DACA Reversal Harms Children

The Trump administration’s heartless decision to roll back DACA will harm children and families.

About a quarter of DACA recipients, 800,000 young adults whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children, live in California. Since 2012, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has provided recipients with work permits, the ability to go to college, and most important, protection from deportation.

These young Dreamers contribute to our schools, churches, cities, and communities. They’re our colleagues, neighbors, and friends. About 25% are parents to U.S. born children, and over half have U.S. citizen brothers or sisters.

The Trump administration has placed this successful program, and thousands of futures, in jeopardy.

The anxiety surrounding a family’s immigration status can be detrimental to the health and development of children. A recent study found that when parents received DACA status, it significantly improved their children’s mental health almost immediately. Simply put: children had less stress and anxiety when their parents no longer feared being deported.

The current administration’s immigration crackdown has eroded these gains for children. Reversing DACA will only exacerbate this.

All children deserve to have safe, secure childhoods. They should not live in fear that their parents or siblings will be taken away at any moment, or be further traumatized when a loved one is deported, leaving many in sudden poverty.

DACA is admittedly an imperfect, short-term solution to a much larger need for comprehensive immigration reform. But it is also the most compassionate path for “those who believe in their hearts and in their minds that they are American” as President Obama said when he created DACA in 2012. We hope our leaders will stand up for DACA so that all children are supported in safe, nurturing families and communities.

Sean Casey, Executive Director, First 5 Contra Costa

Support Available for ECE Providers

Early care and education providers spend every day helping children learn and grow. Now it’s their turn.

The Professional Development Program (PDP) is accepting applications for 2017-18 from early childhood educators working with children birth to age 5 at licensed or licensed-exempt programs in Contra Costa County.

For nearly 20 years, the PDP has helped ECE providers advance their education and training in early childhood education, and rewarded them when they do. This year’s PDP is no exception.

Participants will receive financial incentives ranging from $300 to $1,250 when they earn six units of college coursework, attend reflective practice seminars, complete training hours, or qualify for lost wages reimbursements.

“The PDP has helped thousands of early care professionals in Contra Costa County become better trained teachers,” said First 5 Contra Costa’s Early Childhood Education Program Officer Edirle Menezes. “Children learn best in stimulating environments with well-trained teachers. We are fortunate to have thousands of these dedicated teachers in our county.”

First 5 funds Academic Advisors for ECE providers at the county’s three community colleges.

When providers sign up for the PDP, they also receive support. First 5 Contra Costa funds three academic advisors in the child development departments at Contra Costa, Diablo Valley, and Los Medanos Community Colleges to help child care providers map out their college coursework, apply for stipends, textbook loans, or permits, and find tutoring. The three advisors met with over 700 local child care providers last year alone.

We partner with the Contra Costa County Office of Education and the Local Planning & Advisory Council for Early Care and Education (LPC) on this successful program. Combined, our efforts invest over $1.2 million annually to improve ECE teacher quality in Contra Costa County, with funding from local Proposition 10 funds, AB 212, and First 5 California.

FTo apply for the 2017-18 Professional Development Program, click here.

Meet Benjamin

Benjamin Estrada didn’t have custody of his four-year-old daughter when he started taking classes at the West County First 5 Center.

“For me, I had to start over. I had to build from the bottom up. I had made a decision that I was going to be a better parent, and the First 5 Center gave me a vision for how that could be possible,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin began visiting the center weekly while working to gain full custody of his daughter. Most of the time, he was the only dad in the class. But that never stopped him.

“My favorite class was the Triple P class. It really goes in depth about parenting. And you learn about all of your child’s developmental stages, and why the first five years are so important. The First 5 Center maps it out for you and makes it understandable. It helps you be a better parent,” he said.

Benjamin is now a single father with full custody of his daughter, who’s about to turn 10, and an active member of the West County Regional Group we sponsor. He also participates on the PTA at his daughter’s school.

“I went to the first Regional Group meeting and haven’t missed one since. We decide what to stand up for, for other parents and children. It’s so fulfilling and empowering,” Benjamin said. “The First 5 Center staff embraces everyone who walks through their door. They still embrace me when I come. I tell all my neighbors to go there.”

Learn more about the First 5 Centers and the West County Regional Group.

Reflections on the Election

votePost election, emotions are running high. Some people are disappointed; others are jubilant. Our concern lies in the fact that many of the families we support are afraid. And rightly so.

