A Letter of Reflection and Hope from Our Executive Director


To our community of Commissioners, friends, partners, and families,

If you’re anything like me, you’re pinching yourself and wondering: how are we already at the close of yet another year? 

Yet, when we reflect on all that First 5 Contra Costa has accomplished, it’s no surprise. From providing hundreds of families with much needed diapers and PPE to supporting hundreds of hours of parent education and advocacy and launching a trauma-informed, healing-centered Network of Care, the team at First 5 and you all, our partners and community, have shown up in powerful ways to ensure that every child in Contra Costa can make the most of their potential.

This year was not without its challenges. The pandemic remains a pressing health threat, and its economic impact continues to reverberate for low-income families hardest hit by job loss. Those same families are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to cover the cost of increasingly expensive child care. All the while, desperately underpaid early childhood educators are leaving the field for higher paying jobs. Families of color are more likely to feel the impact of these challenges, due to legacies of redlining and discrimination that have put them at an economic disadvantage. 

It’s no surprise to see our communities asking for stronger mental health support, in addition to the concrete support they need to stay healthy and housed. 

In the face of all this challenge, a word that feels present for me as I look to 2022 is believe. Many of us have heard that believing is seeing and seeing is believing. And what I’ve seen this past year are the myriad ways we have come together–agencies, nonprofits, leaders, and families–to support one another in the ever-important work of giving all children what they need to thrive in their first five years of life. The simple reality is, no one of us can do the work of raising our County’s youngest alone. Seeing us come together, I believe we can create an equitable, compassionate, healthy, and love-filled reality for our community. 

Yes, it’s been one heck of a year, and it’s hard to believe it’s over. And, thanks to all of you, we’re one year closer to realizing our vision that all of Contra Costa’s children are healthy and ready to learn in safe, nurturing environments. I invite all of us to continue believing and finding hope in that vision of success and well-being that each of us hold for children. Let us not lose sight of what is possible, for our collective synergy presents endless possibilities!

On behalf of the staff team at First 5 Contra Costa and yours truly,

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

Update On Our West County First 5 Center Sites

The Richmond satellite site of the West County First 5 Center, closed since 2018, will not reopen. Initially closed in July 2018 for a seismic retrofit, the satellite site’s closure extended for over two years due to COVID-19. Increasing costs of operating and staffing the site coupled with family attendance were the primary factors that led to the decision to close the site permanently.

First  5 Contra Costa remains committed to serving Richmond families at the West County First 5 Center located in San Pablo, where any family with a child ages 0-5 can attend classes and connect to community resource specialists. For families where travel to San Pablo is not possible or ideal, the West County First 5 Center will continue to provide remote and online programs. Additionally, we will utilize our long standing  partnership with agencies and organizations that serve families and young children to  broaden our reach in Richmond and West County.

Visit the West County First 5 Center today! You can find a calendar of current opportunities available here. As always, we want to hear from you. If you have questions, concerns, or thoughts you’d like to share, please reach out to the Director of the West County First 5 Center, Alexina Rojas: arojas@bacr.org.

Need to reach us? Send us an email.

Need to reach us? Send us an email.


Dear community members and partners:

Please be advised that we are temporarily unable to access our office telephone lines. If you need to contact or speak with First 5 staff, please direct all communications via email, which you can find here—we will respond as quickly as possible.

If you’d like to reach one of our First 5 Centers, you can still contact them via email or phone, here. We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you for your patience!

The First 5 Contra Costa Team

Día de los Libros Celebration 2021


Join the First 5 Association, in partnership with the California State Library, in celebration of Día de los Libros on Friday morning, April 30.

First 5 Contra Costa (that’s us) will also be hosting an additional 2-hour event that evening! Come celebrate with us!

Just because we’re doing the good work of social distancing to safeguard our loved ones and community from COVID-19, doesn’t mean we can’t come together (virtually)!

Friday, April 30, 2021

10:00 am – 10:45 am
Featuring CA’s First Partner Jennifer Seibel Newsom, CA’s Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, and father-son duo, Actor Hudson Yang and Journalist Jeff Yang

  • To access the event on 4/30 at 10 am, log on to Facebook and go to the First 5 Association Page, which will broadcast the event Live.

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
With special guest readers Amy Mockoski from Contra Costa County Library, Cecilia Valdez and Laura Rodriguez from Tandem, and Ruth Fernandez from First 5 Contra Costa. 

