A young Spanish-speaking mother gathered up her three children: the baby, 2-year-old, and 5-year-old. Off they went to the Community Health Care Clinic, where a child development specialist would talk to the family about how the children were learning and growing. ChildReach, as a partner of First 5 FUNdamentals of Pierce County, provided an interpreter and critical information; the oldest and youngest kids were on track, but the 2-year-old would need extra help in order to grow up healthy. As a result of this visit, he got the help he needed.
If not for the collaboration of many community partners, this child could have easily “fallen through the cracks,” resulting in school failure and a life of preventable struggle. This would be sad for the child, and even sadder for the community. Costs associated with kids who drop out of school or struggle through life are staggering. In Pierce County, only about one-third of all kids enter school with the literacy skills they need to be successful.
First 5 FUNdamentals, a partnership of over 30 early learning providers and promoters in Pierce County, works to create an early learning system. The organization is called First 5 FUNdamentals because research says the first five years of life are fundamental to success in school and life. The human brain develops extremely rapidly during the early years, but most educational resources are made available later in life, when the brain is least able to use new information. The goal of First 5 FUNdamentals is for all the partners to work together in such a way that programs and funds are leveraged to increase resources for children aged birth to 5.
First 5 FUNdamentals has already been able to leverage its partnerships to obtain funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. United Way of Pierce County, as fund development lead for First 5 FUNdamentals, obtained a million dollar grant to support home visiting in Pierce County. This enabled the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to hire one additional staff member to visit with struggling new parents in Lakewood and help them learn how to bond with and care for their infants.
In addition to ChildReach and home visiting, First 5 FUNdamentals is engaged in supporting numerous additional early learning efforts. These include providing tutoring and mentoring to child care providers through Clover Park Technical College, Puget Sound Educational Services District, Bates Technical College and Tacoma-Pierce County Child Care Resource and Referral; and a weekly Play to Learn session provided free at the Lakewood Library by the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Kindergarten Linkages is off to a good start, as well. It is building relationships between parents of preschoolers, kindergarten teachers and child care providers so that the very important transition to kindergarten can be as smooth as possible.
Funding for First 5 FUNdamentals comes through the investment of Legacy Partners. Legacy Partners commit to invest in First 5 FUNdamentals for five years. The City of Lakewood invested in First 5 this year, joining the City of Tacoma; Pierce County; Gates Foundation; Russell Investments; The Boeing Company; Rainier Pacific Bank; TOTE; Tucci and Sons, Inc.; KBTC Public Television; Columbia Bank; Albers & Company; R-4 Printing; TAPCO; Financial Insights; Concrete Technology; Thaddeus P. Martin, Attorney at Law; and Propel Insurance.