We are pleased to introduce First 5 Contra Costa’s new Deputy Director – Ruth Fernández!
Many of you already know and have worked with Ruth in her role managing the Local Child Care Planning Council at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Ruth and the CCCOE have been longtime partners with First 5 on our early learning quality improvement work, and we are thrilled that she has joined our team.
Ruth brings over 20 years of experience working with diverse communities in project management, strategic planning and system services coordination in the education and social services sectors. For the last 12 years, Ruth has helped identify and coordinate educational services for educators working in early childhood education throughout the county. Earlier in her career, Ruth managed state contracts for KQED in San Francisco as the Early Learning Project Supervisor in KQED’s Education Network.
She is committed to community service and volunteers her time and expertise supporting educational projects in the Latino community and the community at large. Ruth earned 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. She takes pride in being a lifelong learner and is currently pursuing her Doctorate Degree from Mills College of Oakland in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education.
What was your favorite book as a child? The Little Prince
What food did you refuse to eat when you were a kid? As a young child I didn’t like spinach, but I happen to love it now.
What do you do in your free time? I love to paint, read for leisure, love spending time in the outdoors, walking and hiking.
Did you have a favorite place to visit as a child? As a child there were two places that I loved to visit: the beach and my grandmother’s house. I was very close to my maternal grandma and loved visiting her to cook, help in the garden or make paper flowers with her.
What is your motto? Perspective matters. This Wayne Dyer quote is one of my favorites:“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
What would make Contra Costa an even better place for children and families? Access to health care, high quality care and education, clean and outdoor spaces, and free access to the arts. These services would support physical and socio-emotional development for children and benefit all families.
Could your family make ends meet with an annual income of $23,850? That’s the 2014 Federal Poverty Level, and more than 131,000 Contra Costans (12.5% of the population) live in households earning even less. 38,000 are children.
Many families who live in poverty are at greater risk for experiencing social stressors and isolation that negatively impact children’s health, learning and development. At our recent Strategic Planning retreat, First 5 Commissioners reviewed the latest data on children in poverty in Contra Costa County. Here’s what we learned:
The county’s ethnic diversity has increased since 2000. Latino children make up the largest percentage of children under age 6.
As the economy recovers from the Great Recession, the gap between rich and poor is widening, leaving poor families and individuals further behind. This is true in Contra Costa County, where nearly 200,000 Contra Costa residents live in poverty and even more struggle to make ends meet.
In a county with a median annual income of $78,000, you might be surprised to learn that:
- More than 65,000 families and individuals receive CalFresh (food stamps); half are children, many are seniors and most are working. 48,000 more are eligible, but not enrolled.
- The Food Bank serves 149,000 people every month.
- On any given night, 4,000 individuals and families seek shelter, yet there are only 382 beds available in homeless shelters. One-third of the homeless are children.
Poverty is hard for everyone but particularly toxic to children, who account for 20% of Contra Costa’s low-income population. When babies and toddlers are raised in poverty, they are much more likely to experience excessive, traumatic stress that interrupts healthy brain development. This disadvantage starts early and sticks. Continue reading