Here is a Facebook EVENT page to RSVP and Share – we look forward to seeing all of you.

Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

The First 5 Association has created a landing page with more information about the event with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Nadine Burke Harris, Hudson Yang, and Jeff Yang as well as additional links to resources throughout the state of California: Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

Srividya Iyengar

District II Alternate

Vidya Iyengar is the Regional Executive Director, Medi-Cal Strategy and Operations at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.  She leads the Medi-Cal line of business for the region, including enterprise-wide initiatives as part of the National Medicaid and vulnerable populations community of practice. In the previous four years she had been a Asst. Medical Group Administrator in the Greater Southern Alameda Area of Kaiser Permanente. In this role, she provided oversight to outpatient departments including Obstetrics/gynecology; surgery/surgical specialties and ophthalmology/optometry, while leading medical center wide initiatives. She joined the Permanente Medical Group in 2009 as the Director of Psychiatry in the Kaiser Permanente East Bay Area.

Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, she worked as the Ethnic Services Manager in the Contra Costa County mental health division and lead the Reducing Healthcare Disparities initiative. During her tenure in the County, she also developed the Workforce development and training program with the vision of creating competent, caring and high performing teams. She has had a breadth of experience leading treatment programs in outpatient and residential community healthcare focused on patients with a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

She is a licensed mental health clinician and has spent her early professional career as a therapist in County and community health settings. Throughout her career, she has been guided by her passion to work with underserved communities and Medi-Cal/Medicare recipients. She volunteers as the Board President of a non-profit organization serving survivors of domestic violence in the Bay Area. She serves on the advisory council of the Bay Area Women’s Healthcare Executive Council.

First 5 Contra Costa Awarded Nearly $2.4 Million in ACEs Aware Implementation Grant


First 5 Contra Costa, in partnership Contra Costa Crisis Center and La Clínica Pittsburg Medical, has been selected to receive an ACEs Aware implementation grant totaling $2,355,708 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.

“Our first round of ACEs Aware grants brought medical, behavioral health, and community organizations together to imagine a system that prevents, screens for, treats and heals from ACEs,” said Dr. Ruth Fernández, Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa. “This latest funding will take this dreaming and put it into practice. When medical providers like La Clínica and community resources like the Crisis Center can integrate their work, our county is all the readier to interrupt and heal cycles of toxic stress.”  

First 5 Contra Costa and their partners will seek to mitigate the toxic stress response, build resilience, and limit the intergenerational transmission of ACEs by screening children age 0 to 5 years and their primary caregivers and connecting them with buffering resources and support structures in their communities. Recognizing the impact of maternal toxic stress on a child’s development, the work will have a strong focus on screening prenatal and postpartum mothers and creating supports and community referral systems that connect them with the resources they most need.

“Our program encourages caregivers to focus on their own wellbeing as a way to create a stable home and to build resiliency in their children. This is important for all mothers, but especially so for those with toxic stress related to their own ACEs,” said Dr. Barbara Botelho of La Clínica Pittsburg Medical. “At La Clínica, many of our patients have traumas stemming from both poverty and discrimination. By partnering with the Crisis Center and First 5, we hope to provide the material support and the tools to help them heal.”



In addition to screening caregivers and children ages 0-5, the project will build resilience in children and mothers by referring them to community supports, including: 

  • Mental health services for the mother to address positive ACES screening or other mental health issues including postnatal depression
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Support for basic needs, with a particular focus on addressing food insecurity and homelessness
  • Community-building opportunities
  • Parenting classes and education on normal infant development
  • Resources for cultivating parental wellbeing

“In our work building a Network of Care, we’ve learned that our medical community is well aware of ACEs and the effects of toxic stress. Where they’ve struggled is answering the question, ‘what’s next?’ after they screen for ACEs,” said Wanda Davis, Early Intervention Program Officer, First 5 Contra Costa. “This latest round of ACEs Aware grant funding will answer that question by connecting providers and systems of care to one another. When it comes to screening, treating, and healing ACEs, we don’t have to go it alone.” 

The second round of ACEs Aware grants focuses on planning and implementing networks of care across the state, including developing information technology platforms that provide the connectivity and integration necessary to move from screening, to treatment, to healing.

“The science is clear: Without intervention, Adverse Childhood Experiences and the resulting toxic stress response can lead to lasting negative mental and physical health outcomes,” said California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. “These grants will strengthen the capacity of our networks of care to support health care providers to effectively screen, treat, and heal patients with ACEs.”

