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.
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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 Facebook, 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
First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to announce our new campaign to help parents meet the everyday challenges of raising babies and toddlers and help more kids achieve healthy development. Called Help Me Grow, the campaign directs parents to a new website and 211 phone line where they can find answers to parenting questions and concerns, no matter how big or small. Services are free and confidential.
The campaign includes bilingual ads in English and Spanish and is sponsored by First 5 Alameda County, First 5 Contra Costa, and the Thomas J. Long Foundation.
“From the day they are born, babies are constantly changing. It’s exciting, and it can also be challenging for families to figure out what their baby or toddler needs next,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Help Me Grow support families through every stage of their baby’s development, from first smiles to the first day of school.”
Through its phone and texting services and website, Help Me Grow offers parents information about developmental milestones, what to do if they have concerns about their baby’s development, and where to find local services such as parenting classes, health clinics, or food banks. Help Me Grow also helps families find free developmental screening to check how babies are growing and developing; referrals for children to get evaluated if there are developmental concerns; and services for children who need to catch up on their development.
The advertising campaign will run through the summer and includes online ads, brochures and posters distributed through pediatric offices in the East Bay, and outdoor ads in Contra Costa County communities.
New bilingual brochures, postcards, and posters are available for Contra Costa organizations to distribute. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a supply.
Connect to Help Me Grow:
- Visit helpmegrowcoco.org
- Call 211 to speak to a HMG Specialist
- Text “hmg” to 898211
Seventy percent of children with developmental delays go undetected until kindergarten. Developmental screening can help detect delays much earlier, but too few California children receive them. AB11 will change that.
Introduced by Assembly Members Kevin McCarty and Rob Bonta and co-sponsored by the First 5 Association, AB11 would require pediatricians to provide babies and toddlers with routine developmental screening using a validated screening tool. The requirement would apply to children who receive health coverage through Medi-Cal.
According to Children Now, which graded California’s developmental screening practices a “C-“ in their 2018 California Children‘s Report Card, California ranks near the bottom among states for the rate of young kids who receive screening. Screening rates are even lower for children of color.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children receive developmental screening when they reach 9, 18, and 30 months old. California’s MediCal program has adopted these recommendations, but there is confusion in the medical field about developmental screening practices. Pediatricians often do not use a validated screening tool to identify children at risk for developmental delays, or use screening tools inconsistently.
First 5 Contra Costa has expanded developmental screening services locally in the last few years, screening about 3,000 low-income children every year. We’ve helped community and county health clinics and other pediatricians serving low-income kids adopt screening practices in line with AAP recommendations.
This is a great start, but ensuring all children get the screening and developmental services they need requires policy change. AB11 would provide explicit language requiring how and when pediatricians conduct developmental screening. This will help more young children access timely and effective intervention services and reach their greatest potential.
We’ve made great progress in our second year implementing the Help Me Grow (HMG) model, a system to streamline early screening and intervention services for young children and families.
Screening young children for developmental delays and linking them to effective services provides immediate relief to concerned families and reduces the costs for special education or other services down the road. In California, most developmental concerns are not identified or addressed until children start kindergarten – missed opportunities to begin interventions early.
Contra Costa’s Help Me Grow system is working to change this in four effective ways:
Last year was another productive one at First 5 Contra Costa. Our funded programs and activities continued to improve the lives of our county’s most vulnerable children, and reached over 30,000 parents, children and providers.
1,830 families participated in First 5 Center classes and activities. Over the course of services, parents reported an increase in parenting knowledge, child development, and where to find help for their family. Parents also read to their children more, and for longer periods of time, after participating.
It’s normal for parents to have questions about how their children are growing and developing. Some may wonder if they’re developing on track, are worried about children’s behavior, or might just need information about the best way to help their child develop and prepare for school.
For answers, parents can call 2-1-1 and ask for a Help Me Grow specialist. 2-1-1 child development specialists can answer everyday questions about early childhood development, provide tips and resources, help parents get free developmental screening for their children, and link them to services if their child has developmental concerns.
First 5 Contra Costa, with a grant from the Thomas J. Long Foundation, is implementing Help Me Grow in our county. HMG is a system based on a national model to streamline early identification and referral to help young children thrive, particularly those with developmental delays or concerns. Having a designated phone line, like 2-1-1, is an important component of the system.
When staff at the Bay Point First 5 Center observed that a two-year-old boy attending classes wasn’t speaking at all, they broached the subject with his mom. She quickly replied, “He’s fine. I know what he needs.”
Primary caregivers, such as parents, know their children best. Talking to a family member who is uncomfortable about getting developmental screening for their child can be a delicate dance. Here’s how staff at the First 5 Center approached it.
The First 5 team first acknowledged that the mother is the expert on her child. The staff explained that developmental screening is one way to help her learn more about her child’s development. They also suggested she enroll her son in a literacy and sign language class to boost his language and speech. She declined the screening but tried the class.
Earlier in my career, I worked as an applied behavior analyst for children with autism. Most of the families I assisted had waited to ask for help for their children for a variety of reasons. Cultural issues, stigma or fear, confusion, and lack of awareness were just a few.
But the waiting didn’t end there. Once receiving a formal diagnosis, children then had to wait to be assigned to a provider, and again for services to begin. Sometimes this took months and other times years. By the time everything fell into place, many children aged out of “Early Start,” California’s early intervention program for infants and toddlers.
That’s the question every parent with a child age five or younger is asked when they call 211, a National free phone service, administered locally by the Contra Costa Crisis Center, linking callers to needed community services and support. Even if parents are calling about housing or child care needs, they all get the opportunity to speak to a child development specialist.
First 5 Contra Costa recently allocated $60,000 to the Contra Costa Crisis Center to implement the program and make the Crisis Center’s 211 program even more responsive to families with young children. By partnering in this way, it helps First 5 Contra Costa implement Help Me Grow, a national model that increases early detection of children’s developmental concerns and their ability to access early intervention services. A telephone line, such as 211, that seamlessly connects parents to information and resources is an essential component of the Help Me Grow system.
The Thomas J. Long Foundation has awarded a $5 million grant to First 5 Alameda County and First 5 Contra Costa to ensure that developmental delays are identified and treated early in childhood. The grant will expand Help Me Grow, a national model that promotes early detection of development delays in young children, such as speech problems, behavioral challenges and autism, and ensures timely access to needed services.
Currently, seventy percent of developmental delays are undetected until children reach kindergarten, resulting in missed opportunities for children to receive intervention services shown to be most effective earlier in life.