The First 5 Kern story.


First 5 Kern is celebrating 25 years of supporting children and families in Kern County!

July 1, 2023 represented the start of our new fiscal year, and the 25th year of First 5 Kern. Throughout the next 12 months, watch for stories and social media posts highlighting some key moments in the local history of Proposition 10, which was passed by California in 1998.

Our new 25th Anniversary logos are designed to remind us that this is, indeed, a celebration of all that we’ve been able to accomplish with our partners throughout the community: all the unique programs that may not have existed without First 5, and all the children and families whose lives have been impacted.

We will start here in this newsletter, going back to the start of the Kern County Children and Families Commission – our original name, based off the legislation, before the “First 5” moniker was applied. Our official document still say “Children and Families Commission” and it remains our focus, two and a half decades later. The First 5 Kern history page, linked below, can take you through some year-by-year highlights.

If you have a story of how First 5 Kern helped your agency or you, personally, we welcome you to share it with us and help us spread the word on the impact of this important statewide program on our local communities.


First 5 Kern Background:

California voters approved Proposition 10, creating the California Children and Families Act of 1998.

Proposition 10 levied a 50-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes sold, creating a trust fund to invest in child care, and education programs for children prenatal to 5-years-old, and their families, on a local level. The goal was that with this funding children will grow to be healthier, have enhanced language development, increased vocabulary, and be better prepared for kindergarten, education, and life.

Proposition 10 funding has consistently decreased since 2000, primarily due to the decline of tobacco consumption. First 5 efforts across the state are only one piece of the complex needs of families and young children (and have never been adequate to meet ALL early childhood needs across California). Prior to Proposition 10, the majority of childhood development funds were dedicated to children over 5-years-old, kindergarten and above.

Since its inception, First 5 Kern has allocated more than $200 million to programs serving young children and their families.


  • “Children” references children prenatal to 5-years-old throughout.
  • “To date” reflects funding up to the year highlighted.
  • “First 5” reflects First 5 Kern unless otherwise stated (e.g. First 5 California).


For the first time since 2014, First 5 Kern welcomed new leadership to the Executive Director’s office, with Amy Travis taking over in July. Other highlights from the year included:

  • The 2nd Annual Kern County ACEs Conference was held in-person at the Bakersfield Marriott, welcoming over 300 participants
  • The launch of a contract with Kern County DHS to provide developmental screenings for foster care children
  • First 5 California launched two campaigns aimed at childhood trauma: Roar, the Dragon and The Dragon Song encouraged kids to “breathe like a dragon” to let off steam and try calming themselves, and a campaign that was directed toward parents to increase awareness of the health risks of toxic stress in children
  • Participation with UCLA in a tap water study resulted in a report on drinking water concerns for families in Kern County
  • Deborah Murr (Kern Health Systems) and Aaron Resendez (McFarland USD) were appointed as commissioners, with Kelly Richers stepping down due to retirement
  • First 5 Kern staff participated in the launch of the Black Infant and Maternal Health Initiative (BIMHI), a program of Kern County Public Health
  • Staff also attended the First 5 Association Summit, an in-person event for the first time since 2019, held in San Diego
  • First 5 California renewed the IMPACT program, extending it for the next three years. Nearly $4 million has been brought to Kern County for early childhood educational support since the program launch in 2015.
  • Through a partnership with Dr. Anu Rao at Omni Family Health, the release of a “Resource Guide for Families Caring for Medically Fragile Children” was printed and made available
  • Community support for events such as car seat giveaways, the Infant & Toddler seminar, summertime kids events, water safety, parent-child play groups and more

Highlights included:

  • Continuation of the ACEs Aware Kern County grant, featuring two ACEs-related conferences and a pilot project with Omni Family Health
  • continued build out of the KCCN through adoption by many funded programs
  • Community support for events such as baby showers, book giveaways, food baskets and Purple Ribbon Month
  • Longtime ED Roland Maier announced his retirement and new ED Amy Travis was hired to start in early FY2022-23
  • New Commission Chair John Nilon was appointed in the Spring

