This past year and a half was truly a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic upended our daily lives in ways we could not have anticipated at the start of 2020 and forced each and every one of us to adapt to a radically different world.

The First 5 Commission recognized right away the challenge the pandemic posed to families, especially those with young children and quickly authorized $5 million in emergency funding to help the hardest hit communities. The funding was used to acquire needed emergency supplies including masks for adults and children, disposable gloves, cleaning supplies, baby wipes, diapers and formula, and touchless-thermometers, which were distributed through First 5 county offices and local agencies throughout the state. The First 5 Commission recently authorized an additional $2 million in funding to continue these important efforts.

First 5 California also launched the new First 5 California Parenting Website (first5california.com), which includes extensive resources, tips and advice on parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic including how to talk with your children about it, distance learning, celebrating holidays and birthdays in ways that are safe, and more.

Through the website, which is available in English and Spanish, parents can access a directory of resources that can help them find food assistance, financial help, as well as information for immigrant families and those living with disabilities. They can also find the website and phone number of their local First 5 County Commission and the resources and support they have available.

The most important action that parents and caretakers can take now is to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated will not only protect your own health, but that of your children and family’s as well. We know that there is some hesitancy among people getting the vaccines, but the COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials and meet the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.

The vaccines and testing are free to all people living in California, regardless of immigration status and the state is reserving 40 percent of the vaccine supply for those communities that need it the most. We recommend everyone go to myturn.ca.gov to schedule their appointment or visit the website of their local county health department or local health care provider. Additional information on scheduling an appointment and getting tested are available at covid19.ca.gov.

These are the most challenging times in many a generation, but the end is finally in sight and First 5 California will continue to be there for families today and far into the future, so that every child in California can receive the best possible start in life and thrive.

Camille Maben is executive director of First 5 California.