Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

First 5 Yolo rebounds from difficult year

Diego Mojica, 3, and Luis Caldera, 1, play at the Yolo Family Resource Center in Woodland, which receives funding from First 5 Yolo. Courtesy photo

Last year was a strange one for First 5 Yolo.

The agency, which funds programs serving children ages 0-5 through state tobacco tax revenues, found itself in a lengthy waiting game along with the other First 5 commissions throughout California when the state decided to take back that tobacco tax revenue and use it for other purposes.

For Yolo County, that amounted to $2.5 million that had been earmarked for everything from health and dental care to child care, child abuse prevention and early learning programs.

Several counties filed suit, and eventually won, but in the meantime, many of First 5 Yolo’s partner agencies suffered funding cuts.

“We had made some significant reductions,” First 5 executive director Julie Gallelo told the Yolo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Gallelo was on hand to present the agency’s annual report to the board and she noted that the financial uncertainties of the previous year were evident throughout the report.

“(It) will look like fewer services were provided to families, and that is the case,” she said.

Still, the annual report prepared by Francesca Wright of the Davis Consultant Network, found “First 5 Yolo is continuing to make significant contributions by visiting first-time mothers, increasing access to health insurance and timely dental care and by improving the quality of child care and preschool learning environments for young children in Yolo County.”

According to the report, First 5 Yolo served primarily Latino families throughout the county (70 percent) last year with about equal numbers of people served in Woodland (1,581) and West Sacramento (1,548).

An additional 1,020 participants were served in Davis, 545 in Winters, 432 in Esparto/Capay, and 264 elsewhere throughout the county.

One of the big changes First 5 Yolo made, following a needs assessment last year, was directing more funding through family resource centers throughout the county.

The needs assessment had shown that a major concern for Yolo County parents is finding help and support, particularly in the areas of parent education, access to low-cost fresh produce, developmental screenings, financial literacy, access to health care and opportunities for young children to engage in early learning activities.

Commissioners decided the best way to meet those needs was through place-based funding that directs money to communities based on population size and demand.

In Davis, that meant a new family resource center at Montgomery Elementary School, where the school’s large population of low-income families could access those resources.

Similar family resource centers have proved successful in Knights Landing, Woodland and elsewhere.

Gallelo told supervisors the family resource center initiative “has been wonderful.”

“I can’t wait to come back here next year and tell you the results.”

As for last year’s results, the annual report showed First 5 Yolo, working through partner agencies, showed progress on a number of fronts, including:

* Eighty-one percent of the children in the Yolo County Children’s Alliance “Step by Step” home visitation program were current with their immunizations, and 87 percent were up-to-date on well-baby and well-child visits with their health practitioner;

* Also in the “Step by Step” program, 32 percent of program mothers were exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, exceeding the Healthy People 2020 targets;

* The Yolo County Children’s Alliance distributed 4,975 bags of food to 924 families at Alyce Norman Center in West Sacramento, giving away approximately 100 bags of food each week;

* The Yolo County Library conducted nearly 400 bilingual story-time sessions and 11 family literacy workshops; and

* RISE in western Yolo County helped 27 families in crisis, and at risk for homelessness, get food, translation assistance, employment and transportation assistance and other support.

“It is exciting to see the real-time results of everyone’s efforts,” said First 5 Yolo Commissioner Karen Ziebron. “Because of the money First 5 Yolo is able to distribute out into the community, parents are reading more often to their children, infants and toddlers are staying current with their immunizations, children have health insurance and access to dental care, and a high percentage of moms are choosing to breastfeed their babies.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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