Retreat Minutes - July 9, 2015 Print E-mail

Retreat Minutes of 07/09/2015
Corrected and Approved on 8/13/15

I.   Opening
Present: Susan Buckley, Jessica Callahan, Ovieda Elliott, Sydney Fisher Larson, Mark Lovelace, Rebecca Lowry, Sheryl Lyons, Ronnie Swartz
Staff: Wendy Rowan, Andrea Sousa, Jennifer Gonzales
Absent: Dian Pecora
Guests: Nancy Howatt, Mary Ann Hansen

Mark Lovelace opened the Retreat at 8:40 am

Wendy shared that Jennifer Gonzales is working on integrating “Loose Parts” into playgroups and early childhood education facilities.  Loose parts are natural or synthetic found, bought, or upcycled materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change within their play. Loose Parts also provide great opportunities for dialogue and relationship building. Jennifer displayed baskets with loose parts and demonstrated how they provide opportunities for motor, language, cognitive, math, and reasoning skills for children. In addition, social and relationship building skills are a natural skill children and parents learn when playing with loose parts. Commissioners were encouraged to explore to manipulate the sample materials throughout the day.

A free “Loose Parts” workshop for early childhood care and education providers will be offered at College of the Redwoods on October 3rd.  Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky are presenting the workshop. Jennifer shared the book “Loose Parts – Inspiring Play in Young Children,” written by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.

II.   Public Comments and Announcements
No Public Comments or Announcements were made

III.   Approval of Minutes: Commission Meeting Minutes of June 23, 2015
ACTION: The meeting minutes of 6/23/15 were approved as written.

IV.  Consent Calendar:
A. Humboldt County Office of Education:  Developmentally Appropriate Practice for T/K and Pre-K Conference
B. Humboldt County Office of Education:  Desired Results Developmental Profile training

Sydney Fisher Larson and Jessica Callahan announced a conflict of interest, recused themselves, and left the room during the decision-making process.

ACTION: The Consent Calendar items were approved as presented, with Commissioners Fisher Larson and Callahan being absent during the decision-making process.

V.  Action Item: “Our Time Together:  The Playgroup Initiative”
Commissioners received and discussed the Playgroup Initiative document at the last meeting. Wendy asked Commissioners to share their thoughts about the document.

Commissioner Lowry said that she appreciates the document and the infrastructure of the document, which includes best practices, peer support, surveys and survey results, playgroup budgets, partners, etc.  She hopes that the document will be a good way to secure more funding and partners for the playgroup work.  The next step will be envisioning how to strengthen the work, i.e. cultural integration, regional specialists, natural leaders, etc. Commissioner Lowry shared that the California Wellness Foundation is interested in investing in rural communities, and suggested looking into possibly forming a partnership.

Commissioner Callahan shared that she is proud of this document, which is needed to move into the future to enhance the playgroups. The document is a good template for our partners, has everything that is needed to open and close a playgroup, which will help future playgroup considerations. Commission Callahan shared how she became involved in playgroups after moving to Humboldt County, and how she developed relationships and connections with other parents. She appreciates the peer support piece of the Playgroup Initiative, likes the idea of the parent cafés and parent participation, which is important for parent/child connections.

Commissioner Lowry also has been involved as a playgroup parent for a long time.  She talked about the nutrition component that was available to playgroups in past years, which she feels was very relevant for some parents. She is looking forward to seeing this component coming back to the playgroups.

Commissioner Elliott mentioned that she was impressed with the document and liked that each playgroup could edit and modify the document to make it functional for their needs. The document is well written and is a user-friendly product. Commissioner Elliott hopes that the document could be used for obtaining leveraged funding and hopes that playgroups will be implemented state-wide.

Commissioner Swartz said he appreciates that research is included in the document, which can be used to increase the effectiveness and to strengthen future research. The Parent & Family Support Subcommittee has been struggling with how to show the impact of playgroups in an era of evidence-based practices being the focus for human services.

