Neighborhoods Ready for School
Neighborhoods Ready for School (NRFS) is a place-based initiative launched by First 5 Alameda County in 2018 to support equity and neighborhood-led investment, programming, and policy related to early childhood development, family health and well-being, and kindergarten readiness.
The goals of NRFS are to:
- Support community, family, and child development needs
- Create connectivity and coordination that result in an integrated neighborhood-based family and early childhood system
- Increase children’s school readiness and decrease inequities in access to readiness experiences
- Align and/or co-locate outreach and services for families of children birth to age five, inclusive of housing, transportation, employment, and safety-net supports
- Improve local coordination among providers and transitions for families
- Develop/evolve formal referral and linkage processes and build provider capacity
- Establish data sharing, and where appropriate, develop and report on collective goals
- Facilitate the access of capital for community-based assets through fund development, blended funding, and maximized use of public, philanthropic, and private dollars
- Identify and advocate for needed policy changes to support NRFS work and promote sustainability
Place-Based Approach to Equity in Early Childhood
In order to center equity and partner with neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved due to racist, classist systems and policies, First 5 developed a list of priority zip codes weighing a variety of factors. First 5 used this list to give priority to organizations applying to be part of the NRFS program that were already connected to and working with specific populations, including low-income families, English-language learners, children of color, children with disabilities and medical issues, and fathers. NRFS priority zip codes include 94601, 94603, 94605, 94606, 94607, 94621, 94541, 94544, and 94578.
NRFS Priority Zip Codes
Through ongoing engagement with families in the places where they live, the NRFS program engages families and community members around policy and advocacy in an intentional way. Grants from NRFS enable partners to address barriers and disparities by building a network of early childhood services and community supports based on the needs and desires of residents. A successful NRFS model develops neighborhood partnerships and collaborative networks across systems of providers and community stakeholders to ensure families have access to services and social and economic supports.
NRFS Program Components
NRFS grantees are community-based partners and leaders working to ensure that children and families can more easily and consistently access resources and supports by coordinating existing services and programs and making strategic investments in community infrastructure, such as family-friendly spaces for playing, learning, and connecting
Current NRFS partners include: San Antonio Family Resource Center, Lincoln, Roots Community Health Center, and Union City Family Center. The grants are not intended solely to build and create program service centers, but to bring together disparate resources unique to each neighborhood. NRFS has served over 2,343 parents and caregivers and has engaged with 82 community partners since inception. The impact at each site varies depending on the neighborhood's assets and needs. Lessons learned inform local investment, community engagement, and policy advocacy. Learn more about each site and its impact:
ALL IN Alameda County partners with Lotus Bloom, EBAYC, and Trybe to launch a Family Resource Center in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood.
Lincoln launched an Early Childhood Initiative and Family Resource Center designed by West Oakland residents and informed by the success of Lincoln’s East Oakland Family Resource Center.
Roots Community Health Center is developing the East Oakland Ready for School Network, a neighborhood network of nonprofits, community members and organizations in East Oakland to improve health outcomes and school readiness, particularly for African American families with children ages birth to 5.
Union City Family Center enhanced its pipeline of supports through its Family Center to increase resources and programing for families with young children to support school readiness in the Decoto Community.
Alignment with ACGOV Vision 2026
NRFS goals, programs, and activities align with the 2026 Alameda County vision to advance health equity. The Alameda County Public Health Department found disparities existing in zip codes within miles from each other. These significant gaps could indicate a life expectancy difference of up to 15 year.
NRFS was a response to leverage these insights, specifically through a place-based approach. NRFS creates the infrastructure for neighborhoods to uplift themselves; making sure that not only families have everything they need but the neighborhood. NRFS also helps bridge program relationships to increase capacity building within neighborhoods.
Meeting the Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the pandemic, NRFS continues to make sure that families have their basic needs met, while taking preventative measures to ensure the wellbeing of the community. The investment in NRFS sites created an infrastructure which allowed First 5 to quickly pivot to respond to community need when COVID-19 exacerbated inequities and disparate harm to low-income and communities of color. First 5 invested in food and basic needs supplies, and all the NRFS sites became (or enhanced existing) distribution hubs for food, cleaning products, diapers, wipes, and hygiene items, and personal protective equipment for providers. Every NRFS site has had a tailored response based on the understanding of their community to ensure that basic needs of families are met.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ALL IN Alameda County adopted five priority neighborhoods based on a health equity metric which closely mirrors the location of First 5’s NRFS grantees. There is tremendous potential for ALL IN to serve as a policy table to lift up the lessons learned through our place-based efforts and leverage our infrastructure and investments through NRFS to support the county’s vision.