Last week, First 5 Contra Costa was thrilled to meet with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier for a tour of the East County First 5 Center in Pittsburg, and a discussion of our “Help Me Grow” program to improve early screening and intervention. Rep. DeSaulnier is carrying a bill this year that would significantly increase federal funding for developmental services, so children in our counties and others who need help are identified sooner, and helped faster.
Far too often, children arrive at their first day of kindergarten with signs of obvious developmental, behavioral or social challenges. In many cases, this can be prevented through timely developmental screening and early intervention, one of the most important things we can do to promote children’s health in their first years. Yet only 29% of California children receive timely developmental screenings.
First 5 Contra Costa has worked hard to ensure every pediatric provider in our county uses a standard developmental screening tool at recommended intervals. The County’s 211 information and referral service now has trained developmental specialists available to navigate parents to the programs and resources their child needs. And each of our five First 5 Centers—including the one Rep. DeSaulnier visited–has regular developmental playgroups for children with mild to moderate delays and their parents.
But children with more intensive conditions need more intensive services, and those remain harder to access. California’s Regional Center system and school districts are not sufficiently funded to meet the needs of children with autism and other significant developmental conditions. That’s why we’re so excited about Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill.
The bill—The Funding Early Intervention is the Right IDEA Act (HR4107)—would increase funding in two parts of existing law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA), over ten years. The IDEA makes free and appropriate education available to eligible children with disabilities from birth to 21 years of age. The DeSaulnier bill would increase funding for Part C of the IDEA, which gives states early intervention funds for infants and toddlers. It would also increase funding for preschool programs serving children with disabilities. Funding levels in both of these areas have eroded to the point that per-child spending is now only about 35% what it was more than two decades ago. Every year, 1 in 4 California children is at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral or social delays.
In Contra Costa we’re doing all we can to meet the needs of these children, their families and communities so that every child has their chance to develop to their full potential. But to do so, we’ll need help from our state and federal governments to ensure early childhood programs are fully funded. Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill is a strong step in the right direction.
For more information on Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, please visit:
For more information on the Help Me Grow program and early intervention and screening, please visit:
For more information on your local First 5 Center and upcoming programs and activities, please visit:
Dennisha Marsh jumped feet first into volunteering a few years ago joining both the Community Advisory Council at the Bay Point First 5 Center and the Policy Council for the Head Start program her son attended.
Although she had never volunteered in this capacity before, she wanted to have a voice in both her son’s education and the type of classes and programs offered in her community.
That’s what being on a CAC at a First 5 Center is all about. Each site has a board made up of parents and other community members to conduct needs assessments, surveys, or focus groups to make sure the Centers address the needs of families in their community. Throughout this process, CAC members receive training and assistance to build leadership skills.