First 5 will open Oakhurst resource center

Program has been serving county children and families for 12 years

Brian WilkinsonOctober 4, 2012 

First 5 Madera County, a program to enhance early childhood development, will open a Family Resource Center in Oakhurst the first week in November. The center will be located in the Camarena Health Care building adjacent to the Sierra Star at 49169 Crane Valley Road (426) and the public is encouraged to attend the facilities opening celebration complete with a petting zoo 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 3.

"The mission of First 5 is to enhance early child development, child health care and family involvement by developing unique programs based on the needs of the community," said Chinayera Black-Hardaman, First 5 Madera County executive director. "The needs of Eastern Madera County are certtainly unique which is why the Oakhurst center is being customized to better serve the area. All our programs are focused on preparing young children for school and over the past 12 years, First 5 Madera County has invested more than $19 million in programs and initiatives that promote children's health and prepare children for school intellectually, socially and emotionally, along with supporting our children's families," Black-Hardaman said.

In November 1998, California voters approved the Children and Families First Act, commonly known as Proposition 10. Proposition 10, which levied a 50 cents per pack tax on cigarettes, was designed to fund early childhood development and anti-tobacco education programs.

As a first of its kind, Proposition 10 created the opportunity for counties throughout the state to solicit community input in order to identify and address the health, child development and family needs of California's youngest population -- children zero to five years old.

Pursuant to the passage of Prop 10, in 1998, the Madera County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance to establish the Madera County Children and Families Commission which held its first meeting on March 28, 1999. Black-Hardaman is the organization's founding executive director.

The Oakhurst Family Resource Center will staff a part-time First 5 family advocate provide a range of services for parents and children in the Mountain Area including child development, literacy, nutrition and fitness activities.

The center will also serve as a referral center for additional child development services in the area, as well as provide health care enrollment assistance.

Additionally, First 5 will deploy programs in the outlying communities partnering with pre-schools, churches, libraries and community centers in Bass Lake, Ahwahnee, North Fork, Coarsegold, Yosemite Lakes Park, O'Neals and Raymond.

Eastern Madera County long time resident and First 5 Commissioner Sara Wilkins said services provided through First 5 are needed as much today as ever.

Black-Hardaman reiterates those sentiments by highlighting the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008 reported that 18.2% of Madera County households were below the federal poverty line.

"As we all know, poverty in turn affects health, education and family stability -- especially for young children," Black-Hardaman said. "And due to the recession and state and county budgetary challenges, there are many families who are struggling economically and need more support than ever before. Though much has changed since 1998, the commission's commitment to Madera County's children remains stronger than ever."

First 5 Madera County has served more than 65,000 children in Madera County under 5 years old since its inception.

Family Resource Centers were established in Madera in 2004 and in Chowchilla/Fairmead in 2009.

In addition to Wilkins, the current commission is made up of Madera County School Superintendent Cecilia Massetti, representatives from the medical field and Madera County Public Health and Social Services Departments. Madera County Board of Supervisor Chairman Ronn Dominici serves as commission chairperson.

"We are looking forward to opening the Oakhurst Family Resource Center and meeting children and parents of Eastern Madera County," said First 5 Madera County Family Resource Center Manager Elizabeth Catanesi.

Details: First 5 Madera County, (559) 661-5155, first5madera.net.

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