Fraser Hammersly | Digital Content Specialist

February 25, 2021

As is customary at the first Board of Commissioners meeting of the year, Commissioners began the February 11 meeting by voting on Commission chair and vice chair positions.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Judy Abdo were elected to continue serving in their previously-held roles as chair and vice chair respectively, and following the vote, Kuehl gave opening remarks as the freshly reelected chair.

“I really, really look forward to this year because I think it will allow us to grow back into the very large role we play with others in protecting what is essentially the future of this state and this country by protecting the future of the 0-5 population from the very beginning,” Kuehl said.

“To continue to make certain that we empower our communities to be able to do this, that we push the County and every other governmental arena to do this. Because a lot is on our shoulders, a lot depends on us, and I feel very optimistic about the work we can do in the future.”

First 5 LA is currently undergoing implementation of the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan, and Executive Director Kim Belshé shared three themes the organization hopes to embody as they continue on this journey: focus and prioritization, alignment and integration, and living and learning into diversity, equity and inclusion.

“It’s not enough for us to have a bold vision, clear results and a refined strategy. We also need… to evolve how we work together. And for us to make meaningful progress towards our North Star, we acknowledge we have to work in more focused, collaborative and aligned ways, grounded in our values,” Belshé said.

To learn more about First 5 LA’s implementation progress, view the Executive Director report here.

The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to three presentations. The first one, on First 5 LA’s revised Policy Agenda, was brought to the Board by Chief Government Affairs Officer Charna Widby, Senior Policy Strategist Ofelia Medina and Policy Analyst Andrew Olenick. The Policy Agenda guides First 5 LA’s analysis, engagement and position-taking on

administrative, budgetary or legislative proposals from the local, state or federal governments. The revised Policy Agenda builds upon the previous iteration introduced and approved by the Board in 2017. Revisions to the agenda include a heightened focus on racial inequities and the whole-child and -family framework.

“When we say whole child and whole family in this context, we’re pointing to a core set of principles that are foundational to our refined policy agenda,” Widby stated.

This set of principles includes that because the brain develops most rapidly during the earliest years of life, children prenatal to age 5 represent a special population even within the cohort of childhood more broadly defined. Secondly, that structural racism threatens the well-being of families of color and can powerfully disrupt optimal development and health. Additionally, within this framework, the revised agenda calls for the utilization of full and complete data, where available, to understand which communities face the most significant barriers to resources.

Medina and Olenick walked Commissioners through each of the four policy priority areas –– Family Supports, Health Systems, Early Care and Education, and Communities –– and highlighted how the whole-child and -family framework was represented within each category, giving examples of how the framework plays out in practice.

Following the presentation, the revised Policy Agenda was unanimously approved by the Board.  To view the revised Policy Agenda in more detail, please click here.

The next presentation was given by Financial Planning and Analysis Manager Daisy Lopez and Finance Director Raoul Ortega on First 5 LA’s Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Mid-Year Revised Budget.

According to Lopez, many of the mid-year adjustments to the 2020-2021 budget were a result of the pandemic which impacted activities that had been proposed at the start of 2020. One of the ways this was reflected was in a downward net adjustment in the Emerging Opportunities fund in the form of $2.1 million due to COVID-19 relief funds for individual programs being drawn directly from this fund.

Additionally, the 2020-2021 mid-year fiscal budget was adjusted to reflect an increase in expenditures outside Proposition 10 funding. This was a result of grants received from First 5 California and the Aurrera Health Group LLC, which Lopez noted align with First 5 LA’s value of sustainability.

For more information on the revised 2020-2021 Fiscal Budget, click here.

The final presentation was given by Communities Interim Director Lee Werbel and was on the upcoming learning series on systems change and community-building efforts within the five Best Start regions. Over the next three months, the Communities Team will be presenting a learning series to the Board at the Program and Planning Committee meetings. Werbel provided a preview of what would be discussed, highlighting ways in which First 5 LA’s Best Start Network approach aligns with the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan.

“With the goal of Best Start –– to catalyze, strengthen, elevate, and scale empowering and innovative approaches generated by community, that improve the lives of young children and their families and their communities –– Best Start has evolved to (become) more reflected in and aligned with our Strategic Plan,” Werbel shared.

“So the learnings we’ll be sharing over the next couple of months will also highlight how the work has adapted and evolved in the regions in response to COVID-19, how community organizations have stepped into new leadership roles on behalf of community members, and how community members have started to see themselves as systems change agents –– how they can impact the systems around them,” she said.

The first presentation of the Best Start learning series will take place on February 25 at 1:30pm. For more information, please click here.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for March 11, 2021 at 1:30pm. Please visit for more details closer to the date.

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