Children Now Releases New Policy Vision Report

From First 5 Association:
Children Now has released a report, Starting Now: A Policy Vision for Supporting the Healthy Growth and Development of Every California Baby available here.

This report reflects Children Now’s effort to map a comprehensive system for supporting children 0-5. The report is notable for its focus on local communities and local control, mirroring the approach of the LCFF. The report specifically calls out the work of First 5 Commissions as efforts to leverage and the importance of aligning data and accountability efforts at the state level.

First 5 Association in conversation with Children Now about how best to incorporate this report into our ongoing policy work, particularly in the areas of home visiting, family strengthening and early intervention.

Evaluation of First 5-funded Programs

Kim and Maria (our evaluators), Andrea and I are preparing for the Program Evaluation Team (PET) meeting on March 30. Once programs submit their interim reports at the end of January, the race is on to analyze all the survey and report data from our 28 funded programs, including data from prior years, into a manageable form for the PET process. The bulk of the work is done by Kim and Maria. Andrea’s input is invaluable, and she spends a significant amount of time preparing materials for this process. Meg, Beth, Laura and I also provide input. The Evaluation Framework is on the March Commission agenda for approval. It was an information item in January, a discussion item in February and is up for approval in March. This evaluation framework is the backbone of the PET evaluation framework, outlining First 5 goals and the indicators used to measure our success.

The PET includes two Commissioners, a former Commissioner, Kim, Maria, Nancy Howatt, Andrea and myself. We will meet for a very, very long day in March to review all the data and preliminary feedback from Kim and Maria. The PET will formulate recommendations for the Commissioners to consider at their April and May meetings. Because Commissioners will have 28 programs to discuss, we split them between two meetings and make those meetings 2 1/2 hours long. There is often public comment during these meetings. Andrea will notify each program that their program will be discussed at the Commission meetings, and programs will be given the PET recommendations prior to the meeting, for their review. Once the Commission finalizes their recommendations, those serve as the foundation of the Scopes of Work and Evaluation Plans that accompany each program agreement/contract.

At this same time, Kim and Maria, with input from me, are also working on our annual Evaluation Report on funded programs and our Community Report, the first of which was developed last year. (In many ways, it mirrors the calendars that First 5 Humboldt used to produce.) Our annual Evaluation Report includes all the survey data collected by programs, so this information is readily available to the public. The Community Report is a more concise representation of First 5 Humboldt’s work. We will be sharing the Community Report in a public meeting, as well as with policymakers, once it is complete.

First 5 Humboldt is rigorous in its evaluation of what is funded. Over the last year, Kim and Maria have led many, many discussions on what information is truly needed, as we want to ensure that we are requesting the least, but the most useful, information possible. This year has been one of transition, with the IMPACT program giving us access to a new data system which will eventually reduce the workload of playgroup leaders, First 5 staff and evaluators. Next year will again see transition, as we evaluate programs by our new strategic plan goals. First 5 Humboldt Commissioners can take pride in the thoughtful and transparent process of program evaluation, developed by previous Commissions under the guidance of our founding ED, Wendy Rowan. With the Strategic Plan, our evaluation process ensures accountability and responsiveness to the current needs of Humboldt County families.

A Few Bills Concerning First 5 Humboldt’s Mission

Assemblymember Ting has introduced AB 1175, which is a “spot bill” requiring the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop standards for the implementation of quality child care and development services programs. Ting is a member of the Assembly Speaker’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education, tasked with developing “solutions to improve results for California’s youngest learners and their families” (Feb. 1, 2017).

Senator McCarty has introduced AB 11 to address trauma-informed care in child care settings. The bill is still in “spot bill” form, without specifics. However, trauma-informed care has been a focus of our Commission and the 0 to 8 Mental Health Collaborative, so this bill is worth watching. It is a milestone that early childhood and trauma-informed care have appeared together in a legislative action. The F5 Association is monitoring this bill, awaiting more specific language.

AB 15 and AB 753 both address increased Denti-Cal reimbursement. AB 753 additionally appropriates $191m of Prop 56 dollars, with increased reimbursements targeted to the 20 most common pediatric diagnostic and restorative services. Oral health and Denti-Cal reimbursement have both been a focus of our Commission. The Association has voted to support both of these bills. The “competing” bills may have bit to do with partisanship. Irregardless, it is important that this issue is being addressed, as oral health care is at a critical issue in our county, and the Denti-Cal system needs to be fixed.