As the pandemic raged on, interfering with child care, school, and parental support services, many of our programs had to reinvent the ways that they reached families in need. First 5 Kern worked with local and statewide partners to provide thousands of PPE and cleaning items out into the community, while continuing to distribute diapers and books to children and families in need, in addition to the varied list of funded programs. Other highlights included:

  • 9,350 children, along with over 17,000 caregivers and 172 child care providers were served by over three dozen First 5 Kern-funded programs
  • First year of the 2020-25 funding cycle with addition of new programs through CASA, Vision y Compromiso and CAPK
  • Additional COVID relief distribution events
  • Rebranding of Trauma-Informed Kern County as Resilient Kern, and the launch of
  • Securing a grant from ACEs Aware to increase ACE screenings throughout the county
  • Book giveaways through First 5 California and United Way of Kern County partnerships
  • Multimedia marketing campaign in support of Help Me Grow Kern County
  • Support for outreach around the California Earned Income Tax Credit along with a group of nine county-wide partners
  • Supporting the launch of the Kern Connected Community Network

In a year that dramatically impacted everyone, the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic struck and First 5 Kern answered the call. Several events were held to distribute PPE, cleaning and personal care items to hundreds of child care providers throughout the state, as well as our funded programs. The distributed items included:

  • Over 4,600 cases of diapers
  • 600 gallons of all-purpose cleaner
  • 400 gallons of liquid hand soap
  • 95,000 facemasks (kids and adults)
  • 8,300 rolls of toilet paper
  • 6,300 bottles of hand sanitizer

Additionally, the 2020-21 year was highlighted by supporting drive-thru events throughout the county and working with our programs to safely provide services to families.

First 5 Kern celebrated their 20th Anniversary with an event in March, 2019.

This year also saw the formal launch of Help Me Grow Kern County.

Among the program highlights:

  • Over 1,000 families received general case management supports from Focus Area 2: Parent Education and Support Services
  • The Make A Splash and Kern Valley Aquatics Programs helped introduce 596 children to water safety
  • 2-1-1 Kern County received over 6,300 calls for services involving children 0-5
  • 6,043 kids throughout the county participated in Early Childcare and Education programs funded by First 5 Kern, including center-based, Summer Bridge and home-based services

Strategic Planning Town Hall meetings were held in 12 communities across Kern County, to strategically plan and prepare for the 2020, five-year funding cycle. During the year First 5 Kern participated in 27 collaboratives and committees and funded 42 programs.

Funded services were received by 24,918 children through 41 programs and an investment of $8,557,673. Breastfeeding increased across 14 programs to 72% (a 5% increase). Increases in gross and fine motor skills, problem-solving, communication, and personal-social assessments were reflected in 1,464 children across 20 programs. Families who lived in unsafe housing reduced from 21 to seven across nine programs. Preventative dental treatments were provided for 13,774 children.

More than 26,000 Kern County children received services through 40 funded programs in the amount of $10,44,071.Early education activities, at 13 center-based facilities were provided to 1,140 children. Well-child check-ups were provided to 2,495 children.

  • Children’s Mobile Immunization Program provided vaccines to 4,126 children.
  • The Kern County Children’s Dental Health Network provided 15,650 preventative and 2,895 restorative dental services.

First 5 funded programs leveraged nearly $4 million to enhance services provided to Kern children and families. Supporting children to be healthy, active learners, $10,665,764 funded the services of 40 programs.School readiness learning activities helped prepare more than 2,000 children for kindergarten.

  • Differential Response, Domestic Violence Reduction Project and Guardianship Caregiver Projects provided case management to 3,442 families.
  • The information and referral program 2-1-1 Kern County, responded to 10,393 callers with children 0 to 5-years-old.

86,946 Children lived in Kern’s 11 incorporated cities and 41 unincorporated communities. Investment of $10,412,150 in 41 programs provided: 3,551 children with health insurance enrollment (an increase of 10% over the previous year); and 3,920 children with oral health services including dental screenings, fluoride treatments, and oral health education.

  • 13,008 Vaccines from the Children’s Mobile Immunization Program at 174 immunization clinics.

