Our Featured Leaders are Early Childhood Community stakeholders who work to make Oakland smarter and stronger. They are parents/caregivers, providers, educators, and collaborators.
Domonique Wilson, First5 Alameda County
Domonique Wilson, Parent Partnership Program Administrator, has been at First 5 Alameda County for almost 18 years. In that time, she’s had many roles and managed many programs with one thing in common: an unwavering focus on improving the lives of new parents and their babies.
What was your first role at First 5? I provided direct outreach to families receiving home visits after the birth of a child. Over time, the program shifted from post-partum to prenatal, and we realized there needed to be a focus on high risk families.
What my coworkers and I kept returning to was the need to provide more resources. Families were coming back to us looking for more help, because they trusted us. We recognized the need to help families navigate services for food, mental health, help getting a Medi-Cal card for the baby, applying for WIC, child development – just a huge range of what families need.
You co-led the Alameda County Navigator Network. What sparked the idea? First 5 Alameda County and Alameda County Social Services Agency partnered to create a navigator network. Whether we are called outreach coordinators, community health workers or navigators, we are all folks who are working directly with families and hearing the needs of those families daily.
I transitioned into co-facilitating the navigator network. We worked to identify what resources and services we needed more information on. For example, the housing crisis is crazy. We are screening people to see if they have a need for housing, but then we don’t always have enough information to offer them! To address this issue, we brought in a representative from 211 to explain how things work on their end.
I really see the need for navigators to have intentional spaces where their voices can be lifted up. I hope to continue facilitating a space for folks doing resource navigation work to be able to share information in real time.
You do so much – what are you up to now? My ‘baby’ right now is a heavy focus on birth equity. The contracts and programs we support include:
Honoring, Unifying, and Gathering which addresses the post-partum isolation that’s associated with a lot of mental health challenges for Black women and birthing people
The Midnight Milk Club, a program through TLC Consulting and Maternal Healing, which is an after-hours infant feeding and postpartum virtual group that occurs during a time when support is often unavailable
The Birth Lactation Accommodation Culture and Kinship (B.L.A.C.K.) Course, designed for folks who are supporting BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) families and those interested in becoming birth workers.
How did you get into this work? My grandmother was an RN, and my mother had always worked in the medical field. I got my undergraduate degree in health education. Some of my earliest work was at Planned Parenthood. A lot of young women coming into the clinic were scared. They had to walk through protestors and they needed support. It really pushed me to want to be able to do more to help them.
Also, I grew up in East Oakland. It was hard. I think about how nice it would have been to have had these types of investments embedded in my community when I was a kid. My mother was a teenager when she got pregnant with me, but she was resilient, and she sent me to an all-Black school. I had a teacher who embedded in me the notion of endless possibilities. Having someone embed it in me that deeply and that early – it saved me from a lot of trauma and violence that I was exposed to, because I never once doubted my ability to succeed.
That’s why I’m so passionate about birth to 5 years. We can’t save young children from everything they’ll experience on their journey, but if we invest in them so they believe in themselves, we can help them have a better future.