By the time a child turns 5 years, 90% of their brain is developed. The first 5 years of a child’s life are critical for developing lifelong social, emotional, and learning skills.
Equipped with this knowledge, First 5 Ventura County (F5VC), an independent public agency largely funded through Proposition 10, works to ensure children are born healthy, thrive in nurturing environments, and enter school prepared and eager to learn.
F5VC staff are leaders and experts, improving outcomes for Ventura County’s 60,000 children age five and under.
Whether it’s volunteering to read, making a donation, or posting on social media using #take5vc, you can be a champion for early childhood! Learn more at www.first5ventura.org.
The vision of F5VC is that all Ventura County children are born healthy, thrive in nurturing environments, and enter school prepared and eager to learn.
The mission of F5VC is to strengthen families, communities and systems of care for children prenatal to 5 years through investments, expertise, and leadership so all children reach their full potential.
F5VC is dedicated to serving families who can benefit the most, and have the least access to other early childhood services.
More than 3/4 of First 5 participants are Hispanic/Latino. By comparison, 43% of Ventura County residents are Hispanic/Latino.
Equity and access are key fundamental values in being socially conscious and community minded. Underserved groups include families who are low-income, non-English speakers, and people of color.
Locally, F5VC participated in the first Equity Conference hosted by Ventura County of Education. F5VC staff presented the workshop “Rethinking ‘Us’ and Reshaping Our Practices,” the approach early childhood partners are implementing county-wide to increase equitable environments for the youngest learners.
Statewide, F5VC staff participated in Race Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion sessions hosted by the First 5 Association to deepen their understanding in engaging leadership in communities and organizations, cultural humility, capacity-building in communities of color, facilitating conversations about race, systematic racism and becoming an anti-racist organization.
F5VC funds MICOP, which works to strengthen the Mixtec and indigenous immigrant community in Ventura County, estimated at 20,000 people. MICOP delivers culturally-informed Parent and Child Together classes and family support services to Mixteco families.
The First 5 Neighborhoods for Learning (NfLs), offer any family in Ventura County with a child 0-5 years old the opportunity to participate in our signature Parent and Child Together (PACT) classes, receive developmental and health screenings, gain assistance accessing support services, engage in parent education, and connect with local families.
After a year of exclusively providing virtual services, First 5 Ventura County is in the process of opening new and existing NfL sites across the county to ensure equitable access to services for all families. In-person services will be offered at the following locations over the next several months
Rio Plaza Elementary
3300 Cortez St., Oxnard
Julien Hathaway Elementary
405 E. Dollie St, Oxnard
Ruben Castro Center
612 B. Spring St., Moorpark
Blanchard Community Library
119 N. 8th St., Santa Paula
Nyeland Acres Community Center
3334 Santa Clara Ave., Oxnard
Simi Valley Justin Early Learners Academy
2245 N. Justin Ave., Simi Valley
627 Sespe Ave, Fillmore
After 20 years of contracting with local partners for the delivery of the nationally recognized First 5 Ventura County NfLs, all operations and implementation of the initiative were brought in-house in July 2021. With F5VC’s established position within the ECE System, running the NfLs directly gives us the ability to:
All existing NfL staff employed by community-based contractor were offered the opportunity to become First 5 employees, ensuring that families would be able to access services with familiar staff.
PACT classes, an evidence-informed playgroup model, offer a dual generation approach that is carefully designed to allow parents and children ages 0-5 the opportunity to play and learn together with other parents, while teachers model positive parenting skills.
Evidence shows that when we invest in the first three years, infants and toddlers become healthy children who are confident, empathetic, and ready for school and life — and our communities, workforce, and economy become stronger and more productive.
Parents completed Social Determinants of Health
Environmental and social factors contribute significantly to the health and well-being of children in the context of families, schools, and communities. The Health Leads recommended screening tool identifies needs such as food insecurity, housing instability, utility needs, financial resource strain, and childcare.
Developmental screening children is an effective, efficient way for professionals to check a child’s development, help parents celebrate their child’s milestones, and determine whether follow-up steps are needed. It’s also an essential first step toward identifying children with delays or disorders in the critical early years before they start school.
Early identification of social-emotional challenges can make all the difference to a young child. Accurately identifying behavior through ASQ:SE-2 paves the way for next steps to help children reach their fullest potential during their most formative early years.
Care coordination in the Neighborhood for Learning setting involves organizing family care activities and sharing of information among all of the participants concerned with a family’s care to effectively meet their basic human needs. This means the family’s needs and preferences are known ahead of time and communicated at the right time to the right people.
“I am more patient with my child and recognize that learning is going on in playtime and just doing life activities. I also realize how I can create a routine to help my child improve behavior and transition times.”
“Participando en este programa me ha ayudado bastante con como comunicarme con mi bebe. He aprendido como tratarla, como hablarle, como leerle, y como jugar con ella. He aprendido a valorar el tiempo con mi bebe y jugar con ella.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, F5VC continued to adapt and innovate to ensure that families would still be able to access virtual PACT classes, screenings, care coordination and referrals for families with needs.