SB 18 (Pan) proposes a Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in California. The bill outlines basic rights of children and includes an action component to determine the revenue necessary to fund evidence-based policy solutions to fulfill these rights. Because of this action component, this bill is more than just a statement and potential forms the backbone of holistic change in California. This bill is co-authored by Senator Mike McGuire. The Association has voted to support.

AB 43 (Thurmond) Taxation: prison contracts: goods and services. This bill would levy a tax on private companies that contract with the corrections industry to provide goods and services. It would establish a “Prevention Fund” to support programs that prevent incarceration, including preschool, higher education and poverty reduction. This is an innovative approach. According to the First 5 Association, it may be the first of its kind in the US. The Association has voted to support.

AB 175 and AB 350: These two bills address child-resistant packaging (AB 175-Chau) for edible marijuana products, and ensuring that marijuana edibles packaging is not appealing to children. Research from Colorado shows that after legalization, the state saw a spike in emergency room visits by young children who had consumed edibles. The Association has voted to support these measures.

SB 192 Mental Health

Senator Jim Beall (San Jose) has introduced SB 192. This bill concerns Mental Health Services Act funds, which have been a topic of conversation within our Commission. Here’s the Association’s summary of the bill:

“This bill would amend the MHSA by requiring that any funds allocated to a large or medium county, as defined, that have not been spent for the authorized purpose within 3 years, and any funds allocated to a small county, as defined, that have not been spent for their authorized purpose within 5 years, to revert to the state for deposit into the newly established Mental Health Services Reversion Fund. The bill would require the commission to establish and administer a grant program, as specified, to fund prevention and early intervention or innovative programs that are consistent with mental health funding priorities established by the Legislature and the Mental Health Services Act. The bill would continuously appropriate the moneys in the Mental Health Services Reversion Fund to the commission to fund the grant program. The bill keeps MSHA dollars in mental health services.”

This bill is addresses a couple of issues: MHSA dollars that have not been spent on their authorized purpose and a newly defined focus on prevention and early intervention (as a target for those funds that revert back to MHSA). The First 5 Association has voted to support this bill.

The First 5 Association Explained

In 1998, California voters passed Proposition 10, the “Children and Families Act of 1998.” The passage reflected a mandate by California voters to enhance the early development experience of young children so that they were ready to be successful for school and life. The Act recognized that the early years are the foundation of lifelong success, and that to have a thriving and healthy California we must start investing in the early years.

Local control of First 5 investments has always been a hallmark of the statute, as has been the prohibition against supplantation. In a nutshell, First 5 dollars cannot be used to supplant existing funding for programs and services. This has been important to preserving F5 funding through several challenges, both at the ballot box and by the Governor’s office during budget deficit years.

The First 5 Association was formed to provide voice and networking to the diverse 58 counties. When challenges with First 5 California, the Governor and others have arisen, the First 5 Association has been invaluable in helping the group clarify the issues and find a unified voice. The Association has also served as a clearinghouse for best practices and critical discussions among First 5 ED’s and Commissioners. One of the key strengths of the Association is the unanimous commitment of the counties to F5’s mission. There are obvious differences between large and small, rural and urban, more “conservative” and more “liberal” counties, but within the Association, the counties function with an eye towards their mission and work to find common ground.

The Association works closely with First 5 CA. In fact, there is more alignment between the goals of the two organizations than ever before, due to the hard work of the two EDs, Moira Kenney of the F5 Association, and Camille Maben of F5CA. This year’s Advocacy Day was co-sponsored by First 5 California for the first time, and during last week’s full-day “First 5 Networking Meeting” in Alameda, Camille participated actively in discussions on First 5 messaging and leveraging.

In addition to the ED, Moira Kenney, the Association employs three others: a policy director, health policy and program manager, and an operations coordinator. Their tiny office coordinates 4 quarterly Association meetings, various webinars and training opportunities, the statewide Help Me Grow technical assistance, and action on a policy agenda, which is established each year. The Association is a non-profit organization, which has capacity to oversee grants to counties that may require 501(c)3 status. During the next year, we may see the Association sponsor legislation for the first time, in an effort to respond to First 5 needs and goals, build stronger relationships with legislators and begin to develop a stronger voice in the Capitol. During the last year, as I have noticed policy needs, I’ve been happy to see the Association rise to meet these. Their policy director has a significantly closer view on policy changes than I do, so her insight has been invaluable. Just as our own Commission’s work is evolving to better address systems change, the Association of the 58 county commissions has also pivoted to be a stronger voice and presence in policymaking.

