Accelerating Change for Children & Families
Part of First 5’s mandate, from our establishment by Proposition 10 in 1998, is to support systems change to enable better life outcomes for children. We use research and advocacy to help drive change across county, state, and federal systems in order to improve local programs, investments, and policies for children, families, caregivers, and communities.
Beyond programs and investments, we also advocate for racial, economic, and social justice to help reverse inequitable conditions that have contributed to disparate outcomes in our communities. A child’s race, family income, or zip code should not determine their health, development, or well-being. In order to create conditions where children can reach their full potential, we center equity in our research, advocacy, and policy work.
Using Data to Inform Policy & Systems Change
Engagement with County Leaders
First 5 deepened engagement with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and public systems leaders to put data about children and families at the forefront of funding and policy conversations.
- We developed early childhood data profiles in each of the five Board districts in Alameda County. These profiles illuminate inequities across the county, paint a picture of the challenges families with young children are facing to inform investments and policymaking, and illustrate First 5’s investment, partnership, and impact in each district.
- We created Kindergarten Readiness profiles for each Board district using our 2019 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment data to share findings on readiness of children and families, communities, and schools and to make recommendations for investment in each district. View the profiles: District 1, District 2, District 3, District 4, District 5.
“First 5 has been a key resource and partner when it comes to shaping policies and investing in programs that support children and families in my district. Their rigorous work with data and focus on equity-informed investments are helping to advance the early childhood field in a way that centers racial, social, and economic justice.”
- Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, District 5
Partnership with Board of Supervisors
As part of our Community Resilience Fund, we designated $100,000 to be allocated to all five Alameda County Supervisors for grants to two agencies in their respective districts, ten total, building off the findings and recommendations in our Board District Profiles to address the needs of children and families.
More than 1/3
of each grant
was dedicated to basic needs for families such as diapers, food, and rental assistance
funded educational supplies, parent leadership, child care, and more
amount for each grant
“First 5’s leadership and support for early childhood is an asset to our community. I appreciate their partnership in thinking about how we allocate resources with equity at the center and the way they engage parents and other residents to support place-based, community-driven programming to improve conditions for children, families, and neighborhoods.”
- Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle, District 2
Advocacy to Center Equity & Racial Justice in Federal Legislation
Addressing the Triple Pandemic
We called for equity in the face of the triple pandemics of racism, poverty, and COVID-19.
- Early in the pandemic, we sent a letter to our Alameda County Congressional Delegation asking for continued support of federal funds for California and outlined the potential benefit to Alameda County. We also made a concerted effort to position early childhood alongside conversations about equity.
- We sent a letter to our federal delegation, imploring Congress to prioritize equity in COVID-19 relief bills. This letter resulted in an invitation to present at the First 5 Association’s Statewide Policy Committee as an example of integration of early childhood into broader policy conversations.
- We took a firm stance against the forced sterilization of immigrant women in detention centers. We sent a letter to our delegation condemning this action as a clear abuse of human, immigrant, and maternal health rights and called for action toward reproductive justice.
- As part of our federal advocacy, First 5 CEO Kristin Spanos participated in a live Facebook Q&A with Congressman Eric Swalwell to discuss early childhood, equity, and child care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to repeated instances of racism and violence, longstanding inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing threat to the health and well-being of families in Alameda County, First 5 leadership presented a resolution that was approved unanimously by the First 5 Alameda County Commission. The resolution reinforces First 5's mission, practices, and policy priorities to address inequity and child poverty, in particular for African American/Black children and families. It also prioritizes equity and anti-racist work.
Watch Congressman Eric Swalwell's Q&A
with Kristin Spanos
"We are at a moment where it's really a three-pandemic issue. We have COVID, but we have historic structural racism and the disparities are undeniable— and we have poverty."
- Kristin Spanos, First 5 CEO
Coordination Across Systems of Care
An Accessible & Responsive System of Care
First 5 works to make the early childhood service system more accessible and responsive to families. Over the course of two years, the organization has engaged systems leaders at the local and state level to scale work around care coordination through pediatric providers to help navigate families to care and supportive services.
Care coordination may include things such as: special needs and child development, mental health, housing, food, or other community resources. Our Help Me Grow program works with pediatricians to train them to screen and refer families who need support, and our staff helps families navigate each step of the way.
Help Me Grow Alameda County
Help Me Grow Alameda County has proven to be a model in statewide and national conversations, with potential to inform state Medicaid financing and policy, in partnership with managed care plans and county agencies.
- We are working with the Center on the Study of Social Policy and Manatt Health, as one of four counties in the state, to explore the expansion of care coordination on referrals from pediatrics to medical support.
- A policy brief by the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy, California’s Early Identification and Intervention System and the Role of Help Me Grow, featured Help Me Grow Alameda County for efforts to encourage screening in a variety of settings. Our work was also featured as part of the Help Me Grow National Forum 2020 in the presentation Strategies and Best Practices to Spark Child Health Provider Engagement.
- Our Help Me Grow program also received an invitation from the Office of the California Surgeon General and the Department of Health Care Services to participate in the state’s ACEs Aware Initiative. ACEs Aware seeks to change and save lives by helping Medi-Cal providers understand the importance of screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and training them to respond with trauma-informed care.
felt Help Me Grow increased their ability to talk to families about developmental concerns
said that the Help Me Grow phone line was a useful resource
Early Care & Education Apprenticeship Pilot
Developing the County's Early Care & Education Workforce
We partnered with Tipping Point Community and Alameda County Social Services Agency to forge a cross-system apprenticeship in support of developing the county’s early care and education workforce, starting with a pilot at the YMCA of the East Bay. While the funding was initially only for one pilot year, the partners chose to continue the investment during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the promising outcomes and the effective transition to online learning.
This partnership is changing how big systems work with First 5 and the early childhood field by using Prop 10 funds to seed public system innovation. The funder partners shared the success of the model in a presentation with Kris Perry, Deputy Secretary Health and Human Services (HHS) and Senior Advisor to the Governor, and California Health and Human Services Secretary, Mark Ghaly as a potential model for replication.
Through this program, participants, including parents on CalWORKs, graduated with the 12 units required to become assistant teachers, held a socially distanced graduation, and many have received an associate's degree in early childhood education.