Where Parenting and Community Leadership Meet: A Q&A with Rosanne Foust

As the President & CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA), Ms. Foust is a leading voice of the business community in San Mateo County and across the Bay Area on issues important to maintaining a strong local and regional economy, attracting and retaining major employers and good jobs, and creating partnerships between business and government to address the critical issues of affordable housing, mobility improvements, and maintaining a good quality of life.

Throughout her career, Ms. Foust has been dedicated to supporting children in their early years. When her own child needed early intervention, she saw firsthand how important and impactful it is to have high-quality services available for parents throughout the county. 

Now, as the chair of the Commission, we are excited to hear about her story, what she is working on, and her vision for First 5 San Mateo County.  

  1. Tell me about your experiences with First 5 as a parent and as a commissioner. What have you learned?

Rosanne Foust: First 5 makes an impact and changes lives. Its focus on success for every child is at the forefront of the Staff and Commission’s work. We hear stories from partners and grantees about how early screening, early intervention, and quality childcare set those 0-5 children on a journey to an equitable and stable future.

As a parent, I am grateful for the quality childcare my daughters received. I will never forget the center director identifying a possible hearing issue with my youngest when she was 4. His intervention and outreach to us, and empathetic and caring approach, without a doubt, changed the trajectory for my daughter and set her up for future success. Her type of hearing loss often went undiagnosed and his quality training and awareness made it possible for us to find the services needed. I want this for all families.

  1. Why is it important that First 5 San Mateo County provides families with early childhood services?

RF: Early intervention and quality care are critical. Every study, whether it is local, regional, state, or national, points to 0-5 as the most critical years in a child’s development. First 5 funds programs in all areas including health, early learning, intervention, assessments, and quality standards, and creates opportunities that give those in our most underserved communities access and tools to these services. First 5’s focus on equity and reaching our most vulnerable in this high-cost county is something I am most proud of as a Commissioner.

  1. What do you hope for the future of First 5? How do you see your work with and for children and families continuing in the near future?

RF: The work of First 5 must continue. Its impact is seen now and will be seen even more by future generations as the seeds we have planted for 0-5-year-olds continue to grow and blossom. I am concerned with the decline in the tobacco tax revenue that supports the work of First 5–and I also see the irony in that statement. Other funding streams are being discussed and my continued work with First 5 will focus on not losing the gains we have made and finding ways to broaden our efforts.

4. What questions have you been grappling with over the past year in your parent-centered work with First 5?

RF: I think the question that I have been struggling with the most is how we support more children and families that need our services. The challenges that families face, with the high cost of housing, transportation, and childcare, weigh so heavily that sometimes adding something else, even though it is wanted and needed, adds to their stress. Finding ways that we can mitigate these challenges is one of the keys we need to unlock.

If you are interested in getting in contact with the First 5 San Mateo County Commission, reach out at first5SMC@smcgov.org!