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  • 2017 Strategic Plan Update 740x250

Community-Driven Planning Process

Great care was taken to ensure that the process to update the strategic plan at this unique juncture in time was as transparent and inclusive as possible. Multiple opportunities, venues and formats were used to maximize participation and input of a broad array of early childhood system stakeholders in order to capitalize on their knowledge and perspective.

Opportunities for Stakeholder Input into Updating the Strategic Plan

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To support the planning process, a Strategic Planning Advisory Workgroup was convened several times over a period of four months. A variety of data sources were provided to inform their understanding of the current needs of children and their families, the status of systems and funding streams and the outcomes yielded by programs currently funded by First 5 Sonoma County. The Workgroup was composed of three First 5 Commissioners, three Executive Directors from funded agencies, three system stakeholders and the Executive Director of First 5 Sonoma County. First 5 program staff also informed the Workgroup process by providing critical program detail and contextual perspective.

Girl with Magnifying GlassThe Strategic Planning Advisory Workgroup reviewed detailed Grantee Outcome Reports to understand First 5-funded programs, outcomes, need, cost and contractor performance. To contribute a broader perspective, the First 5 Sonoma County Professional Community Advisory Committee (PCAC) convened a special meeting to conduct a systems scan. The findings highlight issues such as utilization of children’s healthcare coverage; the emerging negative impact of new immigration policies on participation in programs and services; and, the lack of affordable housing, childcare and other basic needs of working families.

The biennial First 5 Sonoma County Stakeholder Survey was conducted in Fall 2016 to gauge perspectives of a broad group of stakeholders, including policy-makers, Commissioners and early childhood provider agencies. Highlights of the survey findings related to First 5’s future direction show strong consensus supporting investments in prevention-focused and evidence-informed practice. Findings also support an expanded advocacy role for First 5, as well as the importance of prioritizing the needs of infants and toddlers, citing the critical window of brain development during prenatal through the toddler stages of development.

Highlights of Local Data to Support Investment Priorities

June Newsletter 204x300Recent reports describing Sonoma County’s demographics and status of residents indicate that the needs of many young children and their families for multiple kinds of support persist, particularly in low-income and less populated areas of the county. In spite of the significant investments of First 5, County departments and other funders in child development and family support, many disparities in health, income and educational attainment continue to increase.

Of the over 32,000 children under the age of six in Sonoma County, more than 15% currently live below the Federal Poverty Level. Due to the very high cost of living in the county, thousands of families struggle to cover basic expenses. In 2014, there were 220 homeless children under six years old in Sonoma County. Poverty, homelessness and unmet basic needs cause profound stress for young children, which may impede their development and often contributes to negative health and educational outcomes.

As with other counties, there is a growing shortage of affordable and high quality child care an preschool in Sonoma County, particularly subsidized care for infants and toddlers. Many working families are unable to afford full-time care, yet due to a outdated eligibility system, are not eligible for subsidized care. Also, despite strong evidence of the effectiveness of early detection and intervention in
improving child outcomes, Sonoma County does not yet have a coordinated system to ensure that all children birth to five years old receive  developmental screening.

Data also indicate that in spite of investments in pediatric oral health, both prevention and treatment, the rate of dental disease in children under six continues to be high. Over 51% of children 0-5 have had at least one incident of dental disease. Among Latino children, that percentage is nearly twice as high.

Data Sources Supporting Strategic Plan 2017 Update

  • 2016 First 5 Sonoma County Stakeholder Survey, Learning for Action
  • First 5 Sonoma County Grantee Outcome Reports, Learning for Action, in consultation with First 5 program staff and grantee organizations
  • Building the Future: A Countywide Plan for Child Care and Education Birth to Twelve 2016-2021, Child Care Planning Council of Sonoma County
  • Supplement to the 2014 Sonoma County Child Care Needs Assessment Update, Child Care Planning Council of Sonoma County, 2015
  • A Hidden Crisis: Findings on Adverse Childhood Experiences in California, Center for Youth Wellness, 2014
  • Kids Count Data Book 2016, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • A Portrait of Sonoma County, Sonoma County Department of Health Services, 2013
  • Sonoma County Community Health Needs Assessment, 2016
  • First 5 Priority Schools List – Updated 2016

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