The First 5 Association is funded solely by dues paid by each First 5 county, using a formula based on county size. First 5 Humboldt is one of 26 counties that contributes an additional amount to the “Policy and Communications Fund” which enables the Association to expand its policy work. Our contribution to this fund last year (its first year) was a modest $375. This policy focus is critical as First 5s experience declining revenue and look for policy solutions to maintaining the programs that First 5s provide.

That’s the Association in a nutshell. I attend their quarterly meetings, serve on their Advocacy Committee, participate in the monthly Northwest Region conference calls, and participate in any of their webinars that I can. Nancy Howatt, our fiscal consultant, sits on their fiscal committee, which is extremely valuable, as it gives us insight into revenue projections and the many changes F5 funding has experienced recently, as well as providing a forum for fiscal policy questions.

If you would like to subscribe to the Association’s weekly newsletter, let me know. It’s a great way to keep on top of the First 5 work at all levels.

Collective Impact

For many years, First 5 Humboldt has followed a Collective Impact model. Collective Impact represents a transdisciplinary, coordinated effort to solve a specified social problem, engaging a range of committed partners. Today, I’m attending a meeting with 12 other First 5 Executive Directors, the First 5 Association ED and First 5 California ED, to explore how First 5 can more effectively “operate and serve the early childhood development field in California to advance more funding and greater impact for all.” The meeting will work from a Collective Impact perspective.

For new Commissioners, and perhaps for some who have been with us a while, this article addresses Collective Impact as a systems change tool. Enjoy!

First 5s Sign On to Letter on Governor’s Budget

The ECE Coalition – including First 5 – submitted comments on the Governor’s Budget Proposal to the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees last week, emphasizing that the proposal breaks the promise to continually increase access to early learning opportunities for low-income Californians.

The letter references new research from James Heckman and the California Budget Project.
ECE Coalition members:


Text of the letter below:
February 2, 2017
The Honorable Holly Mitchell, Chair Senate Budget Committee The Honorable Phil Ting, Chair Assembly Budget Committee
State Capitol Building, Room 4203 State Capitol Building, Room 6026 Sacramento, CA 95814 Sacramento, CA 95814

The ECE Coalition is a partnership of early childhood education advocacy and service organizations working together to secure access to high quality early learning and care for California’s low-income children and families.
The Administration recently announced the largest spending plan in California history and yet reneges on critical commitments to our state’s most vulnerable children and families. Leaders last year negotiated a multi-year plan to address the reimbursement rate crisis facing early learning providers and make steady progress toward the state’s long-term goal of preschool access for all low-income children. The 2017-2018 budget proposal not only breaks this significant promise, but fails to recognize the urgent need to further stabilize and strengthen our early care and education system.
The California Budget and Policy Center reports that a typical single mother in California would have to spend two-thirds of her paycheck to cover child care costs. More than 1.2 million children eligible for subsidized child care and preschool do not receive services, yet state programs are still funded 20 percent below pre-recession levels. Making matters worse, two parents working full-time minimum-wage jobs now earn “too much” to qualify for child care assistance, despite staggering housing costs and other economic pressures.
New data indicates not investing in early care and learning may actually slow long-term economic growth in California. Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Chicago and Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman found that high-quality early childhood development programs support economic mobility for two generations by freeing working parents to increase wages over time, while their children develop a broad range of foundational skills for lifelong success.
By freezing the commitments made in last year’s budget, as well as negating much needed additional investment, the budget proposal ignores well established research and strong public opinion on the value of early care and education. The ECE Coalition respectfully urges you to champion the following priorities in the coming months:
1. Ensure Access and Affordability
 Enact the 2016-2017 budget commitment to incrementally raise both the Regional Market Rate (RMR) and the Standard Reimbursement Rate (SRR) to keep pace with new minimum wage increases, including last year’s full 10% increase to the SRR, and begin the regionalization of the SRR;
 Adopt widely supported child care eligibility policies such as 12-month eligibility periods, income eligibility guidelines based on current State Median Income (SMI) data and increased exit eligibility levels; and
 Increase funding for the General Child Care and Alternative Payment programs to ensure flexible child care spaces are available to more infants and toddlers, enact the prior commitment to expand the number of spaces in the State Preschool Program, and adopt minor policy changes to ensure new spaces are utilized and preserve parent choice in our mixed delivery system.
2. Strengthen Infrastructure to Support Quality and Efficiency
 Ensure more children and providers benefit from quality improvement and workforce development initiatives by expanding the QRIS block grant so communities have more resources and flexibility to address local needs; and
 Fund the second phase of the California Resource & Referral Database, to allow automated data syncing across the state and ensure it is easy for families to use. These steps are a necessary cornerstone for a comprehensive early learning data system that integrates a workforce registry and Centralized Eligibility List (CEL).
 Consider the Administration’s policy changes closely once we review Budget Trailer Bill language to determine their potential impact and any modifications that may or may not be necessary.
Early care and education is critical to the current and long-term economic and education viability of California. Given the tremendous unmet need for child care among eligible families and the growing pressure on providers to meet minimum wage increases and the rising costs of quality care, now is not the time to assume lower than projected revenues and “pause” investments in the state’s early learning system. We look forward to partnering with you to ensure that that our youngest children and families are prioritized in this year’s budget.
ECE Coalition
Cc: Chair, California Legislative Women’s Caucus

