Research shows that a child’s brain develops most dramatically during the early years of life. In fact, more than 80 percent of brain growth and neuron connectivity is completed by age 3. The moment babies come into the world their brains are forming the connections that will determine how they learn, think, and grow. The vision of First 5 California is that “all California’s children receive the best possible start in life.” Through statewide systems building, quality improvement, and public education and outreach efforts, First 5 California, along with First 5 county commissions and numerous other partners, represents an important part of California’s effort to nurture and protect its most precious resource — its children.
More than 10 percent of children ages birth to 5 in California have a disability or special need that will affect how they grow and develop and may impact their ability to play and learn. First 5 California ensures that parents and caregivers know they are not alone by working with First 5 county commissions and other partners in the early identification of children with special needs, including children who don’t qualify for mandated services, to secure the resources, services, and support they need.
First 5 California also works with county agencies to help parents and caregivers learn the early signs of developmental delays or difficulties and collaborates to get a child help when it is first needed, ideally as early as from birth to age 3. Early intervention can make a big difference as a child grows and might prevent more serious problems later on.
Current efforts at First 5 California include the development and implementation of integrated programs and resources designed to benefit three target audiences — the child, the teacher, and the parent — in the focus areas of nutrition, early literacy and language development, special needs, and smoking cessation.