A total of $30.8 million in second round ACEs Aware grant funding was awarded to 35 organizations across California to build and strengthen robust “networks of care” to effectively respond to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress with community-based health and social supports that meet the needs of children, adults, and families.

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

Click here to download the full 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 La Clínica

The mission La Clínica is to improve the quality of life of diverse communities by providing culturally appropriate, high quality, and accessible health care for all.


About Contra Costa Crisis Center

The mission of the Contra Costa Crisis Center is to keep people alive and safe, help them through crises, and provide or connect them with culturally relevant services in the community.


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 on FacebookTwitterLinkedInand 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

Our Children Are Watching, And They Are Learning From Us

This is a moment where we, as the adults in their lives, must step up.

On Wednesday, we witnessed an assault on American democracy at the US Capitol. Our democracy is the means by which we uphold our ideals of liberty, justice, prosperity, and community. They are the very ideals that create the conditions for young children and families to thrive. They are integral to who we are and what we do at First 5 Contra Costa. 

It is enraging that this attack came alongside blatant displays of racism and white supremacy. Throughout history and up until this current moment, our country’s legacy of racism has put up hurdle after hurdle in giving all Americans a voice through their vote

And yet, in the face of these challenges, our democracy has grown to include more Americans in its representation. This election is a shining example: voters faced a global pandemic, massive disinformation campaigns, and voter suppression here in California and beyond. But thanks to the tireless work of our local elections officials and community organizers, we turned out in record numbers in Contra Costa to vote. 

This week’s events call on us to build on the strength of our growing democracy, while also reckoning with our racist past and present. We must actively work to create a future for ourselves and our children where all belong, are heard, and valued.

As ambassadors and advocates of young children and their families, we at First 5 feel and embrace the weight of our leadership. We are called upon to be the voices and stewards of civility, honor, peace, and love. Our actions and responses today shape our children’s future.

This is why, we must now come together, as a community and as a nation, to defend the democratic values and principles that make possible our visions of liberty and justice for all.” 

Ruth Fernández, EdD
Executive Director
First 5 Contra Costa


* * *



For Young Children:

Offering comfort (during tough times), Sesame Street

Exploring Emotions, Sesame Street

“When You Feel So Mad, That You Want to Roar”: Dealing with Angry Feelings Daniel the Tiger, PBS Kids.


For Parents, Caregivers, Teachers, Providers

Talking to Kids About Tragedies and Civil Unrest, First 5 LA

Talking to Kids About the Attack on the Capitol, National Education Association

Struggling To Discuss Tough Topics With A Kid? Here Are Books That Might Help, NPR

Resources for Teachers, Beyond the Spotlight

How to talk to your kids about the chaos at the Capitol, National Geographic

Racism and Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News, Child Mind Institute

Día de los Libros Celebration


Join the First 5 Association, in partnership with California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and the California State Library, in celebration of Día de los Libros on Thursday, April 30.

First 5 Contra Costa (that’s us) will also be hosting additional events throughout the day to make it an all-day celebration of children, families, and reading.

Just because we’re doing the good work of social distancing to safeguard our loved ones and community from COVID-19, doesn’t mean we can’t come together (virtually)!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

10-10:30am with CA’s First Partner Jennifer Seibel Newsom

 11-11:30am with the East County First 5 Center

12-12:30pm with the Antioch/Delta First 5 Center

1-1:30pm with the Monument First 5 Center

2-2:30pm with the West County First 5 Center

Here is a Facebook EVENT page to RSVP and Share – we look forward to seeing all of you.

Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

The First 5 Association has created a landing page with more information about the event with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, as well as additional links to resources throughout the state of California: Día de los Libros Celebration & Resources

Counting All Kids


How First 5 Contra Costa and its partners are helping to lead the way towards a complete count for the 2020 Census.

With thousands of residents staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the shelter-in-place guidelines have impacted Census outreach activities. First 5 Contra Costa and its partners have had to shift community census events and in-person canvassing to social media, digital media, and phone banking.

Although Contra Costa is self-responding at a higher percentage than the California average (57.3% compared to 49.2% as of 4/13/2020), there is plenty of work still to be done. With undercounted populations continuing to face challenges in responding to the Census, including lack of internet access, misinformation, and fear or distrust in the government (through privacy concerns and actions targeting immigrant families), an undercount in 2020 could cost Contra Costa County between $500 million and $11 billion over 10 years in federal programs.