Congratulations to Public Health and the Pediatric Oral Health Initiative Leadership Team

Our Humboldt County’s Public Health has put many, many hours into pediatric health efforts over the years. On Friday, Feb. 10, it was announced that their most recent efforts have been successful: they were awarded one of the coveted Dental Transformation Initiative grants from the state–one of only 15 awarded. Congratulations are in order!

Below is the list of lead agencies chosen:
Lead Agencies:

Alameda County
California Rural Indian Health Board, Inc.
California State University, Los Angeles
First 5 Kern
First 5 San Joaquin
First 5 Riverside
Fresno County
Humboldt County
Northern Valley Sierra Consortium
Orange County
Sacramento County
San Luis Obispo County
San Francisco City and County Department of Public Health
Sonoma County
University of California, Los Angeles

County to Hold Interactive Budget Sessions on March 2, 6 and 9

The County of Humboldt will hold its interactive budget sessions in three locations throughout the county.

March 2 in SoHum
March 6 in Willow Creek
March 9 in Eureka

One of the things on the agenda: how the county should spend its Measure S revenues that are earmarked for “child and family mental health.” The county will have tables dedicated to small group discussions on each area targeted by the ballot measure. Measure S revenues are expected to be small the first year but may grow significantly in out years as more cannabis farms become permitted.

Can you attend one or all of these meetings? First 5 Humboldt is committed to upstream, prevention efforts. This is an opportunity to let the Board of Supervisors and county staff know that there is support for early childhood prevention focused services.

A number of potential projects have been submitted to the county as possibilities. As you can see from the list below, the last three are important endeavors that have a different focus than First 5 Humboldt’s upstream prevention. The table discussions will be hosted by DHHS staff, and feedback with be gathered and submitted to the Board.

1. Family Mental Health Support—Dedicate mental health clinicians with expertise in early childhood to work at and with Family Resource Centers, with drop-in or predictable hours for easy family access. This would align with DSS’s regionalization efforts in communities throughout the county. Early intervention will prevent the problems we see later in the school-age and teen years.

2. Children’s Mental Health Services/Prevention—Dedicate early childhood mental health professionals to consult with family child care home providers and child care center staff to help prevent preschool expulsions, provide better screening and referral for families early, and promote trauma-informed early childhood settings.

3. Children’s Mental Services and ACES Prevention—Provide early childhood mental health specialists to support/screen/refer families through the free playgroups provided throughout the county. This family-friendly environment is accessible and provides the kind of family strengthening activities and resources that promote mental health, resilience in the face of challenge, and helps to combat many of the public health crises currently affecting our county.

4. Children and Family Mental Health Services—set aside a portion of funds to cover mental health counseling and services for families and young children not covered by Medi-Cal or other insurance.

5. Expand age-appropriate alcohol/drug treatment resources offered by County DHHS-CYFS, to work within the community with high risk youths (in foster care, for instance) or dependency cases through CWS. Left unaddressed, these cases feed the juvenile/adult criminal justice system so this is preventative.

6. Utilize existing programs/county owned properties, or purchase properties, to expand drug rehab and mental health facilities (i.e., dual diagnosis programs)

7. Build a new dual diagnosis facility