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Who We Are

First 5 San Mateo County generates significant and lasting returns on the investment in our children. Our vision is success for every child.

In 1998 voters passed Proposition 10, adding a 50-cent tax on tobacco products to create a guaranteed revenue stream for children. Prop 10 funds established First 5 California (state commission) and 58 independent First 5 county commissions that provide locally-approved programs. By voter mandate we are committed to improving children’s health, school readiness and family functioning. Click to learn more about the work we have done in the past 20 years.

First 5 San Mateo County has developed a deep understanding of the complex and evolving issues around early childhood development in our community. We leverage knowledge and funding to mend gaps in service, awareness and access – ensuring a comprehensive and effective early childhood system

Our Investments

Since our inception in 1998, First 5 San Mateo County has invested more than $127 million in comprehensive programs for early childhood development, family strengthening, and other support services. We support evidence-based programs in childhood health, early learning and family engagement to strengthen what’s working, fix what’s not and to ensure equity for all. This is accomplished through a combination of focused financial investments and systems-level work, as well as targeted funding to support community partnerships, policy development, and leadership on issues related to children from the prenatal stage to age 5, and their families. More about our Policy Platform

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Who We Serve

First 5 San Mateo County serves children prenatally through age 5—infants, toddlers and preschoolers—as well as their parents and caregivers. First 5 supports children of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and income levels according to their developmental needs.

Early Childhood: A Guaranteed Return on Investment

Children who enter school with the basic knowledge of math and language skills are more likely to experience academic success, attain higher levels of education and obtain employment.

A wealth of research proves that early childhood investments offer the greatest return—for the child, the family and the community. Nobel Prize winner Professor James Heckman calculates a return of at least 7-to-1 on early interventions.

Children are the future of society. Helping them reach their full potential is the most fundamentally sound investment we can possibly make, but that investment must begin early. When we invest in our community’s children early, we all reap enormous dividends throughout their education, their careers and their lives.

To view the California Children and Families Act go to www.ccfc.ca.gov

“More than anything else within the scope of human influence, the future of our families, communities, cultures, economies, and nations depends on our children’s learning. The world will become what our children learn it to be.”

Dr. James J. Heckman

Our Goals

Ensure all children will be healthy.

Prepare kids to enter school ready to achieve their greatest potential.

Support healthy parent-child relationships recognizing that parents are their child’s first teacher.

Investing in Our Kids

Since its inception, First 5 San Mateo County has invested over $120 million in local programs. These dollars have been used to serve over 63,180 children ages 0-5, and 36,130 parents and expectant parents locally. Through our funded programs and agencies, approximately 15,000 children and primary caregivers are served every year!

First 5 Staff

Our team is determined to see the youngest among us reach their greatest potential.

More on Prop 10

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Strategic Plan

Through a comprehensive strategic planning process, we developed our roadmap to achieving better outcomes for San Mateo County’s youngest children. Download our Strategic Plan (.pdf)


Guiding First 5 San Mateo in our mission to promote positive outcomes for children and their families through strategic investments, community leadership, and effective partnerships.


The Three Kinds of Stress, and How to Deal with It

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Research shows that children grow up to be healthy and resilient when they have supportive parents and caregivers. But to be a fully present and energized parent for your baby or toddler can be a big task—especially with all of the changes and challenges due to COVID-19, fire disasters, and the social movements in our communities due to racism. Parents and children both are experiencing high levels of stress and worry.

Stress is a common experience and a normal response to challenges. Day-to-day stress in work and life is normal. And, when parents help children handle positive stress–like the first day of preschool, a big project, or losing a tooth–children can recover from it and build resilience. Resilience is the ability to manage stress. 

But too much stress, or prolonged stress that lasts for months or years, is toxic for adults and children. That’s because stress affects the way your body works. It causes your heart rate to change, makes your blood pressure go up, and increases your stress hormones. 

Here’s a break-down of different kinds of stress responses:

  1. A positive stress response is short-term and not too serious. It’s how you feel on your first day at a new job or how your child feels when it’s time for a vaccine at the pediatrician. Positive stress causes brief increases in heart rate and a slight uptick in stress hormone levels.
  2. A tolerable stress response is short-term, but more serious. Losing a grandparent may cause a tolerable stress response. The recent fires may have caused tolerable stress responses. As long as the situation causing tolerable stress doesn’t last too long or become more serious, your body can recover from the higher levels of stress hormones it causes.
  3. A toxic stress response is much more serious. It is strong, frequent, and/or long lasting. Living with violence, abuse, or long-term financial hardship can cause toxic stress. Toxic stress has a long lasting effect on your body. Toxic stress can cause a child’s brain and body to produce high amounts of stress hormones that harm the brain.  


Effect of stress on children

Like we mentioned above, positive stress is good for kids! When you help them through stressful situations, It helps them learn what they’re capable of and build resilience.

