First 5 Contra Costa
February 20, 2024

February 2024 Newsletter

Advocacy for Contra Costa Families, the Early Learning Workforce, and the benefits of Positive Parenting


Advocacy Day 2024: First 5 Contra Costa visits the Capitol to discuss the importance of prioritizing California’s youngest children and their families

Hundreds of First 5 county leaders from across California rallied in the Capitol last week, calling for a one-time $100 million state investment to stabilize local programs serving children and families.

Several First 5 Contra Costa commissioners and staff attended some of the three-day event in Sacramento. The event included speakers and forums on topics such as national and state early childhood trends and strategies to focus on equity. The event concluded with Advocacy Day—an opportunity for legislative visits with the offices of elected officials by each county’s First 5. These visits focused on protecting critical services for California’s youngest children, seeking support for a pre-natal to 3 workgroup to recommend steps for an equity-focused system for infants and toddlers, and a call to ensure multi-year continuous eligibility for Medi-Cal for young children.

“Investment for California’s youngest children should be prioritized, even in tough budget years,” said Avo Makdessian, Executive Director of First 5 Association. “Focusing on our local communities is how we provide long-term solutions to the most pressing issues California’s youngest children and families face.”

First 5 Contra Costa would like to thank the offices of Asm. Bauer-Kahan, Asm. Grayson, Asm. Wicks, Asm. Wilson, Sen. Glazer, and Sen. Skinner for their time and continued attention towards the needs of families with children 0-5.

Click here to view the press release from the First 5 Association


New report: Directory of Advocacy Efforts in Contra Costa County Related to Early Childhood Issues

First 5 Contra Costa is excited to release a new report: Directory of Advocacy Efforts in Contra Costa County Related to Early Childhood Issues. Readers will find a brief overview of 23 advocacy efforts that intersect with First 5 Contra Costa’s focus areas (early childhood education, early intervention, and strengthening families) and that engage either parents and caregivers, and/or service providers.

The report is a result of First 5’s landscape scan of policy advocacy efforts—led by organizations, informal groups and/or coalitions—in this county. The scan helped identify existing opportunities for parents, caregivers and service providers to directly advocate on the issues First 5 Contra Costa champions and will inform the organization’s future planning related to advocacy and building power. Our hope is the information we gathered will also be useful to others in enhancing the understanding of policy advocacy activities related to early childhood in the county.

Download the report at


Efforts to Support Our Early Learning Workforce

A new study on our county’s early learning workforce found that on average early educators in Contra Costa County make less than the statewide average earnings of educators, despite the high cost of living in the Bay Area. The study also found that between 29% to 48% of early learning educators either don’t plan to or don’t know if they plan to continue working in the child care field in three years. Low compensation leads to increased turnover, which negatively impacts early learning educators, the children and families they work with, and ultimately the entire community.

First 5 Contra Costa, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, Employment & Human Services Department of Contra Costa County, and CocoKids funded the study which was conducted by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley. The study was conducted in spring and summer of 2023, and included 520 English and Spanish-speaking educators across three groups: 178 family child care providers, 101 center directors, and 241 center teachers and assistants.

First 5 Contra Costa plans to use the report to inform its exploration of a possible guaranteed income pilot program for early childhood educators. First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director Ruth Fernandez will be speaking to early learning educators about this plan at the Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum on March 2 in Pleasant Hill coordinated by the Local Planning & Advisory Council for Early Care and Education. In the coming months, First 5 Contra Costa will host input sessions to learn more from early educators about the challenges they face and how a guaranteed income strategy could address some challenges. To learn more about the effort contact Sandra Naughton at

Click here to download the Executive Summary

To download the full report, visit


First 5 Contra Costa Welcomes Dr. Mackenzie Whipps as the new Early Childhood Program Officer

First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to welcome Dr. Mackenzie Whipps as the new Early Childhood Program Officer to lead the Early Childhood Education work and other Strengthening Families projects.

Mackenzie is an Applied Psychologist who holds a doctoral degree from New York University’s Steinhardt School, and a bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her formal training in Community Psychology, Human Development, Political Science, and Maternal-Infant Health is complemented with more than a decade of experience as a birth worker and extensive experience as a child care provider. She focuses on understanding and changing system-level determinants of health and wellbeing for families with young children, primarily during the ‘childbearing year’. Her work to date has aimed to shift the conversation around positive child development, maternal mental health, and family wellbeing to center the voices and experiences of those who are vulnerable to structural inequities. She resides in Walnut Creek, California with her husband and two children. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, reading spy novels and ethnographies, bird watching, and birth photography.

Please join us in excitement, as Dr. Mackenzie Whipps started her new role on February 14; her knowledge, experience, and passion for the wellbeing of families with young children will continue the organization’s success and vision that all of Contra Costa’s young children will be healthy, ready to learn, and supported in safe, nurturing families and communities.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors proclaims January 2024 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month for the 5th year in a row

Positive Parenting Awareness Month highlights the importance for parents and caregivers to develop warm, nurturing relationships with their children and teens and become more confident as parents. Through the Triple P, Positive Parenting Program, families are offered proven strategies for strengthening relationships with their children and for preventing or managing a full range of parenting challenges.

In proclaiming January 2024 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors introduced numerous important messages and concepts related to parenting, some of which include:

  • Raising children and youth in Contra Costa County to become healthy, confident, capable individuals is the most important job parents and caregivers have.
  • Many parents and caregivers raising children and youth feel stressed, isolated and overwhelmed, no matter their age, race, ethnicity, tribe, or income level.
  • Families can benefit from a “tool kit” of proven strategies and receive support from positive parenting programs such as Triple P, made available through C.O.P.E Family Support Center and numerous organizations and individual practitioners thanks to partnerships between First 5 Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Human Services, and Mental Health Services Act (MHSA).
  • Every individual, community group, business, public agency, non-profit organization, and tribe in Contra Costa County have a role to play in raising awareness of the importance of positive parenting and supporting the health and well-being of children and families.

Positive Parenting continues beyond the month of January:

The program is available throughout the year to all families in Contra Costa County who have children ages birth to 17, including children with special needs, through a partnership between First 5 Contra Costa County and Contra Costa County Human Services Department. Triple P partners offer virtual parenting classes on a variety of topics in English and Spanish. To learn more, visit or call (925) 689-5811.

Job Opportunity at First 5 Contra Costa

First 5 Contra Costa is seeking to hire a second Early Childhood Program Officer to lead its Early Intervention efforts and other Strengthening Families projects. To learn more about this exciting opportunity, check out the job description below. We will be accepting applications until March 1, 2024.

Click here to learn more about our Job Opportunities