Wendy shared that the Evaluation Action Team has been discussing this and is looking into how to address the evaluation piece and parent engagement piece for possible funding sources. Wendy talked about the newly created First 5 California Impact Funds, for which she intends to apply. She has talked with Social Entrepreneurs about the evaluation component and technical assistance. Social Entrepreneurs has worked with First 5 Monterey County, through Packard Foundation funding, to develop the publication “Best Practices in Playgroups:  Research Review and Quality Enhancement Framework for First 5 Monterey County Playgroups Serving Children 0-3 Years Old.” Wendy also shared that Social Entrepreneurs has worked with the Northwest Region in developing a research evaluation project “The Impact of First 5 in California’s Northwest Region,” which was compiled using 10 years of evaluation data.

Wendy and Mary Ann Hansen participated in a webinar about the First 5 California Impact Funds and Wendy feels that these funds are a good fit for our Playgroup Initiative. If the document is approved by the Commission today, then she will submit the Letter of Intent to First 5 California tomorrow.  Commissioner Fisher Larson questioned how the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), can be implemented into playgroups. The QRIS is part of the First 5 California Impact Funds component. Wendy shared that First 5 California will provide technical assistance in Phase 2 of the funding cycle, and they could help with showing how to balance family strengthening with early childhood education.

Commissioners discussed the concept of evidence-based practices, and the different levels of evidence-based practices. Commissioners also discussed how to find “natural leaders” within the communities, and not to lose the opportunity to include the talent of natural leaders in the playgroup work, and how to reinforce that playgroup reaches across all income and social levels. Wendy talked about the John McKnight work, which addresses community involvement and community identification, which is included in the Playgroup Initiative document.  She reminded Commissioners that the playgroup work will always need community involvement to be a successful program. Commissioners discussed the importance of regional specialists and communities that would benefit from the work of the regional specialists.

Commissioners discussed how many playgroups could be funded with First 5 Humboldt funds.  We currently support 18 playgroups throughout Humboldt County and a limit to support 20 playgroups is recommended. Commissioner Buckley suggested responding to requests from community leaders and how to develop a structure to ensure we are making the resource available to parents. She feels more playgroups are needed within the city limits of Eureka and that parents should have the opportunity to engage in more playgroups in Eureka. Wendy shared that there are 2 additional sites that could be considered for Eureka. She also hopes to invite local funders to commit long-term funding for establishing some new playgroup sites.

Commissioners questioned the purpose of approving this document, since the budget already has been approved and funding for the Playgroup Initiative is included in the budget. Wendy answered that by approving this document, it will confirm that the playgroup work will be a priority for the Commission for the next 10 years.  The document outlines how playgroups in the county will be strengthened and protected for young children and their families into the future. The document will be viewed as a roadmap to help secure partners and additional funding.  Commissioner Swartz mentioned the document also acknowledges the work the Commission has done in regards to playgroups over the last 10 years.

ACTION: Commissioners adopted “Our Time Together:  The Playgroup Initiative” as presented.

IV.  Discussion Item: Fiscal Management for the Future
Commissioners discussed trends and the management of the Commission’s resources for the future support of key programs serving young children in the county.

Nancy Howatt joined the conversation. She shared that the Commission’s practices are in compliance with GASB and First 5 California requirements. The unique aspect of the Commission’s funding is that the programs successes drive the funding, setting aside politics and special interest. This philosophy has been sustained throughout the last 15 years and Commission membership turnover. As Wendy will retire at the end of the year, Commissioners need to be more aware of the management of the Commission’s resources, and to assist the incoming Executive Director with the Commission’s fiscal practices.  Nancy will be available to meet with the incoming E.D. on a regular basis to assist with negotiating the Commission’s financial system. Over the past years, Nancy and Commission staff have spent a lot of time in creating information and spreadsheets to make the Commission’s financial status more transparent. Nancy asked Commissioners how she can help with the financial aspect of the Commission’s resources and what details they would like to see as the focus will narrow. The Strategic Plan is due for a revision in Fiscal Year 2016/2017, and, as funding declines, the goals of the Strategic Plan will most likely be narrowed.