Tolerable stress may take more time to work through, but is expected throughout life. If a child has good relationships with adults who can help the child navigate the stressful event, the child’s brain and body can recover from the stress. 

Relationships are even more important with toxic stress. Toxic stress damages children’s developing brains and can affect their lives as adults. Early experiences of toxic stress can result in lasting health problems, such as cancer and heart disease, as well as mental illness, violence, and being a victim of violence. But science shows that strong bonds and connections with parents and caregivers can actually help protect children’s brains from the lasting effects of toxic stress.

If toxic stress stops and is replaced with things that are positive for the brain–loving attention from a trusted adult, healthy playing, being read stories–the brain can slowly undo the harm caused by stress. 


Dealing with stress as an adult

This is a stressful time. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, you may have experienced a tolerable stress response, which kicked in to help you navigate the frightening situation. Today, the pandemic is still going, along with other community and safety issues. The effects of the pandemic—such as losing a job or income, lack of child care or school, loss of loved ones to the illness, feeling isolated—may be causing a long-term stress response. For some, this response may be toxic.

The good news is that relationships help adults deal with stress, too. Reach out to friends and loved ones who understand what you’re going through and can help you. For help with finding  parenting groups or supports, contact Help Me Grow San Mateo County

Parenting is hard. To help your child navigate and manage stress, you must first take care of yourself. There are also things you can do as a parent that will help both you and your child manage stress—like communicating about what’s happening and creating routines

If things feel too challenging or out of your control, consider support from a professional. Mental health treatment is an important step to stay healthy for you and your child. In San Mateo County, you find mental health services by talking to your primary health provider or calling the BHRS Access Line. For crisis support contact StarVista’s Crisis Center


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Los Tres Tipos de Estrés y Cómo Lidiar con Él

Las investigaciones muestran que los niños crecen para ser saludables y resistentes cuando tienen padres y cuidadores que los apoyan. Pero ser un padre completamente presente y lleno de energía para su bebé o niño pequeño puede ser una gran tarea, especialmente con todos los cambios y desafíos debido al COVID-19, los desastres por incendios y los movimientos sociales en nuestras comunidades debido al racismo. Tanto los padres como los niños están experimentando altos niveles de estrés y preocupación.

El estrés es una experiencia común y una respuesta normal a los desafíos. El estrés diario en el trabajo y la vida es normal. Y, cuando los padres ayudan a los niños a manejar el estrés positivo, como el primer día de preescolar, un gran proyecto o la pérdida de un diente, los niños pueden recuperarse y desarrollar resiliencia. La resiliencia es la capacidad de controlar el estrés. 

Pero demasiado estrés, o estrés prolongado que dura meses o años, es tóxico para adultos y niños. Eso es porque el estrés afecta la forma en que funciona su cuerpo. Hace que su frecuencia cardíaca cambie, hace que su presión arterial suba y aumenta sus hormonas del estrés. 

Aquí hay un análisis de diferentes tipos de respuestas al estrés:

  1. Una respuesta positiva al estrés es a corto plazo y no es demasiado seria. Es cómo se siente el primer día en un nuevo trabajo o cómo se siente su hijo cuando llega el momento de vacunarse en el pediatra. El estrés positivo provoca breves aumentos en la frecuencia cardíaca y un ligero aumento en los niveles de la hormona del estrés.
  2. Una respuesta de estrés tolerable es a corto plazo, pero más grave. La pérdida de un abuelo or abuela puede provocar una respuesta de estrés tolerable. Los incendios recientes pueden haber provocado respuestas de estrés tolerables. Siempre que la situación que causa el estrés tolerable no dure demasiado o se vuelva más grave, su cuerpo puede recuperarse de los niveles más altos de hormonas del estrés que causa.
  3. Una respuesta al estrés tóxico es mucho más grave. Es fuerte, frecuente y / o duradero. Vivir con violencia, abuso o dificultades económicas a largo plazo puede causar estrés tóxico. El estrés tóxico tiene un efecto duradero en su cuerpo. El estrés tóxico puede hacer que el cerebro y el cuerpo de un niño produzcan grandes cantidades de hormonas del estrés que dañan el cerebro.  


Efecto del estrés en los niños

Como mencionamos anteriormente, ¡el estrés positivo es bueno para los niños! Cuando los ayuda a superar situaciones estresantes, les ayuda a aprender de lo que son capaces y a desarrollar su resiliencia.

El estrés tolerable puede llevar más tiempo para solucionarlo, pero se espera a lo largo de la vida. Si un niño tiene buenas relaciones con adultos que pueden ayudarlo a sobrellevar el evento estresante, el cerebro y el cuerpo del niño pueden recuperarse del estrés.

Las relaciones son aún más importantes con el estrés tóxico. El estrés tóxico daña el cerebro de los niños, que aún se está desarrollando, y puede afectar sus vidas como adultos. Las experiencias tempranas de estrés tóxico pueden resultar en problemas de salud duraderos, como cáncer y enfermedades cardíacas, así como enfermedades mentales, violencia y ser víctima de violencia. Pero la ciencia muestra que los lazos y conexiones fuertes con padres y cuidadores pueden ayudar a proteger el cerebro de los niños de los efectos duraderos del estrés tóxico.

