We at First 5 San Mateo County (F5SMC) are so excited to welcome our newest commissioner, Claire Cunningham, to the team. She brings a wealth of experience and passion for the well-being of children and families. Claire shared insights into her background, inspirations, and hopes for the future with us, shedding light on how her unique experiences align with First 5 San Mateo County’s mission and values. We are excited for our community to get to know her!
Tell me about your experiences with First 5 as a parent and as a commissioner. What have you learned?
CC: Claire Cunningham’s journey to becoming a First 5 Commissioner commenced in July 2023 when I was appointed as the Director of the San Mateo County Human Services Agency. With over fifteen years of experience as a Chief Deputy in the San Mateo County Attorney’s Office, Cuningham has been a loyal advocate for educational agencies. My role as general counsel to school districts exposed me to the diverse legal issues in an educational setting, reinforcing the importance of a strong foundation for children’s success. My work in creating the Coalition for Safe Schools and Communities showcases my commitment to community safety.
Cunningham’s current role as the Director of the Human Services Agency aligns seamlessly with F5SMC’s mission, focusing on the right of all children to grow up healthy, safe, and with every opportunity. My oversight of Children & Family Services within HSA, which includes Foster Care, Child Protective Services, Adoptions, Family Resource Centers, Youth Services, and Safe Surrender, reinforces my commitment to ensuring the health and strength of families in San Mateo County.
Why is it important that First 5 San Mateo County provides families with early childhood services?
CC: Making sure that First 5 San Mateo County helps families with early childhood services is really important. Families in places like San Mateo County where things cost a lot, face many challenges. Early childhood services, which include teaching parents, keeping kids healthy, providing childcare, and supporting families, are super important for helping kids grow up well. As a Commissioner, using my experience in education and community safety, I can see that these services really help kids develop in a good way. First 5 SMC does important work by giving kids a strong start in their early years, breaking down obstacles, and making sure every child has a chance to grow up healthy, safe, and ready for success. Their work matches perfectly with our mission, making sure all kids have the right to a great future.
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?
CC: In my role as a First 5 Commissioner, I am enthusiastic about the future and committed to supporting initiatives that ensure every child in San Mateo County, regardless of their socio-economic status, has the opportunity to thrive. Reflecting on my own experiences as a parent, I vividly recall the challenges I faced in finding safe and nurturing childcare for my children. Balancing work demands and childcare struggles was a daily reality, and I understand firsthand the importance of the work and advocacy undertaken by First 5 to address the childcare shortage.
My personal journey, navigating through the difficulties of finding reliable childcare while managing the health concerns of my children, fuels my dedication to contributing to First 5’s critical mission. As a parent who has experienced the stresses of juggling work and family, I bring a deep understanding of the challenges faced by many working parents in our community.
Looking ahead, I envision my work as a Commissioner continuing to focus on improving child health, development, and family functioning. By drawing from my own experiences and collaborating with the First 5 team, I aim to contribute to the success of our communities. My dedication is rooted in gratitude for the privileges I had, and I am committed to advocating for solutions that make these essential services more accessible and supportive for all families. The future of First 5, in my perspective, involves a continued commitment to addressing challenges like the childcare shortage, ensuring that families receive the support they need for a healthier and thriving community.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the First 5 San Mateo County community?
CC: I want to express my gratitude for the impactful work that this community is engaged in, striving to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families. The dedication to addressing crucial issues such as childcare shortages is commendable, and I am excited to contribute to these ongoing efforts.
In the spirit of collaboration and shared commitment, I look forward to working alongside the First 5 team and the broader community to ensure that our children grow up in a nurturing environment, supported by the resources and services they need for a bright and promising future. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the well-being of our community’s youngest members, and I am eager to be a part of this transformative journey with First 5 San Mateo County.