English | Español

Young smiling boy playing with multi-colored blocks

Who We Are

First 5 San Mateo County generates significant and lasting returns on the investment in our children. Our vision is success for every child.

In 1998 voters passed Proposition 10, adding a 50-cent tax on tobacco products to create a guaranteed revenue stream for children. Prop 10 funds established First 5 California (state commission) and 58 independent First 5 county commissions that provide locally-approved programs. By voter mandate we are committed to improving children’s health, school readiness and family functioning. Click to learn more about the work we have done in the past 20 years.

First 5 San Mateo County has developed a deep understanding of the complex and evolving issues around early childhood development in our community. We leverage knowledge and funding to mend gaps in service, awareness and access – ensuring a comprehensive and effective early childhood system

Our Investments

Since our inception in 1998, First 5 San Mateo County has invested more than $127 million in comprehensive programs for early childhood development, family strengthening, and other support services. We support evidence-based programs in childhood health, early learning and family engagement to strengthen what’s working, fix what’s not and to ensure equity for all. This is accomplished through a combination of focused financial investments and systems-level work, as well as targeted funding to support community partnerships, policy development, and leadership on issues related to children from the prenatal stage to age 5, and their families. More about our Policy Platform

Content / Layouts from Comp

Who We Serve

First 5 San Mateo County serves children prenatally through age 5—infants, toddlers and preschoolers—as well as their parents and caregivers. First 5 supports children of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and income levels according to their developmental needs.

Early Childhood: A Guaranteed Return on Investment

Children who enter school with the basic knowledge of math and language skills are more likely to experience academic success, attain higher levels of education and obtain employment.

A wealth of research proves that early childhood investments offer the greatest return—for the child, the family and the community. Nobel Prize winner Professor James Heckman calculates a return of at least 7-to-1 on early interventions.

Children are the future of society. Helping them reach their full potential is the most fundamentally sound investment we can possibly make, but that investment must begin early. When we invest in our community’s children early, we all reap enormous dividends throughout their education, their careers and their lives.

To view the California Children and Families Act go to www.ccfc.ca.gov

“More than anything else within the scope of human influence, the future of our families, communities, cultures, economies, and nations depends on our children’s learning. The world will become what our children learn it to be.”

Dr. James J. Heckman

Our Goals

Ensure all children will be healthy.

Prepare kids to enter school ready to achieve their greatest potential.

Support healthy parent-child relationships recognizing that parents are their child’s first teacher.

Investing in Our Kids

Since its inception, First 5 San Mateo County has invested over $120 million in local programs. These dollars have been used to serve over 63,180 children ages 0-5, and 36,130 parents and expectant parents locally. Through our funded programs and agencies, approximately 15,000 children and primary caregivers are served every year!

First 5 Staff

Our team is determined to see the youngest among us reach their greatest potential.

More on Prop 10

[Link to a short video]

Strategic Plan

Through a comprehensive strategic planning process, we developed our roadmap to achieving better outcomes for San Mateo County’s youngest children. Download our Strategic Plan (.pdf)


Guiding First 5 San Mateo in our mission to promote positive outcomes for children and their families through strategic investments, community leadership, and effective partnerships.


Thinking Bigger at 20!

November 1 was a magical day, as First 5 San Mateo County staff gathered with partners and friends to celebrate two decades of thinking bigger – finding innovative ways of prioritizing children and families. With the help of the First 5 Express, Potter the Otter and our special guest Senator-magician Jerry Hill, we were able to have an unforgettable event filled with laughter, wonder and collaborative spirit. Thank you to all of the partners who joined us to celebrate. Our work is only possible through partnership, cooperation and a shared vision for children’s success, and we appreciate everyone who has been part of that.

2018 marks 20 years since California voters passed Proposition 10, the California Children and Families First Act, adding a 50-cent tax on tobacco products to create a guaranteed revenue stream for children, and establishing First 5’s in every county. Since 1998, we have invested over $150 million in local programs, served nearly 100,000 children from birth through age five, and funded services for more than 8,000 parents and primary caregivers.

While we recognize there is work to be done, this event helped us commemorate 20 years of helping children and families in our county succeed. We look forward to many more years of supporting children ages 0 to 5 in San Mateo County and ensuring that their every need is met, their families are supported and their future is a priority.


Photos: Scott Bushman

Success for Every Child: Improving Oral Health

When a pregnant woman has a dental disease, her baby is also at an increased risk of developing a dental infection. Research has shown that without proper oral health practices and good nutrition, dental decay can begin soon after babies get their first teeth. Pain from dental disease impacts nutritional intake and tooth loss, damaged teeth, and other dental issues erode self-esteem and confidence, leading to diminished success in school.  read more…

The Work of Nurturing

By Mai Le, First 5 San Mateo County Program Associate.

I recently joined the First 5 San Mateo County staff as a program associate, a diverse, flexible role supporting the program team. No two days here are alike, as I jump from preparing contracts, to coordinating meetings, to updating our social media and website. Prior to coming to First 5, I worked at a community-based organization providing training and consultation to health and social service providers on delivering more culturally responsive services. In addition to working at First 5, I am also a full time graduate student. I am in my second (and last!) year of the Master of Public Health program at San Francisco State University. My program emphasizes health equity and social justice, which relate closely to the work we’re doing at First 5 to ensure success for every child.

The work of nurturing and guiding a child to their full potential is enormous. I am very aware of this both from my work, and from my personal experience as the mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old child. My daughter is gaining more independence and copying everything we say and do! My partner and I are in the thick of dealing with tantrums, boundary setting, and helping our toddler with her big emotions. Nothing has really prepared me for this. As a young adult I struggled with depression and worked with mental health professionals to manage the condition and regulate my own emotions. That was, and sometimes still is, hard. But trying to understand a toddler is a whole new challenge. I know I’m not the only parent navigating this, so I try to read a mix of expert advice, observe how friends and family manage it, and see what works for me. Even with the best intentions though, being the parent I want to be is hard when someone is screaming, the house is a mess, and I can’t find the one toy my daughter wants right now. What I’ve realized though is that no matter the situation, I am the most patient and grounded when I feel good with myself– when I’ve had some sleep, decompressed from my work day, or eaten something. Self-care is not selfish; it is truly the best thing I can do for my family.

I don’t want to suggest that self-care is easy though. My family is privileged in a lot of ways, which gives me more freedom to take care of myself. My partner and I both have professional jobs, with benefits like health care and paid leave. If I don’t feel well, I can take time off work, see a doctor if needed, and still be able to cover our expenses for the month. We bought a home last year in Daly City, and are no longer vulnerable to steep rent increases that could throw off our budget. We can afford family vacations once in a while to recharge and reconnect. We have quick access to parks, beaches, libraries, and other safe community spaces, making it easier to keep the whole family active and engaged. Because of our jobs, we have predictable, consistent leisure time to spend together with our little one. I’m acutely aware this is not the reality for many families.


These are just some of the equity issues that I reflect on in my work. Parenting is never easy, but for some, systemic barriers make it much harder. What works for me might not work for another parent, and vice versa. As professionals concerned with supporting children and families, we should let people tell us what they need to thrive within the contexts of their own lives. And we should simultaneously commit to lifting the floor so that everyone can access basic structural supports. Things like paid time off, health insurance, quality childcare, and safe neighborhoods should not be considered luxuries. These are essentials for a healthy, equitable community. They are the best investment we can make for the future.