Commissioner Elliott asked if a spreadsheet can be developed that shows the percentage of funding by each Strategic Plan goal.  This will help in considering future Strategic Plan revisions.  Commissioner Elliott also suggested revisiting the Commission’s Policies and making necessary updates, if appropriate. Wendy said that the Safety Net Policy needs to be revised, but this could be done with the release of the updated Strategic Plan.

Commissioner Swartz inquired about the Commission’s ability to take more risk with investments.  Nancy replied that the County Treasurer has done a good job in handling the Prop.10 funds and has had good returns for Governmental investments. Since Prop. 10 funds are public funds, our County Commission has limited investment options and does not have the available staff to oversee investments. First 5 Los Angeles, for example, has fiscal analysts and investors that are solely dedicated to making and monitoring investments. Wendy informed Commissioners that staff and the Fiscal Subcommittee spent a full year with a fiscal consultant to get advice about investment options and the options of moving our funds out of the County Treasurer. The Fiscal Subcommittee did have discussions with Humboldt Area Foundation and considered how to partner with them in terms of investment of funds. With all the information received, it was decided to leave the funds with the County Treasurer. The County does take the liability for the funds; with us being a small Commission, the liability remains very high. Wendy suggested that the Commission may want to look into other investment options again, or the Fiscal Subcommittee could look into this. The County Treasurer could be invited to a Commission meeting to address investment options. Nancy said that, due to the Sustainability Fund, the Commission does have a good cash flow. With the GASB 68 requirements to show pension liabilities, the Sustainability Fund gives the Commission the flexibility to maintain our liabilities. Commissioners requested to receive regular fiscal updates with the Executive Director report at meetings.  Andrea offered to share the Fiscal Subcommittee meeting minutes with Commissioners, in addition to providing the monthly expenditure reports. Commissioner Swartz inquired about investment options of other non-profit entities. Commissioner Lovelace replied that the Headwaters Fund considered other investment options, but with the limitations of investments with public funding, they decided to stay with the County Treasurer. Commissioner Lovelace suggested it may be good to look at investing a certain amount for a specific goal or a specific program, i.e. the Playgroup Initiative. Nancy Howatt mentioned that there could be opportunities with future revenue to consider investment options. Wendy shared that this could possibly be addressed, depending on the outcome into the inquiry with the Board of Equalization’s use of Prop.10 funds, or taxing of e-cigarettes or the new tobacco tax measure.

Wendy recapped the requests from Commissioners, which will be addressed at future meetings, which include a discussion with the County Treasurer, developing a chart showing funding by Strategic Goals, and fiscal and policy briefings at Commission meetings. Commissioner Lowry also requested a chart showing the geographic distribution of funds.

VII.   Discussion Item: “Help Me Grow”
Commissioners discussed the emerging model for integrating systems to better serve young children.  Mary Ann Hansen joined the discussion. The “Help Me Grow” system promotes the early detection of children at risk for developmental and behavioral problems, provides a centralized call center as a single point of entry for community-based programs and services, and links children and their families with the appropriate resources quickly and effectively.  Rigorous data collection allows for continuous quality improvement, while also demonstrating the system’s success.

Commissioner Elliott led the discussion and explained that “Help Me Grow” could be implemented in our County to serve children age 0-5 and their families, in particular to help identify early developmental symptoms.  “Help Me Grow” is gaining serious traction to be used as a tool for counties throughout California to help identify where they are in the process. Several First 5 counties are implementing “Help Me Grow” and the movement is growing to implement “Help Me Grow” in all 58 counties. Commissioner Elliott shared that some counties use their 211 entity as the centralized call center, and have had good outcomes. The call center uses a tool identifying the families need and helps the families to make connections and referrals.  The call center also follows-up with the family to assure the family received the help they needed.