First 5 awarded over $36 million in funding for a three-year period to provide critical services. In the fiscal year, $10,435,266 funded 44 programs. 96% of all families served in early child care and education had their child care needs met at the end of one year of services. Legal and case management services were provided to 10,225 children. Memorandums of understanding for 13 programs were in place, in an effort to provide a more flexible service integration. 93% of all First 5 funded programs served clients referred from other agencies, further emphasizing that coordinated services support quality child health and development.

Through 44 funded partners and an investment of $10,807,789, case management services were given for 2,984 children to increase family stability. Early education programs served 2,655 children; and 2,627 parents/guardians received parent education to increase their knowledge of child development milestones, appropriate parenting skills and/or health education. Immunizations were provided to 4,456 children. Oral health services, dental screenings, fluoride treatments, and oral health education were provided to 3,836 children.

  • The Successful Application Stipend program provided health coverage enrollment to 3,237 children at 20 locations throughout Kern; more than 2,000 children were newly enrolled.
  • Over 3,000 children received dental health screenings and 900 were referred for treatment through the Kern County Dental Health Network.

Since inception, more than 450 programs with 240 organizations worked to ensure children were healthy and prepared to enter school. Expenditure allocations were categorized as 86.2% for direct program benefits, 7.5% administration, and 6.3% for program evaluation. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, $11,890,6161 was invested in early child development and families across 44 programs.

  • Fatherhood Program served 287 dads with engaging activities, parenting classes and case-management
  • 225 children received the protection of legal and case management services through GBLA’s Guardianship Caregiver Project
  • Welcomed new Executive Director Jamie Henderson

Over $9,500,000 was allocated to 37 programs throughout the county during this year, a year in which our county was ravaged by the financial crisis to the tune of a 17% unemployment rate and unprecedented need for local families. Among the highlights:

  • 200 intervention service referrals made by the Medically Vulnerable Infant Program
  • 3,025 children provided oral screenings, plaque assessments and fluoride/sealant applications through the West Kern Children’s Dental Health Network
  • more than 4,000 callers per month connected to the 2-1-1 Kern HelpLine in search of services
  • The School Readiness Initiative funded programs in 10 different Kern County school districts
  • Began the RFP (Request for Proposals) process for the upcoming 2010-13 funding cycle

First 5, by this fiscal year, had allocated more than $100 million to 450 programs of 240 organizations since its inception. In 2007-2008, $12,277,016 was invested in local families of children 0 to 5-years-old.

  • $870,000 was allocated to two projects of Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance to expand its representation to caregivers seeking guardianship and to protect children exposed to domestic violence. The Guardianship Caregiver Project, receiving $503,911 over two years, 500 children and 250 grandparents/caregivers will benefit in finding a safe and permanent home. The Domestic Violence Reduction Project, funded for $366,393 for one year, will serve 450 children and 300 victims – typically battered mothers providing them with legal assistance and case management to reduce domestic violence.
  • First 5 California commits $20 million to a statewide health care program to address the needs of 174,000 uninsured children, under 6-years-old, in California.
  • Wendy Wayne named Executive Director of First 5 Kern.

$23,456,256 was budgeted to fund the creation, management, and evaluation of programs to improve the lives of children in Kern. First 5 California’s Hands-On Mobile Health exhibit paid its first visit to Kern County at the Viva Mexico event at the Kern County Fairgrounds.

  • The Commission invested in agencies including the American Lung Association, Child Health and Disability Program, Clinica Sierra Vista, Inc., Friends of Mercy, Health Net of California, Kern County Department of Public Health, San Joaquin Community Hospital, and West Kern Community College District.
  • After administering more than 54,000 immunizations to 26,000 children a new mobile unit replaced the outdated fifth-wheel of the Children’s Mobile Immunization Unit. To date, First 5 had allocated $2,282,451 to the program.
  • In partnership with the Child Abuse Prevention Center, First 5 Kern launched the annual Ameri-Corps program utilizing six individuals to serve 11 months in the work of serving children and families.
  • The City of Bakersfield obtained a mini-grant to purchase and install rubberized surfaces for playgrounds. First 5 funds allowed the city to upgrade twice the sites they were otherwise funded for.

