How Are California Babies Doing? The data is in.

A new analysis by the nonprofit group Zero To Three finds that too many infants and toddlers in California are facing adversity.  The results of the analysis are shocking.

For example, 47% percent of California infants and toddlers are living in low-income families and 24% percent live in outright poverty. Only 39% of children under  5 are read to every day and 28% are considered at moderate or high risk for developmental or behavioral problems.

Young children develop in the context of their families and supportive relationships. Multiple moves, fluctuating family structure, and difficult economic situations can create significant strain on parents and their children’s long-term development. First 5 Alameda County helps to support strong families by connecting families programs with proven benefits like Medicaid, developmental screenings, WIC and home visiting programs. Here in Alameda County alone, home visiting services support 4,200 families per year.

But, Parents aren’t the only adults who influence babies’ development. In California, a large portion of infants and toddlers spend their day in child care. In California, 24%  of mothers with infants are in the workforce, yet the cost of center-based child care for infants is 44% of a single mother’s income. At the same time, only 17% of infants and toddlers in the state receive Early Head Start services. First 5 Alameda County regularly supports providers who strive to provide high-quality early learning experiences to kids, and we are currently developing  a Quality Counts program to support Providers who serve low-income families to offer high-quality early learning programs. We know that positive early learning experiences can have profound effects into adulthood, particularly for children who are at risk of starting school behind their peers.

Today’s infants and toddlers will be the core of the mid-century workforce, one that will need to be highly skilled to compete globally and secure our economic future. When babies and their families have the supports they need, we create future innovators, thinkers, and stronger communities. Read more about the findings on the Zero to Three website to see how California compares to other states.


Baby Shower & Toddler Party inspires Oakland to Talk, Read and Sing!

On Thursday, July 16, local community leaders and performers joined thousands of Oakland parents and their kids at Children’s Fairyland to celebrate the launch of the new “Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign. The campaign supports families with simple ways to prepare children for success in school and beyond.

First 5 Alameda County will lead the Oakland community campaign with support from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Too Small to Fail,  and a network of community partners including pediatricians, Oakland Public Library, nonprofits, churches and Children’s Fairyland.  The celebratory event was fun and games with a purpose: 400 families were given tote bags filled with information on how everyday conversations can support school readiness.

“When families talk, read and sing with their infants and toddlers, it actually builds essential skills for children to become successful in school and in life,” says Susan True, director of education strategy and ventures at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, which sponsored the event.

This Fairyland launch event marked the beginning of a yearlong campaign that seeks to distribute 7,000 educational tote bags to families with children age birth – 36 months through trusted community messengers.  If your organization is interested in joining the “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign – contact us!  Email Dionne Carter at


Parents Agree - Help Me Grow Helps Their Children Grow!

A new study conducted by Applied Survey Research confirms that Help Me Grow is an essential resource for families looking to support healthy child development. The study surveyed 140 families and found that 97% percent of participants would recommend the program to family and friends.

 As a result of participating in Help Me Grow, families:

  • Developed Knowledge and Skills.  Almost 95% gained a new understanding of their child’s development, including more appropriate expectations, better understanding of their child’s issues, and how to more effectively communicate with their child.
  • Gained knowledge of, and connection to services. 95% of respondents gained a greater understanding of available services. Families reported that they were connected to the right services quickly by respectful, responsive HMG staff.
  • Gained skills to advocate for their child.  95% of families improved their ability to advocate for their child and they reported being better able to navigate the early childhood system in Alameda County.

 This study confirms that Help Me Grow is a crucial program for supporting Alameda County families and children.  Whether families need just one phone call to a Care Coordinator or more extensive assistance from a Family Navigator, Help Me Grow meets their needs.  For a copy of the full report, please click here.


F5AC Legislative Update

As things quiet down in Sacramento over the summer, we thought we would highlight some of the policy news that directly affects California’s youngest residents. The 15-16 state budget signed on June 24 includes an expansion of full-scope Medi-Cal to eligible undocumented immigrant children under the age of 19.  The State budget also restores the 2013 cut in reimbursement rates for  Medi-Cal dental services.  

Because a majority of our funding comes from a voter approved tobacco tax passed in 1998, we’re closely monitoring a special legislative health session scheduled for August 17 that is considering six tobacco bills. Highlights include SB 5/AB 6 which regulates electronic cigarettes to meet existing tobacco laws and SB7/AB8 which changes the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

Last month in Washington, D.C., the House and Senate passed differing versions of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, officially known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Senate version includes clarification that Title I funding can be used for 0-5 programs. It also includes a grant program for 18 states to align preschool to K-12 education, a small funding increase for Early Head Start and grants to pay for child care and preschool for young children with special needs. In addition, it lets federally funded charter schools serve Pre- K students and allows the creation of Pre-K federal charters.  The White House favors the Senate version and threatened to veto the House version when it was originally considered in February because of decreases in accountability and funding. The two houses will attempt to reconcile the bills in September.  As these important pieces of legislation develop, we’ll keep you posted.