Si el estrés tóxico se detiene y es reemplazado por cosas positivas para el cerebro (atención amorosa de un adulto de confianza, juego saludable, y compartir historias), el cerebro puede deshacer lentamente el daño causado por el estrés. 


Lidiar con el estrés como adulto

Este es un momento estresante. Cuando comenzó la pandemia de COVID-19, es posible que haya experimentado una respuesta de estrés tolerable, que se activó para ayudarlo a navegar la situación aterradora. Hoy, la pandemia continúa, junto con otros problemas comunitarios y de seguridad. Los efectos de la pandemia, como perder un trabajo o ingresos, falta de cuidado infantil o escuela, pérdida de seres queridos por la enfermedad, sentirse aislado, pueden estar provocando una respuesta de estrés a largo plazo. Para algunos, esta respuesta puede ser tóxica.

La buena noticia es que las relaciones también ayudan a los adultos a lidiar con el estrés. Comuníquese con amigos y seres queridos que comprendan por lo que está pasando y puedan ayudarlo. Para obtener ayuda para encontrar grupos o apoyos para padres, comuníquese con Help Me Grow en el condado de San Mateo.

Ser padre es difícil. Para ayudar a su hijo a navegar y manejar el estrés, primero debe cuidarse. También hay cosas que puede hacer como padre que le ayudarán tanto a usted como a su hijo a manejar el estrés, como comunicar lo que está sucediendo y crear rutinas

Si las cosas se sienten demasiado desafiantes o fuera de su control, considere el apoyo de un profesional. El tratamiento de salud mental es un paso importante para mantenerse saludable para usted y su hijo. En el condado de San Mateo, encontrará servicios de salud mental hablando con su proveedor de salud primario o llamando a la Línea de Acceso de BHRS. Para asistencia en caso de crisis, comuníquese con el Centro de Crisis de StarVista.


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A Statement from First 5 San Mateo County

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor are tragic reminders of the country’s legacy of racism and discrimination that harm all our communities.

First 5 San Mateo County stands against racism, oppression, and inequality in all its forms.  We stand in solidarity with our fellow First 5s across California and with all who pursue equity, justice, and human dignity.  We know that experiences of bias, social, and systemic racism begin before a child is even born.  The resulting fear, stress, and trauma steal away the full potential from each child and family.

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Society states “Structural racism is more harmful to the health and well-being of children than infectious diseases, including COVID-19.”

Our work is about seeing inequity in the lives of children and families and trying to do something about it.  We look forward to continuing to partner with parents and leaders throughout San Mateo County and at the state to change conditions that affect child development and family well-being.

The mission of First 5 is more important now than ever:  all children have the right to grow up healthy, safe, and with every opportunity.

Kitty Lopez
Executive Director


EmbraceRace provides tools and resources to help us raise children who are resilient, inclusive, and able to address racial equity. https://www.embracerace.org/

Beverly Daniel Tatum, Is my Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk?
In sharing a story about her preschool-aged son, Dr. Tatum explains how it is the things we don’t say that find their way into racist dialogue and thinking.

NAEYC, Becoming Upended: Teaching and Learning about Race and Racism with Young Children and Their Families.
Schools, in collaboration with families, have an important role to play in fostering young children’s positive racial identities. Here is an extensive resource for early childhood educators to learn and teach about race and racism.

Teaching for Change.
Teaching for Change provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world. https://www.teachingforchange.org/

Cómo Los Padres De Niños Pequeños Están Formando Resiliencia Durante COVID-19

Si sientes que estás experimentando más angustia emocionalmente y dificultades que nunca durante la pandemia de COVID-19, debes de saber que no estás solo. Hablar de tu experiencia puede abrir las puertas para que otros padres hagan lo mismo, y ayudar a construir la conexión y la resiliencia en tu comunidad.

Hoy, te presentamos a Janna, una madre de dos niños menores de cinco años que vive en Pacifica. Janna ha tenido la amabilidad de compartir su historia con nosotros, junto con consejos para practicar el autocuidado y hacer que el aprendizaje sea divertido para los niños pequeños.

Si tú o alguien en tu familia necesita actividades educativas e ideas fáciles y divertidas para realizar en casa con tus hijos durante esta pandemia, te recomendamos a que utilices los recursos que te presentamos abajo.


• First 5 California Centro de Actividades: http://www.first5california.com/es/activity-center.aspx?id=16

• Consejos como hacer videollamadas con niños pequeños: https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/tips-video-chatting-young-children (Inglés)

• First 5 San Mateo County PLAYlist Familiar [por Spotify]: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4uQwvUxli9cxidf40PoV5S?si=O23BS9P3RGuig-Yafw-mJgg (Inglés)