The “State of Young Children” is “Promising” According to the Collaborative Nature of Experts, Policymakers in Addressing Pressing Issues Facing San Bernardino County Children
San Bernardino, CA — “Only through collective community action will we be able to build a better future for our children,” said Supervisor James C. Ramos, Chairman of the County of San Bernardino in his opening remarks at the State of Young Children: A Community Town Hall on Friday, January 6, 2017. Too many young children and families do not have access to affordable, quality early learning and developmental support in San Bernardino County. This was the central issue voiced from several early childhood development practitioners at Friday’s “State of Young Children” town hall hosted by First 5 San Bernardino at California State University San Bernardino’s Santos Manuel Student Center.
Elected officials including Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) 47th District and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) 36th District, joined an estimated 200 community leaders, experts, service providers, and community members to discuss the most pressing issues facing San Bernardino County’s children and professionals in early childhood development and early learning. Early childhood mental health and learning go hand in hand as priority concerns that are also surrounded by socioeconomic factors.
Ted Alejandre, County Superintendent of San Bernardino County’s Office of Education stated one of the priorities for his agency is to address the social and emotional needs of the students. “70 percent of students in our county come from socioeconomically disadvantaged circumstances,” said Alejandre. “The disadvantaged don’t have what they need in order to be successful and they must come prepared by kindergarten to succeed.” Early mental health led as a concern throughout the event, which included developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders.
“Only 29% of children statewide are being screened for developmental delays…and 1 in 68 are at risk for autism spectrum disorder,” said Dr. Edward Curry, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics for the local chapter spanning Southern California and pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente. “Doing early intervention between 0-3 is absolutely critical in terms of having an impact on their developmental health. We as pediatricians need to do a much better job at doing screenings and we are scrambling to be able to do that, but at the same time once we find a child that has developmental delays, we need to connect with resources that are out there in the community.”
Dr. Eliott Weinstein, a pediatrician out of Rancho Cucamonga and Vice Chair of the First 5 San Bernardino Commission added that finding resources for treating developmental delays are difficult, but as a Commissioner at First 5 San Bernardino he is seeing remedies to this issue through a network resource called Help Me Grow.
The entire population of California has experienced more than one traumatic adverse experience at a rate of 17 percent, beating the national rate at 13 percent according to Dr. Ron Powell, a former First 5 San Bernardino Commissioner and Early Mental Health Advocate. For children in poverty the rate is even more dismal at 20 percent. “Your emotions dictate your behaviors,” said Dr. Ron Powell, explaining how behavioral health and trauma impacts a developing child’s trajectory. By the age of six, children develop behaviors from the most authoritative figure in their life: their parents. “The process starts in the last trimester, when the right brain begins to develop. That is where children learn behavior about how to cope with the world,” said Dr. Powell.
Economic Development, Public Health and the Developing Child
During a panel discussion about access to child care and education, James Moses, the director of San Bernardino County for Child Care Resource Center spoke on the economic factors that are overwhelming families every day. “150,000 children are living in housing where both parents are working,” said Moses. “Looking at state median incomes, two parent households with one child are not eligible to help offset their child care and state preschool costs. We currently use 2007 state median income levels based on 2005 data.” The access barrier is all compounded by minimum wage incomes.
That income barrier also applies to teachers too according to Diana Alexander, Director of San Bernardino County Preschool Services. “We’ve talked about increasing access and increasing quality while salaries for teachers remain the same,” said Alexander. “This is not a good way to increase quality.”
Randy Elphic, Assistant Superintendent at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools says having discussions at the state level about credentialing for preschool programs to increase early learning staff education in conjunction with their salaries is important moving forward in 2017.
“I hope we are not placed in a position to have to choose between quality education and access,” said Chrystina Smith-Rasshan, operations manager for the Early Learning Division at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. Unwavering focus on children’s quality development and learning is hoped to remain on top of the state’s agenda to support the work that these education and early care agencies are working together to improve.
Although education was at the forefront of this discussion, it has a significant bearing on public health. Better learning outcomes for children, means better health outcomes stated Trudy Raymundo, Director of the Department of Public Health for County of San Bernardino. Her presence on the panel emphasized how education outcomes weigh heavily on public health factors. “When a child is able to succeed in an early setting from a public health perspective, those things are absolutely going to affect prevalence with chronic diseases, obesity, physical exercise, and smoking,” said Raymundo.
First 5 San Bernardino in partnership with First 5 California, Child Care Resource Center, Institute for Child Development & Family Relations at California State University San Bernardino, County of San Bernardino and San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools hosted the “State of Young Children” town hall to bring urgent attention to the issues young children and their families face, and to spur action in our county on their behalf. “Research shows that children’s earliest experiences profoundly shape the rest of their lives and their potential to succeed,” said Karen E. Scott, Executive Director of First 5 San Bernardino. “It’s important that we come together to discuss what we can do — as a community — to give our youngest citizens the best possible start in life. The fact that all of you are here today is proof that the state of young children is promising in San Bernardino County.”
You can learn more about the town hall, the crucial issues facing young children and families, and what you can do to take action at www.first5sanbernardino.org.
About First 5 San Bernardino
The Children and Families Commission for San Bernardino County (First 5 San Bernardino) was created in December 1998 in order to realize the benefits of Proposition 10 (California Children and Families Act) for the County’s youngest residents and their families. The act created a system of programs for the purpose of promoting, supporting, and improving the early development of children from the prenatal stage to five years of age.