As Pandemic Assistance Programs End,
Children’s Leadership Council Relaunches to Improve Children’s Well-being Across Contra Costa County
Contra Costa, CA – A new report from Children Now shows that many Contra Costa families continue to need support as pandemic assistance programs come to an end. The report, which looks at local children’s health and well-being data through an equity lens, also shows that need varies across Contra Costa County. The Contra Costa Children’s Leadership Council, which was originally launched in 2019, is relaunching today to address inequities in the county.
The new report, produced with funding from the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, Contra Costa Economic Partnership, and First 5 Contra Costa, illustrates the opportunity gap for children in Contra Costa County and the need for immediate action. Disparities historically widen over a child’s lifetime, creating additional barriers to well-being. The set of localized data demonstrates a whole-child approach, spanning many issues impacting a child’s life, including access to child care. The Council will use this data set to guide its work going forward.
The number of Contra Costa households using CalFresh food benefits increased by more than 40% during the first two years of the pandemic. While this increase of about 13,700 new households indicates greater need countywide, the data highlights that the largest numbers of new households reside in the western and eastern parts of the county, with drastically lower numbers in central county. Despite the level of need, expanded CalFresh benefits ended in February 2023.
“The expansion of CalFresh and other aid programs at the start of the pandemic was a lifeline for Contra Costa County families,” said Marla Stuart, Director of Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services. “But the end of pandemic assistance doesn’t mean the need has disappeared. The Children’s Leadership Council is coming back together to support our local families.”
“I joined others in championing the creation of the Children’s Leadership Council in 2019 in order to address the disparities in resources and outcomes for our county’s children and families,” said John Gioia, Chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. “The pandemic exposed and widened these disparities. We need to work together to create a proactive system-level approach to addressing the inequities in our community, rather than being reactive.”
The report also illuminates the challenges associated with finding quality childcare for infants and toddlers in Contra Costa County, particularly in the western and eastern parts of the county. Almost 90 child care providers closed permanently due to the pandemic, resulting in up to 2,000 fewer available child care slots. The reverberating impact is felt on early childhood education, parent workforce participation, and family finances. If things don’t change, more than 75 percent of the projected demand for childcare for infants and toddlers in Contra Costa County will be unmet in 2027.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the precarious nature of childcare in Contra Costa County,” said Lynn Mackey, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools. “The hardship on parents and children was immeasurable. A lack of resources early in life can harm a child’s academic trajectory, and we will see the effects of this crisis on children for years to come.”
Based on the report’s findings, the Council is urging the county to quickly and efficiently deploy resources and supports to close opportunity gaps for children. The Council urges decision-makers to address the systemic forces causing inequitable outcomes for children and families.
“The Children’s Leadership Council strives to serve as the big tent for everyone working to improve the lives of children in Contra Costa County,” said Ruth Fernández, First 5 Contra Costa Executive Director. “The Council will be an opportunity for all child and youth serving organizations and stakeholders to work together to solve local challenges, while putting equity at the forefront.”
The Council is led by First 5 Contra Costa, the Employment and Human Services Department, Contra Costa Health Services, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education. It aims to intentionally develop and strengthen the ecosystem that recognizes and supports child, youth, family, and community resilience and wellbeing.
“When we work together to address the challenges facing children and families, we can change the trajectory of entire communities,” said Fernández. “We have the power to improve future public health in Contra Costa County by improving children’s health today.”
For more information about the Children’s Leadership Council visit the Contra Costa’s Children’s Leadership Council webpage.