ACEs Aware Series

Investing in our Children / Invirtiendo en Nuestros Niños


In late 2016, Supervisor Ryan Coonerty called on First 5 Santa Cruz County and other stakeholders to help develop a local initiative to support the healthy development of the county’s youngest children. Recognizing that the first three years of life, starting in the prenatal period, provide the greatest window of opportunity to build a strong foundation for lifelong health and well-being, the initiative was given the title, “Thrive by Three.”


On January 24, 2017, Supervisor Coonerty issued a letter to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, co-authored by Supervisor Zach Friend, calling for the creation of a Thrive by Three children’s fund and identifying six desired outcomes for the fund:

  • Decreased rates of substantiated child maltreatment and entries into foster care among infants and toddlers
  • Increased percentages of young mothers getting prenatal care in the first trimester
  • Decreased percentages of babies being born preterm and low birth weight
  • Decreased percentages of mothers and fathers reporting hardships and emotional distress during pregnancy and the child’s first three years of life
  • Improved parental confidence, parenting practices, and parent-child relationships
  • Increased access to high-quality care and early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers


Approved by the Board of Supervisors, the letter called on the County Administrative Officer to establish the fund by dedicating $350,000 in the 2017-18 Santa Cruz County Budget, and directed the Health Services Agency and Human Services Department Directors to consult with the First 5 Commission and other early childhood experts on the desired results, appropriate evidence-based practices for how the money in the Fund should be allocated, “…while ensuring that the funding targets the children and families with greatest need.”


Between late January and June of 2017 First 5 worked closely with the Health Services Agency and Human Services Department, as well as other stakeholders, to develop a “System of Care” approach for use of the funds. The approach recognized that the Thrive by Three fund presented an opportunity to not only invest in high-quality programs, but to transform the myriad of existing programs and resources into an integrated prenatal to age 3 system of care in Santa Cruz County inclusive of screening and early identification, assessment and linkages, and care coordination (see Appendix F, “Thrive by Three System of Care Approach”).


On June 21, 2017 the Board of Supervisors approved the Thrive by Three fund as part of the 2017-2018 Budget and approved allocation of the $350,00 as follows:

  • Intensive Care Coordination (Home Visitation Services) – 65%
  • Ancillary Services (targeted to the provision of infant and toddler care to high-risk families) – 20%
  • System Foundation – 15%


First 5 Santa Cruz County continues to work closely with the Health Services Agency and Human Services Department, as well as other stakeholders, to ensure the success of the Thrive by Three fund, and maximize the opportunity it represents to develop a comprehensive system of care in support of the long-term well-being of Santa Cruz County’s youngest and most vulnerable children.