives and wellbeing of children–they are our most precious resource. I am elated for the opportunity to continue to serve the county in this role.” said Ruth Fernández, First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director.

Ruth brings to her role an exceptional combination of knowledge and experience working in early childhood, as well as over 20 years of experience working with diverse communities in project management, and strategic planning and system services coordination in the education and social services sectors. In 2019, she earned her Doctorate degree from Mills College of Oakland in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. She also has a B.A. in Political Economies of Industrialized Societies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in Leadership from St. Mary’s College of California. Prior to her role as Deputy Director at First 5 Contra Costa, Ruth worked at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) for over 12 years and helped to identify and coordinate educational services for educators working in early childhood education throughout the county.

The First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission is confident that Ruth’s knowledge, leadership skills, and experience in working in early childhood will continue the organization’s success and vision that all of Contra Costa’s young children will be healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing  families and communities.

Dr. Ruth Fernández with Marilyn Cachola Lucey, Commission Chair for the First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission.

“Ruth’s vision for First 5 and her track record of program innovation, strategic partnership development, and effective leadership, made her the inspired choice. We are excited to usher in the next era for First 5, with Ruth at the helm.” said Marilyn Cachola Lucey, Commission Chair for the First 5 Contra Costa Children and Families Commission.

First 5 is grateful to the search firm CPS HR Consulting, First 5 staff, and the Children and Families Commission for their role and ongoing support in the decision-making process. Please join First 5 Contra Costa in welcoming Ruth and share in the excitement as we enter into a new chapter of our continual support of parents and families, and strengthening systems that give our youngest children the best start in life.

Dr. Ruth Fernández with Commissioners John Jones and Supervisor Diane Burgis

Click here to download the press release.

About First 5 Contra Costa:

First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy, nurtured and ready to learn by investing in programs and activities focused on children during their first five years—the most important time in children’s development. http://www.first5coco.org/

First 5 Contra Costa
1485 Civic Court, Suite 1200
Concord, CA 94520

First 5 Contra Costa Stands With Early Childhood Advocates to Oppose Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” Rule

As advocates for young children and families, we at First 5 Contra Costa join our First 5 colleagues across the state, as well as Governor Gavin Newsom and other state leaders in strongly opposing the Trump Administration’s “public charge” rule expansion to take effect October 15, barring legal challenges. This rule, when fully enacted, will allow government officials to deny green cards to immigrant applicants who receive certain public benefits intended to help families meet basic living needs.

This rule change disproportionately targets immigrant families and their young children, depriving them of basic needs such as food and housing. It also comes on the heels of numerous similar attacks that directly affect the health and well-being of children.

For many months, we have seen ongoing, unspeakable acts of cruelty directed at children and their families on our southern border. Children have been separated from their families, kept in inhumane settings that none of us would wish for any child and their parents unable to find them.

More recently, we have seen white domestic terrorism and hate crimes targeting immigrants and people of color in El Paso, Dayton and in Gilroy—where a 6-year-old child was among those murdered. Only days later, we witnessed children traumatized after being separated from their parents in a large-scale Mississippi immigration raid, with many children still living without a parent.

The climate of fear and deprivation that now hangs over immigrant communities and communities of color threatens the health and wellbeing of young children everywhere. Parents are withdrawing children from preschools, avoiding public clinics, and even purchasing bulletproof backpacks.

Healthy child development is dependent on loving and supportive relationships with adults and caregivers of all kinds, in families, communities and society at large. It is our shared responsibility – and to our shared benefit – that we ensure children grow up surrounded by love, compassion and support.

First 5 Contra Costa joins the many community leaders and elected officials who are taking action to oppose these attacks on our communities and families. We encourage our communities, our county, and our state to join us in our commitment that all children are raised in safe, nurturing families and communities.


For more information and resources:

First 5 Contra Costa: Immigration Resources

Protecting Immigrant Families

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, California’s 11th Congressional District

Contra Costa County: Get Your Taxes Done for Free

It’s tax season again and there is a way to help qualifying filers file their taxes for free!

Every tax season the United Way Bay Area teams up with local nonprofits to lead the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) coalition to provide free tax-filing services to clients with a household income under $55,000.

Eligible clients with income under $55,000 are able to take advantage of tax credits that are linked to breaking the cycle of poverty; such as the Federal and State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). To receive these services, clients can find a tax site near them at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org and filter through over 200 free tax sites in the Bay Area.

  • For additional help in navigating the system, call 211 and an operator can assist you.
  • CLICK HERE for a printable and downloadable document with more information about the program and what to bring to a VITA site (in English and Spanish).
  • To learn more about Earn It! Keep It! Save It! (EKS), click here to visit www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org

Young Children Likely to be Among First Beneficiaries of New State Leadership

First Five Center, Contra Costa County

Today marks a new chapter for California’s families with the inaugurations of not only Gavin Newsom as California’s 40th Governor, but also Tony Thurmond–former Contra Costa Assemblymember and West County School Board member–as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Both have publicly committed to ensuring that every child has the best start in life and is fully ready to engage and succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

“The research very strongly supports investing in early childhood to reap education, health, and social benefits later in life. Governor Newsom will likely waste no time in putting into action the early childhood policies he promoted in his campaign,” said Sean Casey, First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director.

“The leadership from the Governor, Superintendent Thurmond, and an equally supportive legislature could very quickly transform California’s early education system in ways we haven’t seen since the creation of the higher education system in the 1960’s,” he added.

First 5 Contra Costa stands ready to help implement these exciting possibilities in the months and years to come. “Everything we’ve done up to now, whether by building quality in early education, training the next generation of providers, or supporting and strengthening families, has prepared us for the time when public investments make high-quality early childhood education and family support universal,” said Mr. Casey.

* * *

First 5 Contra Costa

First 5 Contra Costa helps young children start school healthy, nurtured and ready to learn by investing in programs and activities focused on children during their first five years, the most important time in children’s development. First 5 Contra Costa has invested more than $140 million in Proposition 10 tobacco tax funds to help Contra Costa’s children get the best possible start in life.

Statement Regarding Recent Government Actions to Separate Immigrant Children from Their Families

As advocates for the healthy growth and development of young children, we at First 5 Contra Costa are outraged by the horrifying reports and images of the separation of children from their families at our southern border. Our work is based on the scientific knowledge that a healthy childhood is the essential foundation for lifelong growth and development. We know that to build that foundation, every child needs and deserves loving, safe and secure relationships with their parents and caregivers.

Separating children from their parents, especially those who are escaping the stress and trauma of unsafe home communities, introduces needless and unacceptable trauma into their young lives. Severely traumatic childhood events such as these are linked to adult addiction, chronic disease, cancer and heart disease.

We cannot escape the conclusion that a federal policy to remove children from their families is akin to willful child abuse. At times throughout this country’s history, government has unjustly, yet legally separated countless children of color from their families. We recognize the relationship between this dark chapter and others in our history in which young people of color have been traumatized and oppressed.

We condemn these inhumane actions and urge our elected officials and all who stand for families to bring this terrible practice immediately to an end. The children who remain separated from their parents must be immediately reunited. There is no justification for the actions that have occurred in the past several weeks and we hope they will never be replicated.