In the last week, hate crimes and rhetoric against people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, women and the LGBTQ community have increased. Children are afraid their parents will be deported. Young Americans who have spent nearly their entire lives in the U.S. fear the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be repealed, separating them from the only home they know. Families who rely on health insurance through MediCaid or Covered California (via the Affordable Care Act) may lose their coverage. Keep in mind half of all children in California have publicly funded health care.

As we wait to learn how the new administration’s policies will affect the families we serve, I can say this: At First 5 Contra Costa, equity will remain our guiding principle in all the work we do. The vulnerable families we support need us more than ever. We will fight for and with them. We will call out policies that harm them. We will double down on our efforts to help all children thrive.

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Community Effort Leads to Safer Streets in Concord

resident_leadersA street party is taking place to celebrate a community-driven project that led to $2.7 million in pedestrian safety improvements on Detroit Avenue, one of Concord’s most heavily trafficked streets located in the heart of the Monument community.

The celebration culminates a process that began in 2012, when the Central County Regional Group, a parent advocacy group we train and sponsor, conducted an assessment of walking and biking safety on Detroit Avenue with help from local agencies and elected officials. Detroit Avenue lacked safe sidewalks, bike lanes and crossings, which resulted in a number of collisions in recent years.

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Help Families Get CalFresh

Cal_FreshMay is “CalFresh Awareness Month,” a campaign to raise awareness of this important benefit which many people don’t know they’re eligible to receive. CalFresh, the federally funded program formerly called Food Stamps, helps children, families, and individuals put nutritious food on their tables each day.

In Contra Costa County, half of CalFresh recipients are children. Household hunger hurts children’s intellectual, physical and emotional development and puts them at greater risk for obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

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Concerns About Governor Brown’s Preschool Proposal

NewPreschoolBlockGrantProposal_252x214In his January budget draft, Governor Brown proposed consolidating three pre-kindergarten programs into one $1.6 billion block grant to the counties. Local education agencies would receive, and determine how to disperse, these block grant funds.

California’s state-funded preschool programs include varied funding streams, eligibility requirements, and curriculums. These programs consist of the California State Preschool Program ($880 million), a small block grant for quality rating and improvement systems ($50 million), and Transitional Kindergarten ($725 million).

Streamlining the current system is a reasonable objective; however, we believe that improving California’s early care and learning system is too important and too large an investment to be carried out in the budget planning process.

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Thank You Denece!

Denece_BlogOur long-time Evaluation Specialist Denece Dodson will be retiring this month after working with First 5 Contra Costa for nearly 15 years. Denece has been instrumental in building, supporting, and implementing First 5 Contra Costa’s evaluation system since our early days. First hired by our external evaluation contractor, Denece helped set up our first evaluation systems and frameworks. A few years later, we hired her in-house where she’s been a reliable and effective evaluation team member for the last ten years.

We will miss her even-keeled temperament, keen insights, and strategic thinking. These attributes have benefited our agency, our funded programs, and most of all, the children and families of Contra Costa County. Good luck Denece – you will be deeply missed!

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About the Families We Reach

SurveyEach year, new families participating in our funded programs complete a survey when they start services, providing us with demographic information about the children and families served by these programs. Last year 2,951 parents completed the survey. Here’s what we learned:

  • Our families struggle to make ends meet.
    • 30% earn less than $15,000 per year; while 33% earn between $15,000 and $30,000. Nearly one-third of mothers served do not have a high school diploma or GED.

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Time for Strategic Planning

Strat-plan-coverIt’s time to update First 5 Contra Costa’s Strategic Plan.

Our current five-year plan, which ends this June, was developed during the Great Recession and in the midst of severe budget cuts for California’s safety net programs. We decided during that challenging time to keep our funding levels as high as possible, and we did, investing more than $71 million.

A Brighter Climate

The picture now, while not totally rosy, is certainly brighter than it was five years ago. The economy is recovering and some programs decimated by budget cuts have been partially restored. Last year’s state budget process was the easiest in recent memory. Perhaps most exciting is the traction early childhood development funding has currently, from federal and state preschool initiatives to those addressing the “word gap” for low-income toddlers. First 5 has always been on the forefront of early childhood issues. It seems the rest of the nation is catching up, and opportunities abound.

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