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 are leaders and experts, improving outcomes for Ventura County’s 60,000 children age five and under.
Children are best served when the entire early childhood system is strong. F5VC partners with foundations, school districts, social and health care agencies, businesses, parents, and local leaders to make sound, lasting investments in children. F5VC strives to connect a network of essential services for young children and their families – a network that strengthens futures for children, families, and communities.
Early Childhood Champions! 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.*Note: Race/ethnicity category is unknown for 5% of F5VC participants.
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 titled Champions for Change: Ensuring a Culture of Empowerment and Equity. 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
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, the Commission’s decision to directly implement the NfL was based on F5VCs ability to:
The complex transition to in-house services maintained a human-centered design focus, including offering all existing NfL staff employed by community-based contractor the opportunity to continue employment with First 5, and ensuring that families would be able to access services at familiar sites.
PACT classes, an evidence-informed playgroup model, offer a dual generation approach that is carefully designed to allow parents and children ages 0-3 the opportunity to play and learn together with other parents, while teachers model positive parenting skills and strategies.
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.
of children in PACT are 0-3 years old.
of children in PACT are 0-3 years old.
NfL staff provide a variety of screenings with the goal of identifying health or developmental delays early on, and connecting families to needed support services to be sure children have every opportunity to thrive. F5VC offers developmental screenings to make certain a child is achieving their milestones, prenatal and postpartum screenings for mothers at risk for depression, social determinants of health screenings to ensure parents and caregivers have their basic human needs met to help in overcoming stressors that can adversely affect their parenting.
Care coordination supports individual family well-being, including family safety, health, and economic stability, to promote child learning and development, and provide services and supports to foster parental confidence and skills that promote the early learning and development of their children. Care coordination (donuts) 323 with 1115 services (62% of participants) parent education (donuts) 397 participants with 2246 services (donuts)
of children in PACT are 0-3 years old.
of children in PACT are 0-3 years old.
In this unprecedented time of 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. Virtual drop-in services were offered to families via zoom PACT classes, parent education and support activities offered through Facebook live.
To ensure families had access to materials and resources covered in virtually PACT classes, NfL staff distributed activity kits to families every 3-4 weeks to provide the materials for their online learning, which was a critical engagement piece of the program.
“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 and looks forward to seeing her teachers and the other children.”
Ventura County Libraries become PACT implementation partners
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.
“I feel as though I have better tools in understanding what my child needs and anticipating the 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.”
Through a partnership with VCOE, First 5 Ventura County participated in Quality Counts California (QCC) to improve the quality of PACT classes through an early childhood coach who provided technical assistance, professional development, and coaching, to PACT teachers within the Neighborhoods for Learning, MICOP promotores and County Library staff implementing PACT teachers
The First 5 Ventura County Parent Leader group is developing a Parent Led Project as part of the recently completed Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) training. The project reflects a topic that the parents have selected based on their interests, passions, and what they feel is important for young children and their families.
“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. This opportunity that was given to me has been a big accomplishment for me in finishing the COFI training. It’s 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
Insert image of bookmarks (both english & spanish version). Images saved here https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZbnDfM0ku_7_IG6Ifzo1nwy0v6QVaNMy?usp=sharing
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. Insert zoom photo of parent leadership group. Photo saved here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZbnDfM0ku_7_IG6Ifzo1nwy0v6QVaNMy?usp=sharing
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 the Center for the Study of Social Policy- Pediatrics Supporting Parents project. This series of Medi-Cal workshops was part of a state-wide project to leverage Medi-Cal and pediatric primary care 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 light touch assistance to parents with minor concerns and individually tailored counselling intervention sessions for intensive behavior problems. 53 parents participated in Level 4 & 5 Individual Services 148 parents participated in Level 4 Groups Services
Triple P works with parents’ strengths and to provide a supportive, nonjudgmental environment where a parent can continually improve their parenting skills. Parents learn strategies that promote social competence and self-regulation in children as well as decrease problem behavior.
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 preschools programs through CDR and Catalyst Kids so that children can have books to read at home and begin building their home library.
Book shipment photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/1/folders/1SwtUsIXR-nTm60EYB1ME2m-8vDMD9eg-
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, remove access to barriers, 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 its municipalities to dedicate 5% to the first 5 years of life. These funds would enable F5VC and our early childhood partners to provide a continued pandemic response 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. Our goal is to build a comprehensive early childhood system in Ventura County through:
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. In January of 2021, the California Department of Health Care Services (DCHS) in partnership with the Office of California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) awarded grant funding to various organizations across the state of California to build and strengthen “networks of care” by responding more effectively to ACEs and toxic stress by engaging community-based health and social support systems.
As part of the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Aware Network of Care planning grant, in collaboration with the Partnership for Safe Families, Help Me Grow (HMG) staff developed an ACEs Pathway Pilot. Partnering with a local pediatrician and social worker, this pilot focused on taking in referrals for care coordination to children with an at-risk ACE score or a history of ACEs. By collaborating with community leaders to combine local resources, 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:
Like so many organizations, F5VC quickly adapted to meet the needs of young children and their families during the pandemic. With support from First 5 California, and in partnership with Food Share, VCF5 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.
The pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in Ventura County, which is why F5VC staff is grateful for the opportunities to continue to volunteer at Food Share to assist in fighting against hunger in Ventura County.