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Commissioners’ Corner: New Board Members Express Their Priorities – 2nd in a Series

With more than a half dozen new Commissioners and alternates joining First 5 LA’s Board since the beginning of the year, we continue our series of brief Q &A sessions with these new members about the significance of joining the Board of First 5 LA, their priorities for the agency and their greatest concerns for young children in Los Angeles County.

This edition will feature answers on these topics from Commissioners Romalis Taylor and Wendy Smith (ex officio member). Click on the links above for their biographies.

What does the opportunity to become a First 5 LA Commissioner mean to you?

Romalis Taylor: It allows me the opportunity to support the good community work First 5 LA is doing in 14 Best Start Communities. It facilitates my ability to understand the extraordinary efforts of the County Supervisors, my predecessors, Kim Belshé and John Wagner and their strong executive managers and great staff in moving the organization in a new direction which will allow it to continue its advocacy work and to maximize the agency’s impact to strengthen families and improve outcomes for the greatest number of children prenatal to 5.

Wendy Smith: The opportunity to serve as a First 5 LA commissioner is a multi-layered one for me. It begins with the fact that I have long admired the work of First 5 LA. I am a commissioner on the L.A. County Commission for Children and Families, and have the honor and responsibility of representing that commission on First 5 and acting as liaison connecting these two important bodies, both of which focus on the needs of children and families in the county. I see my role as including that of paying particular attention to the needs of children and families affected by the child welfare and probation systems. In addition, the work of First 5 LA is important to me as a professor whose academic and scholarly work has focused on those populations, specifically on issues related to development, and effects of adverse childhood experiences and trauma.

What are your greatest areas of concern among children 0-5 and their parents in Los Angeles County? Why?

Romalis Taylor: The three areas that are of the greatest concern for me are:

  1. The limited ability of the neediest communities to obtain access to quality early child care.
  2. The need to enhance the messaging and outreach to all community members on the importance of parents developing the skills to help their children be prepared for a positive education and experience in life.
  3. The ability of our communities to recognize the impact of trauma on them and the methods and approaches that can be used to help them address its impact on families and the communities we serve.

These are the things that are going on in all our communities, no matter where you are in the county.

If every child does not have the access to quality child care, their ability is hampered to move further in life.

It is very important that if parents do not know what they don’t know, they can’t really help their children and their family move forward. Lack of understanding of what is available and how to move forward is hampering our families’ ability to create strong communities where they live. They don’t know where to go and how to connect socially within those communities.

Also, trauma affects us all. Not everybody realizes how it’s affecting them and how it’s hindering their ability to keep themselves and their families safe.

Wendy Smith: Some of the areas of greatest areas of concern to me include effects of poverty and social injustice and inequity on healthy development and family well-being; prevention and early intervention related to maltreatment and trauma; specific needs of system-exposed children and families; unmet needs of expectant and parenting youth; unmet needs and vulnerability of undocumented children and families.

What are your priorities and aspirations this year for First 5 LA?

Romalis Taylor: To continue to move the organization into the new structure that aligns with the strategic plans and goals. To move forward on the implementation of QRIS efforts. To support the Office of Child Protection’s efforts in the area of prevention. To move forward on the trauma-informed care efforts in the agency. To detail and define the efforts to find other means to sustain the programs and efforts of First 5 LA in light of declining revenues. I want to see a real plan, a real strategy, of how we are going to do it. I want us to start focusing on it so we don’t do it at the last minute. Continue the development skills known as the protective factors for parents and caregivers. Continue to focus on our six investment areas: research and development, public policy and advocacy, provider training, community capacity building service, delivery system improvement and communications.

Wendy Smith: As a very new commissioner, my first priority is to learn much more about some key First 5 LA programs (Welcome Baby, Best Start Communities, Trauma-Informed Systems) than I currently know – in other words, to educate myself so that I can be effective in this important role. I hope to bring attention to the populations mentioned above, and, through my participation, to make a contribution to First 5 LA's support of children and families.

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