Lakeport, CA (July 20, 2020) – First 5 Lake County works to build the early childhood systems and supports needed to ensure Lake County’s children are safe, healthy and ready to succeed in school and life. We cannot achieve this without a network of strong community partners, and employers have never been more crucial collaborators in promoting children’s health and academic achievement than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, we are proud to announce the winners of our 2020 Lake County Children’s Champion Employer Awards.
The inaugural award winners are:
• Adventist Health Clearlake;
• County of Lake;
• Families United Respite;
• Hillcrest House;
• Lake County Tribal Health Consortium;
• Lake Family Resource Center;
• Redwood Community Services; and
• Sutter Lakeside Hospital.
Employers were nominated for this award by at least one of their employees for enacting family-friendly policies during the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order. Policies varied across employers, but focused on making sure families had what they needed to be successful during this unprecedented time.
Winning companies, nonprofits and agencies demonstrated their support in at least one of the following ways:
• Allowing employees to work from home while caring for their children/dependents;
• Providing flexible scheduling;
• Surveying employees regarding their child care needs, in order to offer effective assistance;
• Establishing a fund to help employees cover expenses;
• Providing opportunities for remote professional development; and
• Welcoming the "intrusion" of young children during video meetings and calls for work.
First 5 Lake Executive Director, Carla Ritz, celebrated the multiplying effects of family-first policies:
“We know children thrive when their families thrive, and when working parents have an employer that understands the importance of parents being there for their children, especially during times of stress and uncertainty. It's a win-win for everyone, because happy parents make better employees.”
Several Redwood Community Services employees spoke highly of the support they received. One noted:
“Even before the shelter-at-home order, RCS has always implemented family-friendly policies supporting employees who have children. Since COVID-19 restrictions were ordered, RCS has spent a significant amount of time asking employees what they need, and how the restrictions have impacted their daily functioning and overall wellbeing via surveys, agency-wide ‘town hall’ meetings, and 1:1 check-ins. When it came time to discuss reintegration plans, RCS paid special attention to understanding the concerns and needs of those employees caring for children and other dependents.
In addition to connecting employees to eligibility resources and services, RCS offered additional aid to employees who may have struggled to fill in gaps if they were unable to work. RCS provided all employees equal opportunity to continue working full-time in other programs (if their role was temporarily suspended due to the pandemic) or access to the aforementioned eligibility services.”
An employee nominating Adventist Health Clearlake shared:
"Our organization provided benefits and pay for associates who needed to be home with children during COVID for two months. Then, [they] allowed associates to be in temporary layoff, which allowed them to maintain their benefits for 90 days, plus allowed them to go negative in paid time off up to 48 hours. They also established a fund for them to access for any expenses they needed help covering."
Lake Family Resource Center staff were similarly effusive regarding their employer. One nomination stated:
"I am so grateful to Lake FRC during this difficult time. Not only were they quick to adjust to remote work, they continued to pay staff and support their employees. With all the hardships staff faced with things like childcare and school closures, this agency has been the definition of flexible and understanding.
My little one at home has made special appearances on our virtual meetings and the response has been absolutely welcoming. I have been able to care for my little one while maintaining my job, without pressure from my higher ups to be ‘on top of it all’ which ends up supporting me in being able to thrive at both.
I have never worked for an agency so willing to hear the feedback from their employees and adjust to a structure that promotes wellbeing for not only clients, but the needs of their staff and staff families too."
Lisa Morrow, Executive Director of Lake Family Resource Center, responded to the nomination:
“Such an honor! I am so pleased our staff understand we are doing what we can.”
Upon learning Lake County Tribal Health Consortium had been nominated as a family-friendly employer, Ernesto Padilla, CEO, commented:
“LCTHC did not furlough or lay off any team members due to COVID-19 and gave everyone the option to continue with their employment or go on leave. We also gave 7 additional PTO days to help out those on leave and reward those who chose to stay. We have a very young and energized team at LCTHC, many with growing families, so we do as much as we can to accommodate family leave.”
For Scott Knight, Chief Administrative Officer at Sutter Lakeside Hospital, the nomination educed both appreciation and reflection:
“This has certainly been a challenging time. I feel we have done really well understanding family impacts and have done some cool stuff including working from home on many days for some where the job allows. We happily accept the nomination and appreciate the recognition since we have worked hard on this focus on the children of our employees.”
The County of Lake was nominated by an employee in the Behavioral Health Department that was able to care for dependent grandchildren who were home from school. Flexibility to meet this unanticipated and important need was available thanks to a policy adopted by the Lake County Board of Supervisors.
“Grandparents raising their grandchildren is a truly unsupported and hidden demographic. There are next-to-no programs and services available to help. I am pleased that Lake County Behavioral Health Services staff was able to step in and assist in the support of grandchildren home from school due to COVID-19,” noted Todd Metcalf, Director of Lake County Behavioral Health Services.
The First 5 Lake Commissioners are honored to bring these Children’s Champion Employers and their family-friendly efforts to the attention of our Lake County friends and neighbors. Each employer will receive a Children’s Champion window cling, certificates from California Senator Mike McGuire and Assembly Member Cecelia Aguiar-Curry, and they will be acknowledged in local media advertising and through social media.
It is the hope of the First 5 Lake Commission that family-friendly employment practices will become the rule, rather than the exception, in Lake County, as we continue to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our youngest children.
The First 5 Lake County supports programs and services that promote the health and development of young children and educate parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers about the critical role they play during a child’s first five years. Funding is derived from CA Proposition 10’s voter-mandated tax on tobacco products.
Since its inception in 2000, First 5 Lake has supported thousands of families with programs and services designed to help Lake County children grow up healthy and ready to succeed in school and life. Current First 5 Lake Commissioners are: Pam Klier, Denise Pomeroy, Brock Falkenberg, Tina Scott, Crystal Markytan, Susan Jen, Carly Swatosh, and Allison Panella.