By the time a child turns five, 90% of their brain is developed. The first five 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 a tax on tobacco products, 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 55,000 children age five and under.
F5VC’s Vision is that all Ventura County children are born healthy, thrive in nurturing environments, and enter school prepared and eager to learn.
F5VC’s Mission is to strengthen families, communities, and systems of care for children prenatal to five years through investments, expertise, and leadership so all children reach their full potential.
F5VC invested over $4.5 Million in Fiscal Year 2022-23 in local programs (Neighborhoods for Learning and Help Me Grow), collaborations, and systems change.
Local programs, like the Parent and Child Together classes at F5VC’s Neighborhoods for Learning, can make a big impact in the lives of a relatively small number of families by providing direct, more intensive services. By collaborating with local partners, a larger number of families can be reached with a smaller investment of F5VC resources. F5VC can sustainably improve the lives of the greatest number of families when we focus on creating an integrated, coordinated early childhood system that promotes the wellbeing of children, families, and communities.
Since our inception 25 years ago, First 5 Ventura County (F5VC) has been funding Neighborhoods for Learning (NfL), a place-based service delivery system akin to a Family Resource Center, providing early childhood education, health, and family support services.
NfLs offer any family in Ventura County with a child prenatal-5 years old the opportunity to participate in Parent and Child Together (PACT) classes, receive developmental and health screenings, gain assistance accessing support services, engage in parent education, and connect with other local families.
Learn More about F5VC NfL’s.
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 F5VC participants are Hispanic/Latino. By comparison, 43% of Ventura County residents are Hispanic/Latino.
NfL services are available at the following 14 key locations throughout Ventura County.
550 Temple Ave.,
Camarillo, CA 93010
627 Sespe Ave.,
Fillmore, CA 93015
612 B Spring Rd.,
Moorpark, CA 93021
2500 Borchard Rd.,
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
451 E. Olive St.,
Oxnard, CA 93033
2382 Etting Rd.,
Oxnard, CA 93033
3300 Cortez St.,
Oxnard, CA 93036
3334 Santa Clara Ave.,
Oxnard, CA 93036
2245 N. Justin Ave.,
Simi Valley, CA 93065
405 E. Dollie St.,
Oxnard, CA 93033
510 Park Ave
Port Hueneme, CA 93041
1292 Los Angeles Ave.,
Ventura, CA 93004
221 South 4th St.,
Santa Paula, CA 93060
573 Sheridan Way,
Ventura, CA 93001
Parent and Child Together (PACT) Classes Build Secure Bonds and Positive Parenting Skills
PACT classes, an evidence-informed playgroup model, offer a dual-generational approach that is carefully designed to allow parents and children 0-5 years the opportunity to play and learn together with other parents, while teachers model positive parenting skills. PACT classes are offered at all of the NfL locations in 15-week sessions.
“I’ve been able to have more interactions with my daughter now that I know how to approach her learning through playing. I enjoy playing with her but through PACT, I’m more engaged and playing side by side now and following her lead.”
“Mi hijo le gusta que este ahi, se siente mas confiuder y siempre me voltea aver y dice mami, estas con migo? Jugamos.” (My son likes that I’m there, he feels more confident and he always turns to me and says mommy, are you with me? Let’s play.)
“My child is more curious and talkative. Prior to the program, he had limited interaction with children his age. Now he sings and reads books. He enjoys playing with other children.”
When families know about what to expect in their child’s development and can incorporate positive parenting strategies, children are more likely to thrive. When children have access to high-quality learning and play environments, their overall development and school readiness is supported. Low-income families often have fewer opportunities to access quality family support services. Among the families F5VC serves, non-White families were less likely to have any college education or earn more than $30k annually. Participating in PACT minimized gaps in knowledge surrounding local supports, early childhood development, and positive parenting techniques, including increased talking, reading and singing by parents to their children. Program evaluation illuminated the PACT program’s outcomes in narrowing education- and income-related disparities that can affect parenting. The Neighborhoods for Learning have a powerful potential to promote equity in diverse communities.
