Why FIRST 5? Family life used to be much easier. Parents didn’t have to work so hard to make ends meet. Grandparents or other family lived down the street. If you needed someone to watch the kids, or if you had a question about measles or misbehavior, help was right nearby. Today, many parents are dealing with longer work hours, frequent moves, blended families, and relatives living far away. We truly love our kids. But some days it’s a struggle to give them all the care and attention they need in order to thrive later in life. In 1998, California voters created FIRST 5 to help families raise children in a new and changing world. Using tobacco tax money, Californians now invest $700 million per year in healthy child development – because if we don’t, we’ll eventually spend much more on school dropouts, substance abuse, health care, mental health care, and crime prevention. FIRST 5 Mendocino Here in Mendocino County, FIRST 5 spends more than one million dollars each year to help children ages 0 - 5 get: Overview * better health care; * better nutrition; * more exercise; * better child care; and * better preschool education. Each year we also give away thousands of free smoke alarms, free children’s books, and free children’s art supplies, as well as free DVDs on nutrition, safety, quality child care, health, discipline, and early learning. Some of our money is spent on grants – meaning that we write a check to a local person or organization, then evaluate the outcome of their work. The rest of our money is spent on partnerships -- meaning that FIRST 5 staff shares the work with other organizations. See GRANTS or PARTNERSHIPS to read more about specific projects. A Horse of a Different Color Each county in California has a FIRST 5 office. In Mendocino County, we’re known for: * Creative Use of Resources: Each year, Mendocino County receives about $900,000 from the state FIRST 5. In the last few years, though, our budget has been closer to $1.5 million. That’s because we use our state allocation to bring other funds that benefit children into the community. For example, we often successfully compete for grants from FIRST 5 California or private foundations. Also, we place 15 AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers in local partner agencies every year, thereby bringing in another $150,000 in federal funds to benefit young children. * Innovation: In addition, FIRST 5 Mendocino is known for its willingness to experiment with new ideas. We were one of the first, and the smallest, in the state to create a community partnership that successfully developed a universal children’s health insurance program. Also, our Raise & Shine program, which helps families with child behavior issues, is quickly becoming a model for other California counties. We are now advising a half-dozen other communities that hope to offer similar services to families. * Fair Distribution of Resources: Finally, FIRST 5 Mendocino is unusual in that it widely disperses its funds, roughly based on the population in each area of the county. We understand that our geography and transportation are serious barriers for families. As you can see from the map below, the work of our partners and grantees benefits children from Round Valley to Gualala, and just about every point in between.