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First 5 Contra Costa
June 17, 2024

June Newsletter

Early childhood efforts showcased at several key events & a highlight of achievements in supporting African American families in East County


Supporting African American families in East County: Learn more by checking out our new report and video

Over the last 5 years, First 5 Contra Costa partnered with organizations in East County to reform the systems and services available to African American and Black families with children under 5. In a recently released report and video, our Ready Kids East County effort reveals the successes, challenges, and learnings in the journey to change early childhood systems.

Thanks to funding from the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, the multi-layered effort included work to enhance the capacity of early childhood systems, enhancing the skills and awareness of service providers, and empowering parents and caregivers to be change agents.

Click here to download the report

First 5 Contra Costa is committed to systems change work and looks forward to strengthening this effort by engaging new partners and testing new strategies based on the lessons learned from the last five years. We invite you to join us in this journey to ensure families, schools and communities are ready to support the success of our African American and Black children.

First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director Ruth Fernandez, Ed.D featured as a guest speaker in two high-profile local conversations


Guaranteed Income: A Path to Equity and Prosperity in Contra Costa

On May 20, First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director Ruth Fernandez, Ed.D. participated in a webinar about the promise of guaranteed income as a policy model in our county. Ruth spoke about First 5’s exploration of guaranteed income and related strategies to create  enhanced levels of compensation for early childhood educators.

Panel presenters also included local guaranteed income pilot practitioners and participants from the California Abundant Birth Project, Comment Studio, and Monument Impact, and a presentation by Rachel Rosekind, guaranteed income researcher and activist. The featured keynote speaker was Kevin Scott, Director of the Just Income pilot in Florida, which provides 12 months of direct cash support to formerly incarcerated people. Check out a recording of the webinar here.


NAMI Contra Costa Event Focused on Children & Families

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, NAMI Contra Costa and CalHOPE hosted an event on May 22 featuring an impressive list of presenters, community advocates and leaders that included First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director Ruth Fernandez, Ed.D. She spoke about the services and interventions that encompass early childhood mental health and why addressing early childhood mental health is so critical to children and their families. Her remarks highlighted the importance of the early years as the best return on investment and the critical need to make dedicated investments in the 0-5 population.

The event was well attended and featured Alex Briscoe, Principal at the California Children’s Trust, Peter Kim, Co-Director of the Contra Costa Office for Racial Equity and Social Justice, Pastor Horacio Jones Co-founder of the Mental Health Friendly Communities, Gigi Crowder, Executive Director for NAMI Contra Costa, and retired KTVU news sports director and anchor Mark Ibañez.

Hear & Give Input On Making Early Learning Programs More Inclusive: Register Now for August 7 Event

On the evening of Wednesday, August 7 we will be hosting a convening at the Pleasant Hill Senior Center to gather input from attendees about the draft recommendations for enhancing inclusion in early learning settings in our county. We encourage parents/caregivers with young children, early educators, and other community members to join us. At the meeting, First 5 Contra Costa and our partners at Cardea will share findings from community input gathered to date that informed the draft recommendations. Input gathered on August 7 will help shape the final recommendations which will be finalized in September, and will impact investments in the future.

Inclusion in Early Learning
Wednesday, August 7, 2024 from 6:30-8pm
Pleasant Hill Senior Center, Pleasant Hill
If you are unable to attend on August 7, a virtual session will be held August 15 from 12-1:30 pm

Click here to download (or share the flyer)

Multiple events celebrate the work being done at our First 5 Centers and recognize staff, partners, and families

Contra Costa County leaders and families gather to celebrate one year anniversary of Lincoln Families operating East County First 5 Center

In early June, Contra Costa County leaders and families gathered to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Lincoln Families operating the East County First 5 Center. The day was filled with celebration, joy, and activities for families and children including art workshops, face painting, toy giveaways.

“It fills our hearts with joy and this is a proud moment for us to be celebrating with our partners, Lincoln Families,” says Ruth Fernandez, Ed.D., Executive Director at First 5 Contra Costa. “Together, we bring the best of our resources and staff to meet the needs of families in East County. We are excited and appreciative of the work being done to create a space where families feel like they belong. This work is not done alone, it is done in collaboration through community partnerships as well as our deep relationships with families and we are thankful for the ongoing commitment to help all children thrive.”

The East County First Center, run in partnership with Lincoln Families—a local non-profit with roots in Contra Costa and Alameda County, continues to make a difference in the lives of families with young children at a critical age. The completely free services for the community include group classes, playgroups, school readiness activities, support groups, and one-on-one assistance connecting to community services. Click here to see more photos from the event, learn about the East County First 5 Center, and share in our appreciation for the staff and families that helped make this celebration possible.


Community Advisory Council gathers for end-of-year celebration and presents to the First 5 Contra Costa Commission

First 5 Contra Costa hosted the Community Advisory Council (CAC) end-of-year celebration in May at our administrative office. The event gave CAC members an opportunity to be celebrated and recognized, as well as present on their data collection efforts, lessons learned, and successes. The CAC is composed of community residents who live, work, or participate in services at the First 5 Centers and, in partnership, serve as the community “voice” to inform planning and implementation of programs and activities through community assessment and community engagement.

At the First 5 Contra Costa Commission Meeting on June 10, each of the First 5 Centers’ Community Advisory Councils presented recommendations resulting from their annual community assessment process. Each CAC spends months gathering input from families and community members to identify the largest needs of families with young children in their area. Based on the input they gather, they make recommendations to the First 5 Center or other community institutions on ways to address the needs or concerns identified.

The Commission expressed deep appreciation to the CAC members for their efforts to engage other families and to suggest ways to enhance family resilience in their communities. The First 5 Contra Costa Commission and staff look forward to seeing their recommendations implemented this next year. Click here to learn more about each event.

Staffing Announcements & Recruitment 

Recruitment for First 5’s Finance and Operations Director

First 5 Contra Costa is seeking a Finance and Operations Director. This important position reports to the Executive Director and is responsible for overseeing First 5’s fiscal activities and overall operations of the organization. Please help us disseminate the job announcement.

Please click here to learn more about the position, or to share it with your network.

New Early Childhood Program Officer

In May, we announced Liliana Gonzalez Sanchez as the new Early Childhood Program Officer to lead the Early Intervention focus area and other projects in the Strengthening Families focus area. Liliana has been with First 5 Contra Costa since July 2016 as the Help Me Grow Coordinator. During her tenure, she has established critical relationships with community and medical partners in the County to promote the importance of developmental screening, early intervention, and care coordination. We are excited to see Liliana advance into this new role, please join us in congratulating her.


New Deputy Director

We are excited to announce that Sandra Naughton was appointed as the First 5 Contra Costa Deputy Director after serving as the Interim Deputy Director for the past five months. She joined First 5 in January 2023 as the Policy, Strategy, and Evaluation Director. In the role of Deputy Director, Sandra will lead First 5 program areas and continue to provide strategic direction to the Policy, Strategy and Evaluation team. Sandra brings a wealth of experience in early childhood and family-serving programs, management, and administration of programs in public and community-based organizations. Join us in congratulating her on this new role.