NfL staff provided almost 1,600 screenings to parents, caregivers and children with the goal of identifying health or developmental concerns early on, and connecting children and families to needed support services.
Developmental screenings check on 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 allows staff to connect parents to services and can improve long-term outcomes for children
Maternal depression has high national prevalence rates, affecting not only maternal wellbeing but also family resilience and child development. Prenatal and postpartum screening provides the opportunity to identify mothers at-risk for depression and connect them to appropriate services.
Screening identifies critical concerns of mothers at-risk of depression
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.
Social Determinants of Health
In February 2023, F5VC launched a new home visiting program called Welcome EVERY Baby (WEB) through Covid relief funding from the County of Ventura. Home visiting programs are designed to meet individuals where they are–literally, at home. The WEB program is available for individuals in Oxnard who are either pregnant or have an infant younger than 12 months old. Participants receive up to 8 visits from a trained Early Childhood Family Specialist who provides health, developmental and social support. Families who could benefit from additional services are referred to other community programs.
WEB was created to address maternal and child health disparities and the higher rate of referrals to Child Protective Services (CPS) in parts of Oxnard as compared to the county as a whole. The WEB program provides support to mitigate social determinants of health and other stressors during the critical perinatal time period.
Intended outcomes include:
Ventura County is home to an estimated 20,000 Mixtec and Indigenous migrant community members. MICOP, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen the Mixtec and Indigenous migrant community, is a vital partner in providing NfL early learning and family support services to families who speak Mixteco, Zapotec and Purépecha. MICOP staff work alongside F5VC NfL staff to provide culturally-informed Parent and Child Together classes, screenings, and family support services.In FY 22-23, MICOP reached nearly 500 families to offer these critical services.
Help Me Grow Ventura County 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.
The key to a successful HMG network is pediatricians and child care providers who champion developmental screenings. HMG developed a series of tools specifically for clinic staff and providers to strengthen their knowledge and capacity: a recorded training on the Ages and Stages 3 (ASQ-3) is now available on HMGVC and covers the importance of developmental screenings, and when and how to administer the screening for children ages 2 months to 5 years. Additional resources are available for providers that complement the training and assist them in their screening efforts.
The HMG Coordinator, an authorized ASQ-3 trainer, partnered with Ventura County Public Health and Gold Coast Health Care systems to provide training to clinic staff and pediatricians. ASQ-3 training was also offered to Ventura County Library staff who incorporate screenings into their PACT classes offered at several locations throughout the county.
Learn More about Help Me Grow.
Children, families, and communities thrive when parents are engaged partners in decision-making. That is why the NfL Parent Advisory Groups and F5VC Parent Leaders play a critical role. Parent Advisory Groups meet monthly to offer input on NfL programs. Parent Leaders meet weekly and participate in the Community Organizing for Family Issues (COFI) curriculum for parent empowerment. Additionally, Parent Leaders facilitate parent education workshops, share information with parents and take part in numerous community and outreach events.
Learn More about Parent Engagement.
F5VC is proud to develop meaningful partnerships to reach the greatest number of young children possible. F5VC partnered with County Libraries to build librarians’ capacity to deliver PACT classes through training, technical assistance, and program implementation support. This collaboration is an example of a sustainable investment; the libraries continue to offer PACT classes with their existing staff, without requiring additional funding from F5VC.
The earlier families begin to “Talk, Read, Sing!” to their children and access available resources for their families, the better the outcomes. F5VC provides free Kits for New Parents to reach families as early as possible during pregnancy. The Kit is a comprehensive parenting resource that includes useful information about the importance of the early years, and practical activities and tips parents can easily incorporate into their daily routines! More than 100 local partners distributed 3,109 Kits to expectant and new parents – reaching 42% of Ventura County’s newborns.
The Triple P- Positive Parenting Program is an evidence-based program that offers families simple, effective tools for positive parenting. Triple P providers are now able to bill those services to private or public insurance, which led F5VC to change our funding strategy. New Challenge Grants funded the cost of training clinicians or para-professionals to deliver the Triple P program as well as purchase necessary program materials. F5VC funds also covered the cost of services for families who do not qualify for other existing funding sources, reaching more than 100 families.