During the funding year, 3,000 children and 2,400 families were served. More than 10,000 child opportunities to enroll in health care took place. Funding was provided to 17 family resource centers. The mini-grant program aimed to reduce accidental deaths and injuries, through an investment of nearly $100,000. First 5 California’s new Executive Director Kris Perry, appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, visited a First 5 Kern Commision meeting. Perry was a Kern County native and Highlight High School, graduate. To date, 52,743 children and 29,899 families had been served through 231 projects, 188 organizations and more than $82 million.

  • 35 Schools in 13 school districts participated in the School Readiness Initiative.
  • Dental screenings were provided to 2,220 children and referrals to a dental home to 1,500 children. Still, 70% of Kern’s children had no dental care.
  • An investment of $15,000 was made to the Kern County Department of Human Services to educate the public about the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, intended to protect babies from the dangers of newborn abandonment.
  • The Medically Vulnerable Infant Program (MVIP) began receiving funding. MVIP focuses on individual case management for the highest risk premature/small infants who have been identified as needing intensive services after they have been discharged from the hospital.
  • Family Resource Centers and Summer Bridge Programs wee able to provide valuable services to children thanks in part to the nearly $16 million in First 5 funding to date.

52 Child care facilities received $765,461 serving more than 3,000 Kern County children. $56,500 was provided to “good neighbor” projects. To date First 5 programs have served 23,353 children and 6,076 families in Kern to date; and the majority of children receiving services from First 5 funded programs are often receiving these services for the first time, which means the neediest population is benefiting from Prop. 10 funding.

  • The School Readiness Initiative continued to increase test scores and serve more than 6,100 children and their families at family resource centers, community-based organizations, and local schools.
  • Approximately $5,851,308, under an umbrella agreement with the Kern County Network for Children, was provided to community collaboratives.
  • The Children’s Health Initiative Outreach and Enrollment were funded through three programs to assist families in health care enrollment. The Kern Application Assisters Program (KATCH) was awarded $275,000 and Clinica Sierra Vista’s Application Assisters Program was awarded $320,000 to continue the work of Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and Healthy Kids application. More than 4,500 children and nearly 1,000 pregnant women have been successfully enrolled in existing programs to date.
  • Friends of Mercy’s funding was increased to $75,000 (over $50,000 from the previous year) to create a communications system, outreach, and enrollment efforts.

First 5 California (formerly the California Children and Families Commission) introduced the investment of $100 million to implement voluntary Preschool for All throughout California.

  • A $5.1 million investment was made in First 5 California School Readiness Initiative in Kern County. Twelve elementary schools in three districts were selected including Arvin Union School District, Delano Union School District, and Bakersfield City School District.
  • The Children’s Health Initiative was launched, designed to help achieve the goal of increasing early screenings and assessments for all young children. The effort makes access to medical care a priority regardless of their ability to pay in addition to providing a health plan that would serve as a safety net for children who do not qualify for existing health coverage. Up to $2 million was allocated each year for five years to administer the program.
  • A Child Care Action Plan was developed to increase the availability of infant and non-traditional hour child care and would allocate up to $350,000 for the effort. Quality child care was identified as a priority and ranked as the third most important unmet social service needs in Kern County.
  • First 5 launched the Kit for New Parents effort to offer parents with practical advice and resources, including maternal and child health issues. The Commission partnered with private physicians, home visitation programs and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools’ Baby Steps program to get information to new or expectant families.
  • Discovery Depot Child Care Center at Bakersfield Homeless Center was established and became the first early child care center in the state to be located at a homeless shelter; and one of a few in the nation.
  • 48 Licensed child care facilities and family day care homes were awarded a collective $316,282 in mini-grant funds.

Mini-grants in the amount of $259,000 were awarded to 23 facilities ranging from $1,600 to $20,000. First 5 announced that it will increase the mini-grant program to $500,000.