Commissioners reviewed the County Worksheet – Help Me Grow Structural Requirements and Core Components, which has several categories under Structural Requirements and Core Components. Organizing Entity, Countywide Spread, and Continuous Quality Improvement fall under the Structural Requirements.  Centralized Telephone Access Point, Community Outreach, Child Health Care Provider Outreach, and Data Collection and Analysis fall under the Core Components. Commissioners discussed the Structural Requirements and the Core Components, and talked about how they could work in our county. Mary Ann mentioned that the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is an interesting screening tool that is designed for parents, has good fluidity and is easy to understand.

Commissioners discussed challenges with encouraging providers and schools to use the screening tool, in particular schools.  Schools have limited funding available to identify children at risk, but they are now required to identify mental health screenings. Ways for evaluation data tracking and how to support our existing 211 entity to implement the “Help Me Grow” system should be addressed. The question arose how to identify a child at risk without the child being labeled, and the capacity to serve the identified child. Commissioner Elliott mentioned that the “Help Me Grow” system is not necessarily just for high needs children, it can be used as a point of contact for all parents having questions and concerns about their children. This Agenda Item will be continued at the August meeting.

VIII.  Discussion Item: Harm Reduction and Screen Time
The potential of a harm reduction model helping with the challenge of screen time and young children was discussed.  Commissioner Swartz led the discussion and talked about multiple ways screen time could be identified, not just as watching television or playing computer games.  Screen time also depends on what kind of screen the child is exposed to, what the screen is projecting, i.e. flashes, colors; what interaction the child has with the screen, i.e. movement, stationary, buttons, engaging in activities. When giving guidance for age-appropriate screen time for children, how can the Commission be a resource beyond how much time the child spends in front of the TV?  In addition, the reason why children are exposed to screen time needs to be considered, i.e. as a learning tool, as stimulation, or other reasons. Commissioner Elliott shared that screen time for children with Autism has therapeutic impact, so coming up with a balance is important.

With today’s dependence on technology and screen time, it is important to choose the right tools to help parents with selecting screen time for their children. Also, we want to convey a positive message and being cognizant about the role of screen time in a child’s life. Tips for screen time alternatives could be given as a resource, i.e. “fun things to do while you are traveling,” or “fun things to do while you are in a shopping line.” Screen time could be used as a tool for learning and discussion, like talking to your child about the advertisements they are exposed to on TV.  Commissioners discussed the different temperaments of children, with some children needing noise and some children needing a quiet environment to be stimulated.

Wendy suggested that providing alternative activities, i.e. encouraging reading, active play, etc. would be positive messaging. The “Give your child the world outside the box” message that we developed a few years ago could be utilized again.  This Agenda Item will be continued at a future meeting.

IX.  Discussion Item: Investing in Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families:  An Urgent Need:  A Policy Overview from the First 5 Association of California
This policy overview was presented and discussed at prior Commission meetings. Commissioners followed up on earlier discussions of the policy overview and identified advocacy priorities for each recommendation of the policy paper. The six recommendations of the policy overview are:  1. Provide universal access to a continuum of research-informed and evidence-based voluntary newborn home visiting programs; 2. Commit to ensuring that 100% of California children receive recommended developmental screening and appropriate referrals;  3. Ensure all children have a health and dental home where they can receive preventive services; 4. Expand access to parent education and parent-child learning programs that strengthen families’ resilience, expand support systems, and reduce child abuse and neglect; 5. Dedicate funding to increase access, affordability, and quality for early childhood education programs; and 6. Strengthen the state-level infrastructure for an early childhood system of care.

The following chart notes were recorded for the Discussion Item:
1. Voluntary Newborn Home Visiting Programs:
a)      Track our county dollars?
b)      One visit for each mom would be nice
c)      Midwives general practice for home visits?
d)      Designated funding stream
e)      Assure best practice through integrated systems training & support
f)       Interface of parent mental health support

2. Developmental Screening and Appropriate Referrals:
a)      Relationship between home visiting and screening?
b)      Practice of providing developmental screening – supported/education/mandated
c)      Bridge between DRDP (ECE) and medical providers / with ACES and OBs

3. Health and Dental Home:
a)      Children’s Dental Strategic Plan underway
b)      Denti-Cal rates
c)      Incentives for securing providers
d)      Is medical home access an issue?

