Recent 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 Many working families are unable to afford full-time care, yet due to a outdated eligibility system, are not eligible for subsidized care.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.