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Due to safety guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the June 11 Board of Commissioners meeting was held telephonically for the second month in a row.
Adding to the extraordinary circumstances, the tone of the meeting was further shaped by the ongoing civil unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, racial inequities and police brutality.
“Our North Star is to prepare every child in Los Angeles County –– and that is a lot –– for kindergarten. And that really means not just for school, but for the beginning of their social life and their understanding of where they might fit in a community,” Commission Chair Sheila Kuehl said in her opening remarks.
“We know that George Floyd and his family didn’t benefit from programs and services as robust as many of the partnerships we’ve established at First 5 LA and he’s not alone across our entire country. We know that racial inequities and disparities cross more than just educational lines and that it touches on everything: health, nutrition, poverty.”
“We’ve got a North Star, we hold tight to it, but we are not going to reach that North Star if we don’t do our part to address disparities and inequities –– particularly for young Black children and children of color. And that’s the work we are drawn to, that’s the work we are committed to, and that’s the work we are eager to talk more deeply with the Board about,” Executive Director Kim Belshé said.
Executive Vice President John Wagner presented the consent agenda, noting that it was a longer-than-usual one due to June marking the end of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, as well as contract extensions made under emergency order to support First 5 LA’s grantees during the pandemic.
The consent agenda was unanimously approved. This included the establishment of a new strategic partnership with the California Community Foundation Community Initiative Fund, the fiscal sponsor for Early Childhood Investment, in the amount of $300,000 over three years. This partnership will work to reduce the gap in infant mortality rates between white and African American babies in L.A. County and advance the county-wide African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Initiative (AAIMM).
To read more about this partnership, click here.
The Board also voted to ratify the executive actions taken under emergency orders related to the pandemic. To view the full list of actions, click here.
Programs Vice President Christina Altmayer, Senior Administration Director Carl Gayden, Early Care and Education Director Becca Patton, Senior Policy Strategist Ofelia Medina, Senior Family Supports Program Officer Diana Careaga and Communities Director Antoinette Andrews-Bush presented on First 5 LA’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Referencing A Path Forward, Together: How First 5 LA’s Responses to the Pandemic Are Guided by Our 2020-2028 Strategic Plan, the presenters shared how First 5 LA is working to 1) ensure the safety of First 5 LA staff, 2) support First 5 LA’s grantees, vendors and contractors and 3) support kids and families in L.A. County during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights of the presentation included information on how First 5 LA–– in partnership with the L.A. County Early Childhood Education (ECE) Coalition –– has been supporting ECE providers in L.A. County.
Patton shared how the ECE Coalition has worked together to create an enhanced online referral system to link essential workers with child care during the pandemic, as well as how the Coalition was able to secure and distribute resources to help keep ECE providers open and operating during the pandemic.
Additionally, the ECE Coalition is also working to establish a data infrastructure to monitor not only the effectiveness of the response team but the current supply and capacity of the ECE system.
While the data collected paints a bleak picture of the ECE system in L.A. County — with more than 70 percent of child care centers and 35 percent of family child care providers closed — this data has been invaluable for informing First 5 LA’s policy asks at the state level, Patton explained.
To learn more about the enhanced child care referral system for essential workers, click here.
Family Supports Program Officer Diana Careaga updated the Board on how First 5 LA has been supporting its home visiting grantees by providing technical assistance and support, as home visitors transition their services online.
To read more about First 5 LA’s virtual home visiting work, click here.
Andrews-Bush shared examples of how First 5 LA has been stepping into its role as a connector to help address the resource shortages in Best Start communities during the pandemic –– a story which was highlighted in the June issue of Early Childhood Matters and can be read here.
The pandemic has also sparked increased coordination across First 5 LA’s Best Start regional network grantees, Andrews-Bush shared with the Board.
According to Andrews-Bush, all five of Best Start’s regional network grantees worked together to submit a joint application to the Child Abuse Prevention and California Family Resource Association for emergency funds to address the added stressors caused by COVID-19.
The grantees were subsequently awarded $140,000 which will go towards supporting an estimated 1,700 families across the Best Start regions.
“This is just one example of how this coordination and collaboration is happening within and across Best Start networks and at a County level and a systems level and a community level,” Andrews-Bush said.
“This makes me feel very proud of our response and the way each in their own way and together have stepped up,” Kuehl commented.
“Staff is doing an incredible job stepping up to the plate during this very difficult time. We’re in very uncharted territory trying to figure out what is the best thing to do. …” Commissioner Marlene Zepeda added. “I’m really happy to hear you’re working with all your partners in L.A. County to try to figure out what is the best way to move forward.”
For more details about how First 5 LA is supporting staff, grantees, partners and L.A. County kids and families throughout the pandemic, please view the June Executive Director report.
Finance Director Raoul Ortega updated the Board on First 5 LA’s 2020-2021 budget development process. Due to the pandemic, the budget development timeline has been extended by one month.
Additionally, the 2020-2021 budget has been adjusted to allocate resources to support the three strategies called out in First 5 LA’s COVID-19 Response Framework.
Under the new budget timeline, the vote to finalize the 2020-2021 budget will be held at the July Board of Commission meeting.
For more details on the budget development process, please view this memo.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting will be held on July 9, 2020. Details on how to attend will be made available closer to the date.