4. Parent Education & Parent-Child Learning Programs:
a)      Research for playgroups
b)      Full-time employed parent support provided
c)      What is the interface of CCS and family strengthening?
d)      How do we relate to local control of funding? Speak at public hearings?

5. Early Childhood Education Programs:
a)      Access, Affordable, Quality Child Care
b)      Align Title V and XXII
c)      Ensure Title V reimbursement rates cover the actual cost of care
d)      Increase CDTC cost per unit reimbursement
e)      Increase education requirements across all child care systems
f)       Access to a variety of quality child care programs

6. Early Childhood System of Care:
a)      State-level infrastructure system of care
b)      Sharing data (administrative as example)

X.  Discussion Item: Collaborative Partnerships & Linkages
Commissioners discussed primary partnerships and potential interests and opportunities for the future.  The following chart notes were recorded for this Discussion Item:

  • Humboldt County Office of Education
  • North Coast Grantmaking Partnership
  • St. Joseph Health System
  • Redwood Community Action Agency
  • Department of Health & Human Services
  • Humboldt County Library
  • Humboldt State University


  • True North – Community Convening Organizing
  • Hmong Population

Humboldt State University Partnership:  Wendy shared she recently met with Dean Lee of Humboldt State University (HSU), College of Professional Studies, about the progress in HSU’s work in envisioning a Northwest Child Trauma Institute. Dean Lee shared a power-point slide, which Commissioners reviewed. The power-point slide addresses HSU’s vision in recruiting faculty with expertise in community mental health, strengthening existing and developing new programs & offerings, and investments in strengthening families and communities. Dean Lee invited Wendy to attend a meeting in fall of 2015 and she will keep the Commission updated of the progress. Wendy suggested if Commissioners have questions to please give them to her to address at the meeting.

Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Partnership:  Commissioner Buckley is considering providing more updates of the work DHHS has done that would be of interest to First 5, i.e. Oral Health, the Bridges Fund, Healthy Growth, SafeCare, and Incredible Years. Commissioner Lyons talked about the movement of DHHS departments stepping back from the leadership role and concentrating on relationship building with partners. She talked about the Humboldt Practice Model, which is a way of engaging with families to connect to their culture and finding a family network (best practice model implementation). Commissioner Lovelace announced that, with Phil Crandall’s upcoming retirement, the Board of Supervisors hired a consulting firm to look at the DHHS structure. The consulting firm is receiving input from employees, partners, and the community about the structure of DHHS, i.e. issues, culture, relationships, what works and what doesn’t, etc. This input will be put into consideration as a roadmap of how to move forward in streamlining the DHHS administration.

True North & Hmong Population:  Commissioner Lowry suggested forming partnerships with community organizing groups, i.e. True North.  The suggestion was made for True North to make a presentation at a future Commission meeting. Commissioner Callahan suggested forming and deepening partnerships with the Native American population and the Hmong population in Humboldt County.

XI.   Closing: Fiscal Year 2015-2016
Commissioners discussed their hopes, concerns, and interests for the new Fiscal Year.  The following chart notes were recorded:

  • Social issues will continue – no shortage of work to be done  Sydney
  • Not fixed!  Should be work of society  Mark
  • Burden of drugs & alcohol issues and pregnant women using  Susan
  • Who carries on the work in ten years?  Ovieda
  • Developing the next generation of leadership  Sydney
  • Build organizations Mark
  • Parent continued use of substances  Susan
  • Helping parents to give their children a better start in life  Mark

The Retreat was closed at 4 pm

Next Meeting:
Thursday, August 13, 2015
8 am to 10 am
First 5 Humboldt Office

Minutes compiled by:  Andrea Sousa, Executive Secretary, First 5 Humboldt, 1012 - 2nd Street, Eureka, 95501

Next Meetings:
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015; 8 – 10 am, First 5 Office
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015; 5 – 7 pm, Humboldt Area Foundation
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015; 5 – 7 pm, Location TBD
Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015; 8 – 10 am, First 5 Office