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. Families with children 0-5 are identified and linked to F5VC NfLs, Help Me Grow, and other resources.
With limited revenues, if F5VC continued to primarily invest in individual direct services, only a relatively small number of families and children would be helped, and only for a limited time. F5VC can support a larger number of children over many years if we improve the early childhood system as a whole. F5VC works to improve the system through investments, collaboration, and advocacy efforts to address economic, racial, and health disparities.
F5VC hosts Take 5 and Read to Kids!, an annual advocacy and early literacy event, to encourage caregivers and community members to Talk, Read, and Sing every day. High profile community leaders including elected officials and CEOs take time out of their busy schedules to read to young children and highlight the economic benefits of increased literacy rates in Ventura County’s community.
Take 5 and Read to Kids! is a highly visible community event that raises awareness about the importance of reading to young children, builds home libraries, recruits champions for early literacy, and promotes a lifetime love of learning. In May 2023, F5VC hosted celebrity readers at Neighborhoods for Learning sites, preschools, family child care centers, and county libraries.
F5VC co-leads the Early Childhood Coalition (ECC), a collaborative effort bringing together over 20 multi-sector service providers to achieve a highly coordinated and comprehensive child and family wellness system in neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of child abuse and neglect. The focus of the ECC is to reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system by enhancing community and parental protective factors in racially and culturally appropriate ways.
In collaboration with ECC partners, F5VC contracted with United Parents to engage, learn from, and support parents and caregivers within the traditionally underserved Kamala/McKinna Neighborhood located within one of the high-need zip codes in the Oxnard Plains. United Parents conducted focus groups and over 50 community interviews to understand and inform preventative strategies and supports for families at risk of becoming involved with county systems. They learned that families need basic needs met first; fathers want to be more involved; and stigma around mental health is a barrier to services. United Parents is continuing to operate monthly father support groups in Spanish.
Family childcare providers who excel at supporting healthy child development often struggle with the financial aspect of their business. The Shared Services Alliance of Ventura County, a partnership between F5VC, the Ventura County Office of Education and the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC), is working to strengthen business practices of family child care providers. For a second year, 48 participating providers are utilizing the Wonderschool platform, receive a $900 technology stipend, and coaching from EDC business advisors.
To address the significant negative impact on families with young children, F5VC successfully advocated for $3.5 million in Covid Relief funding to expand Neighborhoods for Learning services and pilot a light-touch home visiting program, Welcome EVERY Baby.
F5VC is grateful for the County of Ventura’s $3.5 million allocation of Covid relief funding to expand Neighborhoods for Learning services and pilot a Welcome Every Baby home visiting program to address disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.
However, early childhood needs consistent funding and investments to ensure that all children can thrive. F5VC is largely funded through the Proposition 10 Tobacco Tax. The recent ban on flavored tobacco products and a general decline in tobacco sales is SIGNIFICANTLY decreasing available revenues when children’s needs have only increased. First 5s statewide are seeking sustainable investments in early childhood to maintain the critical services and infrastructure of First 5s.
As a voice for our youngest children, First 5s are advocating for a continued focus on the importance of prenatal to five.
Locally, F5VC will continue to deepen partnerships and work to improve the overall early childhood system, so that all children can be born healthy, thrive in nurturing environments, and enter school prepared and eager to learn.
Among F5VC’s greatest assets is our team. We take pride in the expertise and passion each employee brings to our goal of achieving positive and sustainable outcomes for Ventura County’s children prenatal to age five. Our ongoing role is to identify, develop and retain a high-performing and diverse workforce to drive long-term goals. Focusing on reflecting the communities we are serving, half of our employees are bilingual.
F5VC is commited to being an employee-centric, family-friendly employer. We are rooted in a collaborative culture that fosters a healthy, safe, and productive work environment for employees and their families.