Excerpt from San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzalez’s blog.

Californians put their children first. It’s the reason why voters passed Prop 10 in 1998 to generate tobacco tax revenue to fund local programs that invest in our youngest children’s health, educational development, and most importantly, their families.

Funds from Prop 10 are distributed from the state to counties through agencies like the Children and Families Commission for San Bernardino, also known as First 5 San Bernardino. First 5 provides children ages 0-5 and their families with resources like preschool enrollment, health care, early education programs, parent education, employment, and supportive services. Parents can find out how to access these services by visitingwww.first5sanbernardino.org or dialing 2-1-1 and asking the operator about First 5 San Bernardino.

First 5 services are typically provided by accredited agencies like Reach Out, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that supports children through programs like their Nurturing Parenting Program, a 12 to 16-week course that helps parents understand the social and emotional development of their children.

“I expected going into the program to learn information about feeding my daughter, time-out, things to help us get through our day,” said Mathew Lomelin, (as quoted in The Daily Bulletin) a local father of two from Rancho Cucamonga. “To my surprise, Nurturing Parenting went above and beyond that. I learned through this program that being a parent is more than just having an obedient kid, you’re building someone. It not only helped me be a better parent, but it helped me be a better person.”

First 5 San Bernardino is guided and led by the Children and Families Commission that consists of seven commissioners; one of them is Supervisor Josie Gonzales.

“Our duty on the commission is to make sure the taxpayer’s dollar is wisely invested in our most precious resource, our children,” Supervisor Gonzales said.

“Those investments must include constant communication, collaboration, and cooperation with existing county resources and stakeholders that have common goals in order to streamline services and maximize benefits for families with children 0-5 years of age. It is extremely important to align First 5 San Bernardino programs and resources with our partners to prepare our kids for success in the school system.”

The end result of these programs is that parents are able to find greater meaning and enjoyment in their roles as mom or dad, which means a happier family at home and a more supportive, nurturing environment for their children.

This fiscal year, First 5 San Bernardino used a $34 million budget to promote, support, and enhance the early development of children, their families and communities.

As the agency’s name implies, First 5 San Bernardino focuses on the 0-5 age population. Brain development research indicates that a child’s first emotional, physical, and intellectual environments have a profound impact on how his or her brain develops. In short, positive early childhood experiences create a foundation for future lifelong success.

“Typically there is a lack of funding and programs to support the most critical developmental period of our children’s lives. With First 5 San Bernardino’s new strategic plan, we seek to be more collaborative and systemic in our approach to focus on positive outcomes and greater gains for children,” Karen Scott, executive director of First 5 San Bernardino, said.

“Realizing our vision to see children healthy, safe, nurtured, eager to learn, and ready to succeed will be beneficial to our families and the future of our county’s vitality.”

In the last few years First 5 San Bernardino’s service population has doubled according to their most recent data. In 2013-14, the agency served 9,084 children (56 percent increase from 2012-13) and 4,448 parents (45 percent increase from 2012-13).

Children are served through preschool enrollment, health care access, dental services, health and developmental screenings, and early literacy programs. Parents can use First 5 San Bernardino to find access to family literacy programs, parent education, employment and supportive services from the commission’s funded agencies.

Together these First 5 San Bernardino services help families develop and maintain long-term self-sufficiency and provide critical education that ensures children are safe, healthy, and receive the best possible start in life.

Visit www.first5sanbernardino.org for more information.