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A Message from Kim Belshé

Dear Colleagues:

As I complete my third month as Executive Director of First 5 LA, I am impressed and encouraged by all that I've learned and experienced. From my conversations with staff colleagues and stakeholders, both formal and informal, I'm confirming that First 5 LA's investments and partnerships are not only diverse and forward thinking in their approaches, but incorporate many components that are foundational to a healthy, strong and sustainable environment for young children and their families in L.A. County.

Since December, First 5 LA's new Chief Operating Officer (COO) John Wagner and I have had the opportunity to meet with a range of partners as we get familiar with First 5 LA and L.A. County's early childhood landscape. Whether it be meeting with grantees and contractors, engaging with LA County elected officials, participating in ground breaking ceremonies for our Tot Parks and Trails initiative, or learning from Best Start community members at formal presentations and events, these first few months have been a terrific introduction to the diversity of community and countywide partners who share our aspirations for young children and their families.

To help inform and focus First 5 LA's strategic direction, our organization is engaged in an intentional exploratory effort we are calling "Listening, Learning and Leading," or L3. The goals of L3 are to:

  • Build a common understanding among staff, Commissioners and the community of the status of implementation of First 5 LA's strategic plan for 2009-15 (as modified).
  • Identify critical implementation issues that require board understanding, consideration and decision-making.
  • Highlight opportunities to strengthen First 5 LA's internal capacity and external partnerships to advance organizational goals.
  • Provide a roadmap for clarifying First 5 LA's strategic direction, identifying any needed mid-course adjustments, and achieving greater impact in the context of the long-term financial projections.

I'm happy to report that we are making quick progress in the L3 process. We've recently completed a survey of internal stakeholders which included our Commissioners, First 5 LA staff and selected staff of County Supervisors. We will soon begin engaging with a diverse group of external stakeholders, including all current and former grantees and contractors, looking for perspectives on First 5 LA's progress and impact, as well as experience with staff, processes and procedures.

Additionally, we are undertaking a scan of the L.A. County environment as it relates to young children and families with a focus on key social, economic and political trends that affect children prenatal through age 5, and on the landscape of organizations and collaboratives working to improve outcomes for young children. This scan is intended to serve as a context-setting reference document as we take stock of our work to date and opportunities to advance our mission going forward.

Concurrent with the L3 exploration, First 5 LA has initiated a review and assessment of its place-based effort, Best Start, with the intent of identifying and addressing a number of issues crucial to the success of this initiative. The Commission is not considering whether to proceed with Best Start, but rather how to move the effort forward as effectively as possible. Through a series of special Board meetings, the Commission will have the opportunity to discuss key issues regarding Best Start, such as what success looks like, how intended outcomes will be achieved and progress monitored and what investment of time and resources is needed.

To help inform the Best Start inquiry, senior leadership of First 5 LA, including myself, our COO John Wagner and Chief Programs Officer Antonio Gallardo, will be meeting with members of the leadership groups in each of the 14 Best Start communities to solicit their thoughts and input on these and other key issues associated with Best Start implementation.

I am energized by the opportunities before First 5 LA to be a part of a broad and diverse community of interests in L.A. County working to improve the health, safety, and school readiness of young children. Working together, I am confident that we can contribute to meaningful and measureable improvements in outcomes for our County's youngest children. First 5 LA cannot do this important work alone and your partnership and support is needed and appreciated We invite your feedback regarding the L3 process by sharing your comments below and encourage you to visit the First 5 LA website for periodic updates.

Kim Belshé




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