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20 Years of Community Investment Celebration

On December 17th, First 5 San Mateo County (F5SMC) celebrated its 20 Years of Community Investment Celebration at the San Mateo City Hall.  Many community partners, officials, former and current Commissioners attended the celebration including the former and first F5SMC executive director, Kris Perry.

F5SMC presented the Spotlight on Excellence Awards to Carolina Balladares, Manager of Watch Me Grow and Family Resource Center at Gatepath, and to the Learning Wheels, On the Road to Reading Program from SSF Public Library.  The Spotlight on Excellence Award is presented for exceptional contributions made to San Mateo County children prenatal through age 5 and their families, by a group or individual.

F5SMC also presented community partners awards to San Mateo County Health and Human Services Agency, San Mateo County, and also acknowledged departing Commissioners, Michael Garb and Anne Campbell.


Wildfire Recovery Effort 2018

All of us have been watching the news of the Camp Fire with concern and sadness for those affected. In response, First 5s across California and their early childhood partners are stepping up to aid affected families with babies and young children. These devastating fires have left families, schools, and child care providers without the basic necessities they need to care for our youngest children.

To that end, The California Children and Families Foundation, the sister organization of the First 5 Association of California, has established a relief fund to support First 5 counties in their rebuilding efforts.

In the coming weeks and months, these funds (100%) will be directed to counties for recovery services, such as: mental health support for evacuated families, supplies for damaged family childcare homes and preschools, additional family programs to support children affected by the fires, and temporary child care supports. All donations to this specific fund will be used by First 5s in their communities for recovery efforts focusing on the needs of children 0-5 and their families. Click on the link or the image above to donate.

From all of us at First 5 San Mateo County, we thank you for your support.

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.