The Governor’s Budget Proposal and Contra Costa Kids

Governor Brown issued his budget proposal last week, as he does every January. Many organizations, like the California Budget & Policy Center, offer smart analyses and explanations of what is in the Governor’s budget. The good news is that this year’s budget offers early childhood advocates  a lot to be excited about, including investments in early childhood education, health, and family support – all of the things that First 5 believes are critically important for children and families to succeed.

A lot of work and revision will happen between now and when the budget becomes final in June. But the January budget is significant because it signals the Governor’s priorities and the budget projections give the legislature a sense of the dollars available to work with.

For Contra Costa children, the budget holds a lot of promise.

The budget includes many improvements to early childhood education programs. It increases funding for subsidized child care programs; increases the number of high-quality preschool slots; and creates a new online community college for early childhood education, which should lead to more qualified child care teachers. Those are big, important moves that will support, strengthen and grow California’s early childhood system. Exactly how many parents, children and providers would be affected in Contra Costa is not yet clear, but currently there is an estimated shortage of 29,000 child care spaces in the county. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Another exciting proposal is the plan to increase funding for family support services. These are the services designed to help families who are vulnerable because of poverty or other factors that put them at risk for maternal depression, poor academic outcomes for the children, or interaction with the child welfare system.

The Governor proposed to create a new home visiting program for first-time mothers who receive assistance through the CalWORKs program. If passed, this would be an important new program that would match new parents with trained professionals who would provide regular home visits on a voluntary basis. Home visiting programs have been shown to promote healthy child development and academic success, improve health outcomes, and support families’ economic security.

Again, the number of families who could benefit from this program is unclear at this stage. Home visiting programs operating today can only reach a tiny fraction of all the families who might benefit from them. Contra Costa Health Services’ Nurse Family Partnership program has reached over 300 families. Other programs operating in the county, including First 5 Contra Costa’s Welcome Home Baby, reach hundreds of other families. Without adequate funding, it’s no wonder these programs cannot meet the needs of the 15,000 Contra Costa children under age 6 who live in poverty.

The Governor’s budget makes it clear that early childhood advocates, who have been telling the Administration for years about the need to prioritize children, have made an impression. Given the big needs of our young children, the Governor’s proposals highlighted here are welcome, though they will not suffice. The administration and legislature need to keep their eyes on the many complex and critical needs of our children in this and every budget cycle.

Sarah Crow is First 5 Contra Costa’s Strategic Information and Planning Manager

Three-Year Home Visiting Contract Awarded

HV2First 5 Contra Costa recenlty awarded Aspiranet a contract up to $3.6 million to conduct home visiting services for expecting or new moms and dads. Funding was allocated through June 30, 2019, and Aspiranet will receive up to $1.3 million each year starting July 1.

First 5 Contra Costa has allocated funding for home visiting services for more than a decade. Every three years or so, we engage in a competitive funding process to re-allocate our funds. The bidding process for this contract drew four applicants.

Home visiting services will be provided to families living in Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Martinez, Richmond and San Pablo. Research shows home visiting is an effective way to reach new parents, reduce child abuse, and improve child health and development. Well-designed, voluntary home visiting programs can also lead to substantial savings for taxpayers with fewer children in social welfare, mental health, and juvenile corrections systems.

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Thankful for Protective Factors

For the last few years, First 5 Contra Costa has been using the Protective Factors framework in our approach to working with families.5-Protective-2-682x1024

Developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Protective Factors framework is designed to prevent child abuse and neglect by focusing on five critical areas that help children and families thrive. The five Protective Factors are:

  1. Parental Resilience: Resilience helps parents to manage the challenges and stress of everyday life.
  2. Social Connections: Families have a network of friends, family members, neighbors and community members to provide emotional support and help solve problems.
  3. Concrete Support in Times of Need: Families can meet basic economic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and health care; services are provided during times of crisis.
  4. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Parents have accurate information and appropriate expectations about child development to promote children’s healthy development.
  5.  Social and Emotional Competence in Children: Children can interact positively with others, self-regulate behavior and effectively communicate; children with development delays are identified early and receive appropriate assistance.

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Home Visits for New Dads

WHBFor the first time in its 15-year history, Contra Costa’s popular Welcome Home Baby program is offering home visiting services to new fathers. Matched with a male home visitor, the program helps fathers to become more involved in their baby’s life, which research shows produces better health and educational outcomes for children.

“Children with involved, stable fathers have fewer behavioral problems, higher educational attainment, and lower levels of emotional stress,” said Odessa Caton, program director at AspiraNet, the nonprofit that runs Welcome Home Baby. “Home visiting is an effective way to reach new parents, reduce child abuse, and improve child health and development, but most programs are only for mothers. We’re out to change that.”

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The Importance of Fatherhood

hvdadFathers today are spending more time with their children compared to three decades ago, according to the Families and Work Institute, a leading nonprofit that studies workforce and family issues. They are also taking on more nurturing and caregiving roles.

A relationship with dad can change a child’s life. Research shows that the role a father plays in a young child’s life is extremely important to a child’s healthy development, and there are many positive outcomes for children whose fathers are more involved in their daily lives.

In recognition of Father’s Day, First 5 offers the following tips for dads and other male caregivers:

Get involved early. Taking an active role in caring for a newborn helps dads and babies bond from the start. You might consider taking a few days off from work after the baby is born to spend quality time together. In California, new parents, including dads, are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to be with their newborn. Continue reading

Hello Baby Launches in Richmond, San Pablo

home_visitBrighter Beginnings has launched a new home visiting program to improve parenting skills and prevent child abuse in Richmond and San Pablo. Called “Hello Baby,” the program matches at-risk parents with trained professionals who provide information, education, and support from pregnancy until children turn two – children’s most critical developmental years.

Research shows that home visiting programs can improve maternal and child health, reduce child maltreatment, increase parental employment, and improve the rate at which children reach developmental milestones. Based on this research, even President Obama has requested more federal funding to expand home visiting services for low-income children and families. Continue reading

Minding the Gap

gap1“I’ve learned that just playing with my daughter and talking to her more or just narrating my life as I’m going through the house helps us bond. I didn’t know that before,” said Tereesha, a single mother who’s been participating in classes at the West County First 5 Center for the last year.

Tereesha is her child’s first and most important teacher. And thanks to the First 5 Center, she’s relishing this role. But not all children have parents as engaged as Tereesha and that puts them at a serious disadvantage when they start kindergarten.

Research shows that by age four, children in middle and upper class families hear 30 million more words than children in low-income families.  A lack of exposure to words means children enter kindergarten with smaller vocabularies than higher income peers and may indicate a lack of enriching early learning opportunities at their most critical developmental time – their first three years of life.

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A Safety Protocol for Home Visitors

Last year at least ten families or staff from the Hand to Hand home visiting program – a First 5 program that serves expectant or new parents in Richmond and San Pablo – had a friend or family member killed or injured by gunfire.

When violence flares in a neighborhood, what is the best way to keep social service workers safe and still reach families in need?

The Hand to Hand program answered this question by developing a safety protocol.  According to Odessa Caton, District Director for Aspiranet (the lead agency of the Hand to Hand collaborative), the protocol has already had a positive impact on worker and family safety.   Continue reading