  • To date, the Kern County Network for Children (who oversees local collaboratives) has received $5.1 million in Proposition 10 funding.
  • The Lamont Weedpatch Family Resource Center, which began in 1993, received $100,200 to expand services.
  • The Tooth Fairy Program received $150,602 to assist with dental health and education
  • Funding was approved for the West Kern Community College District, $1 million; Kern Community College District, $300,000; Safe Community Health Center, $175,000; Wind in the Willows, $77,415; and the Kern County Economic Opportunity Corporation Teen Fatherhood Program, $225,000. At this time 90% of children had no regular dental care upon enrollment in First 5 programs.
  • The Project BETTER (Better Education and Training Through Exemplary Services) Family Resource Center opened on the campus of Bakersfield Adult School to serve 30,000 students each year. First 5 funded the project with a $91,805 grant.

More than 300 family advocates, service providers, parents and other community members participated in sessions across Kern, from Greenfield to Lost Hills, Mojave to Frazier Park. Proposition 10 directly impacted the development of 140 full time and 94 part-time positions. First 5 hosted a state meeting of the California Children and Families Commission chaired by Rob Reiner. Pete Parra, Commission Chair and Kern County Supervisor, was named to the Governors new School Readiness Task Force. The first Kern County Proposition 10 grants were awarded in July 2000, allocating more than $30 million to fund 82 individual programs and projects sponsored by 78 organizations; including a $160,000 mini-grant program established to assist licensed daycare facilities with classroom and playground equipment and renovations.

  • In April of 2002, First 5 invested $5 million of Proposition 10 funds, along with a matching $5 million State Proposition 10 funds, towards the School Readiness Initiative including 13 districts and 35 schools countywide.
  • The Commission approved the implementation of Healthy Kids (investing $550k) to ensure all Kern children under 5-years-old had health insurance and a medical, dental and mental health home.
  • The Desert Area Resources and Training Center (DART) received a $98,000 grant to relocate to a new home called the “Therese M. Hall Children’s Center” offering licensed preschool in Ridgecrest to children with disabilities.

The first annual ‘Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Development in Kern County’ was developed to identify local needs in all of Kern’s communities. The first funding cycle included awards for the following programs:

  • Arvin FRC
  • Morning Star Preschool & Child Development Ctr (Capital Project)
  • Buttonwillow Community Resource Center
  • CASA Infant and Toddler Program
  • Adolescent Family Life/Cal-Learn Program
  • Breastfeeding Peer Counselor
  • Indian Wells Valley FRC
  • Southeast Neighborhood Partnership FRC
  • 34th Street Collaborative & South Chester Partnership Collab.
  • CAPK Home Visitation Program
  • East Kern FRC
  • Healthy Children Ready to Learn
  • CHDP Treatment Program – Little Smiles
  • Nurse Family Partnership Program
  • Tooth Fairy Project
  • Delano School Readiness
  • Desert Area Resources and Training (Capital Project)
  • Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Service Extension
  • Mountain Communities FRC
  • Greenfield School Readiness
  • Breastfeeding Education Promotion Support Project
  • Henrietta Weill Early Intervention Program
  • Distant Learning Program
  • Kern County Library Born to Read
  • 21 Local Collaboratives
  • KCSOS Centralized Child Care Information System
  • KCSOS Baby Steps
  • Child Care Health Consultancy
  • Community Connection for Child Care
  • Richardson Special Needs Collaborative
  • KCSOS Family Literacy Project
  • Kern River Valley FRC
  • Warmline
  • Lamont/Vineland School Readiness
  • Lost Hills FRC
  • Kern County Healthy Babies – Healthy Communities
  • McFarland FRC
  • Neighborhood Place Community Learning Center
  • Shafter Healthy Start
  • Generate X-cellent Mentoring Program
  • Children’s Mobile Immunization Program
  • Rosamond Collaborative
  • West Side Community Resource Center
  • Tehachapi Community Partnership
  • Service Integration Project & Volunteer Connection Project
  • Good Beginnings Program
  • KC Children’s Dental Health Network

As required by the State of California, the Kern County Board of Supervisors established the ‘Kern County Children and Families Commission’ (now known as First 5 Kern). Tobacco Tax funds were allocated to the counties based on the number of live births. Statewide the Proposition 10 generated $70 million to fund anti-tobacco education and provide children from prenatal to 5-years-old with a foundation for healthy, productive lives.