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20 years later: A look back at First 5 Tulare County

We may never know just how profoundly First 5 Tulare County-funded programs have affected the lives of young children over the past 20 years.

What might have happened if First 5 hadn’t helped fund early mental health care for a child? Or helped a child learn to read? Or provided medical care to a preemie and nutritious food to a family?

Thanks to First 5 Tulare County-funded programs, more children today are growing up in healthier families. Parents have new tools to reduce frustration and produce better behavior from their children, which reduces family violence today and in future generations.

More children today are successful in school. First 5 emphasizes school readiness by supporting reading programs, preschools, motor skill development, special needs assessments, and more. Success in life can begin with success in kindergarten.

More children today are healthier. Breastfeeding programs encourage healthy nutrition right from the start. Toothaches are a leading cause of missed school days, which means First 5 Tulare County is significantly impacting health and future success by screening children for decay and teaching them and their parents how to care for little teeth.

Early childhood programs were once seen as “nice to have.” Today, thanks to an increasing body of scientific evidence, we know that these programs are valuable in ways we never imagined.

The human nervous system undergoes its most dramatic growth during the first few years of life; almost two-thirds of the mass of our cerebral cortex is added after we are born. What happens to us during this time affects the physical development of our brain, and makes a life-long impact; early nurturing, learning experiences, and physical health from birth to age five greatly impact success or failure later in life.

Research shows that helping children become healthy and prepared to do well in school leads to valuable economic benefits such as higher lifetime earnings and lower reliance on social programs. In fact, worldwide, educational attainment is a key source of economic growth and rising incomes. Our region’s economic future depends on how we raise and educate our children today.

In the 20 years since California voters supported the creation of First 5 agencies through a tobacco tax, First 5 Tulare County has received over $113,000,000 for early childhood programs. It is First 5’s job to identify and prioritize the needs of local children, and the needs today are diverse and challenging. First 5 has been effective because of a few defining attributes:

  • We support programs that target the most vulnerable in our society – children ages 0 to 5.

  • We listen to families, caregivers and social services partners and we have the flexibility to fund programs that best meet our county’s unique needs.

  • We have a well-defined process for identifying appropriate programs, determining funding levels, and evaluating outcomes to ensure and document effectiveness

Thanks to the work of our partner agencies, teachers, caregiver, therapists, Commissioners, and staff, First 5-funded programs will impact families for generations. Families are healthier, and futures are changed because of their dedication.

We all benefit, today and tomorrow, economically and socially, from children who are nourished physically and emotionally, protected from violence and prepared to learn.


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