Census Timeline Extended: online, phone, and mailed self-responses continue until October 31, 2020.

Click here to view our PSA in Spanish.

First 5 Contra Costa and its partners have been focusing on reaching families with children—as children ages 0-5 are among the most likely to go uncounted in the Census, as well as renters, low-income families, immigrants, and people of color. A complete count of all communities can help secure accurate representation and needed federal funding for children and families across Contra Costa—including programs for kids, such as schools, childcare, medical care, food assistance, housing, and public transportation.

Here are 3 ways to complete the census during our current shelter-in-place guidelines.

Respond before October 31, 2020

Complete it by mail.
All residences should have received a letter mid-March, as well as a postcard with the information to fill it out. Click here for more information on how to respond by mail. If you no longer have the form, or don’t recall receiving one, you can still complete the census online or over the phone. See below.

Complete it online.
If you have access to the internet or wifi, you can complete your Census online through your computer, tablet, or phone. Click here for more information no how to respond online. Just remember that once you start, you are not able to save your progress and must complete it in one session, or start over at another time.

Complete it over the phone.
The 2020 Census can be completed over the phone by calling 844-330-2020. You can also call the number associated with your preferred language, such as Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and other languages below. Non-English and Non-Spanish Language Hours of Operation are available Monday through Friday from 8am to 10 pm Eastern Time. Click here for support in multiple languages.


Complete the Census Today

  • https://2020census.gov/
    Click here to complete the census, or to learn more about the process.
  • https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/6999/Census-2020
    Click here to learn more about the Census and activities for families in Contra Costa County.
  • https://naleo.org/census2020/
    Click here to learn more about Census from the NALEO Educational Fund is the nation’s leading non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.

Other things to know:


Helping Our Youngest Children Continue to Learn at Home


Some simple steps you can take to set up a routine at home with children 0-5

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, many schools and childcare locations have been temporarily closed and it has left parents and caregivers wondering how to balance being at home and continuing the development of their children.

Although it can feel overwhelming, it’s helpful to remember that play and interaction is a form of learning. Through play, our youngest children develop social and cognitive skills, and can gain self-confidence to try new experiences and explore new environments.

Don’t forget to check out the extremely helpful video at the bottom from Dr. Barbara Stroud, or click here to view the original in YouTube.


Planning out a schedule can help to ease some anxiety and allow everyone to feel reassured by routine (adults and children). Remember, if your children have been at child care, or school, they are used to the routine and a simple, flexible schedule will help their day feel structured.

Here is a simple routine that you can use as a reference point for how to set up your day. Feel free to adjust the times and order to suit your needs. Example: if your little one is used to taking a nap after lunch, move an activity earlier, and slide things around. Give yourself the freedom to adjust the day as it develops and find comfort that the routine is flexible.

Looking for activities? Here you’ll find a list of activities that are perfect for each age of early childhood, from the baby years on into the beginnings of grade school.


Your children are communicating with you the second they are born. “As children develop, they learn to speak and use language,” says Ruta Rosset, Speech and Language Pathologist. From smiles and coos, to single words and full sentences, stay mindful of how are children are communicating with us. Click here to find a summary of the expressive language skills children age 0-5 generally attain at key milestones in their development.


Let’s also acknowledge that all children learn and explore in a variety of ways, and have different needs and resources. Homes with multiple children of different ages and abilities also have to consider what is best for the individual child. In creating a daily routine, try and include a mixture of activities: inside, outside, reading and fine motor skills, music and play. Also, include some down time for rest and relaxation and allow children to explore independently—it can be extremely valuable and confidence building.

(But be mindful of screen time – spoiler alert, we address this next)

First 5 California has FREE online activities for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. As well as at-home activity suggestions like how to build an obstacle course, or create your own music. Find the perfect activity for children at all stages from 0-5

PBS also has great FREE online resources, including games that talk about feelings, teamwork, counting, and much more.


Even with a lot of amazing online resources being available, it is not suggested that children remain in front of screens for long periods of time (especially children under the age of 2). The day should be focused on a healthy balance of activities to keep children occupied. Here is a video from the Washington Post on a healthy balance of screen time.


It’s always helpful to stick with what feels familiar for yourself, and the children. Having the same wake-up time, snack time, play time, nap time, etc., will help the children feel like it is their typical routine. And remember to ask the children for some input. They are more likely to stay engaged if the activities revolve around their interests.

VIDEO: COVID-19 Tips for Parents from Dr. Barbara Stroud