NfL staff distributed activity kits to families every 3-4 weeks to provide the materials for their online learning.
“The classes have been helpful in introducing me to fun and engaging activities to do with my son that are developmentally appropriate. I have also enjoyed seeing him begin to get more comfortable in a social setting, even if it is on Zoom!”
“My child is more engaged with reading and singing. She enjoys zoom school.”
Ventura County Libraries began offering PACT classes
F5VC partnered with County Libraries to build librarians’ capacity to deliver PACT classes through training, technical assistance, and program implementation support.
Parents and caregivers of children ages 0 to 3 participated in 12-week series that were held at three locations in the County: Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura Community Room, Oak View Library, and Ray D. Prueter Library in Port Hueneme.
“I feel as though I have better tools in understanding what my child needs and anticipating their wants. It’s also been helpful to hear other parents’ experiences too.”
“My patience for my child has grown. I now have better empathy for understanding that my child is experiencing everything for the first time so I need to give my child extra time to absorb the world around them.”
“She’s opening up to others more. She’s picking up books more. I have learned different learning instruments to help guide her. I have a better sense of allowing her to lead while we play. I feel much closer to my daughter.”
In partnership with the Ventura County Office of Education, First 5 Ventura County participated in Quality Counts California to improve the quality of PACT classes through an early childhood coach who provided technical assistance, professional development, and coaching.
The First 5 Ventura County Parent Leader group developed a Parent Led Project as part of the recently completed Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) training. The book will help parent leaders start conversations with other parents who may be interested in NfL services.
“My experience with the COFI training was one of a kind. It was very informative. I loved the fact that it gave me the motivation to set goals for me and for my community. One of my goals is to make some sort of support group for moms to bring awareness about postpartum depression. The COFI training is actually one of the first things I have finished since my daughter’s birth.”
– Ivy R., Parent Leader
“We all share a vision of connecting parents with each other, promoting and referring them to their local PACT classes while providing them with empowering tools. We want to provide an onboarding process for new parents to connect with each other and be inspired like we were/are and pass the torch to others”
– Parent Leader vision
The NfL hosts monthly Parent Advisory Groups designed to support parent involvement in the governance of the programs. Several of our Parent Leaders started out as Parent Advisory participants before joining the Parent Leadership group.
Help Me Grow is building an integrated, countywide early childhood system to promote early identification of children with developmental and social-emotional needs and to connect them to community resources and interventions.
F5VC HMG was one of four First 5s selected in the state to participate in a state-wide project to better support the healthy social and emotional development of young children in California. F5VC has since become a MediCal Administrative Activities (MAA) claiming unit of the county to leverage our investment in HMG with Federal funding.
F5VC invests in Triple P Positive Parenting Program, an evidence-based parenting program, providing everything from light touch assistance to parents with minor concerns in a group setting, to individually tailored counselling intervention sessions for intensive behavior problems.
F5VC funds 2-1-1 Ventura County to provide information and referral to callers and 2-way-texters and offer families with young children a referral to their local NfL.
As part of a larger effort to increase the awareness about the importance of early literacy, F5VC provided approximately 1,000 books to local preschool programs and the Las Islas Family Medical Group, so that children can have books to read at home and begin building their home library.
In 2021, F5VC advocated to invest in children as early as possible and address the economic, racial, and health disparities made worse by the pandemic.
As the pandemic increased disparities within California, there is a need to not only repair, but restructure and improve supports through nurturing the whole child and whole family. F5VC advocated for elected officials to maintain continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children up to age 5, and eligibility for birthing adults till 12 months postpartum. Extending coverage will improve the state’s low preventative care rates, and ultimately save money.
With the historic opportunity presented by the American Rescue Plan ACT, F5VC continues to advocate for the County of Ventura and local cities to dedicate 5% of ARPA funding to the first 5 years of life. These funds would enable F5VC and our early childhood partners to support families impacted by the pandemic and begin the road to recovery.
F5VC engages in on-going partnerships to align and integrate systems of care to make sure young children and their families have timely and seamless access to supports and services.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events in a child’s life that can include abuse, neglect, and other major stressors such as divorce, caregiver mental illness, and household violence. Organizations across the state of California are building and strengthening “networks of care” to respond more effectively to ACEs and toxic stress by engaging community-based health and social support systems.
As part of the ACEs Aware Network of Care planning grant, Help Me Grow staff partnered with the Partnership for Safe Families to develop a referral pathway for children with ACEs. The goal is to provide holistic support and better treatment plans for those at risk with ACEs.
In partnership with Landon Pediatric Foundation HMGVC helped design and create content for a website to support medical providers in accessing training and resources.
Under F5VC’s leadership, the ECE Taskforce (composed of VCOE, CDR, and F5VC) continued to support the local childcare system during COVID-19. The taskforce:
With support from First 5 California, and in partnership with Food Share, F5VC distributed diapers, masks, and other critical supplies to childcare providers throughout the county. Through these efforts we were able to distribute more than 130,000 diapers to families in need.
F5VC staff has continued to volunteer at Food Share to assist in fighting against hunger in Ventura County.