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First 5 LA’s role in expanding home visiting services in L.A. County was a major theme in L.A. County Supervisor and First 5 LA Commission Chair Sheila Kuehl’s opening remarks at the September 10 Board of Commissioners meeting, which was held over video teleconference for the first time in the agency’s history.
“We know that home visiting is a critical support during these crises, and through this collaboration — among all these partners (Department of Public Health, Department of Mental Health, First 5 LA and Best Babies Network) — we’ve been able to continue to support families with virtual home visits. In the last quarter alone, over 65,000 virtual home visits were conducted every month,” Kuehl shared with the Board.
Four years ago, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion to expand home visiting services in the county, recognizing the essential role home visiting plays in prevention and support. Building upon this motion, Kuehl shared that — given the county’s current budget and resource challenges due to the pandemic — the Department of Public Health has requested that First 5 LA take on an interim governance role for the next 12 to 18 months to continue to drive progress in expanding home visiting under this motion.
“This makes me feel very happy and very secure about this program. And also speaks volumes to me that the county continues to turn to First 5 LA for its leadership and its vision,” Kuehl said.
“It’s been a delight to see the team really leaning into our systems change roles beyond funder, leading with ‘How do we connect? How do we convene? Where are there opportunities to catalyze some innovative thinking to address some really deep and systemic issues?’” Executive Director Kim Belshé stated in her remarks.
The consent agenda — consisting of five new agreements, two contract renewals, one authorization to receive funds, three amendments to strategic partnerships and the establishment of two new strategic partnerships — was unanimously approved by the Board.
Highlights include the establishment of a new strategic partnership with Community Partners — the fiscal sponsor for the Mayor’s Fund for Education — in an amount not to exceed $250,000 over the next 24 months.
Through this partnership, First 5 LA will work to engage the business sector on issues related to early childhood advocacy and will be focused regionally on the City of Long Beach.
First 5 LA’s business sector strategic work centers on the successful engagement of business executives from L.A. County’s leading economic sectors and small business community to champion issues that impact our youngest children and their families. The partnership will build upon First 5 LA’s already existing work engaging business leaders on issues related to early childhood. To view a recent article highlighting these efforts, click here.
Following the consent agenda, Programs Division Vice President Christina Altmayer, Measurement, Learning & Evaluation Interim Director Kimberly Hall, Family Supports Senior Program Officer Anna Potere, Early Care & Education (ECE) Director Becca Patton and Executive Vice President John Wagner presented on the progress that First 5 LA has made implementing the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan.
“The updated Strategic Plan identified four critical strategic priorities, and today, we’re going to talk about how we’re making those strategic priorities come alive,” Altmayer said when introducing the presentation.
Paramount to meeting the strategic vision outlined in the 2020-2028 plan is measuring the impact of First 5 LA’s work. To explain how the agency plans to achieve this, Hall presented on Impact Framework, a tool developed by First 5 LA to measure its progress toward its North Star goal: that all kids in L.A. County will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life by 2028.
According to Hall, Impact Framework will measure short- and long-term markers of success that will guide First 5 LA toward meeting its North Star. These indicators also inform how First 5 LA’s prioritizes its systems change work and course-corrects throughout the next eight years.
The culmination of these efforts will result in four “Indicators Reports,” the first of which was delivered this September. To view the inaugural report, click here.
Examples of implementation progress within First 5 LA’s home visiting efforts were given by Potere, who noted that this work falls under the strategic priority of strengthening public and community systems.
Calling back to the example given by Kuehl at the top of the meeting, Potere said that First 5 LA, in concert with other partners, is meeting this strategic priority by stepping into a critical leadership role to create a more comprehensive system of home visiting.
Patton updated the Board on First 5 LA’s ECE progress implementing the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan.
Since the pandemic began, L.A. County’s ECE systems have seen a significant shift as the majority of center-based operations remain closed while the majority of Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) child cares remain open.
According to Patton, this trend has acutely informed First 5 LA’s plan to diversify the focus of its ECE efforts and bring FNN into the fold. By doing so, Potere highlighted how this strategy is guided by the values of diversity and inclusion that are a critical aspect of the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan.
Wagner spoke on what First 5 LA’s Administration Division is doing to meet the strategic priority of optimizing its organizational effectiveness.
“If we aren’t continuing to strengthen our organization and how we do our work, that work is not sustainable in the long term. And though often behind the scenes, the admin team has many critical contributions to the work we just heard about.”
To illustrate this, Wagner shared how First 5 LA’s Information Technology Department has purchased additional licenses for Tableau, a data tracking, reporting and visualization tool that runs First 5 LA’s Strengthening Families database and contains information on families participating in First 5 LA’s Welcome Baby home visiting program. According to Wagner, this effort has created the infrastructure that is used by external home visiting partners across L.A. County, contributing to a more coordinated and unified home visiting system.
Additionally, he shared how the support from the Finance and Contract Departments has allowed First 5 LA to be in a position to partner in new ways with external entities by implementing new policies and procedures for receiving, tracking and spending funding received beyond Proposition 10 tobacco taxes.
By creating the contracting (processes?) and policies to take in additional funding, First 5 LA has been able to enhance sustainability and leveraging of funding as laid out as an aspect of the Strategic Plan.
In closing the presentation, Commissioners were asked, “What are your reflections and how should we think about our work in light of COVID-19, while holding tight to our 2020-2028 Strategic Plan North Star and Four Results?”
“What are we doing now to map what we consider to be ‘readiness measures’ to a successful first year? How do we establish a baseline, so we can demonstrate over time that policy changes, practices changes, funding infusions are impacting that readiness, and that readiness is translating into a result after that first year?” L.A. County Director of Mental Health and First 5 LA Commissioner Jonathan Sheran asked.
Altmayer responded, explaining that First 5 LA has been increasing its partnerships with schools to collect kindergarten readiness assessment data, especially within First 5 LA’s 13 Best Start communities, that capture multiple domains –– social, emotional, physical, cognitive and communication –– so that First 5 LA can show how these investments are changing the trajectory of children’s lives.
“We need to walk before we can run,” Belshé added. “Our indicators report is an inaugural effort, our work in KRA [Kindergarten Readiness Assessment] is only really beginning to mature. …”
“But I think what you’re continuing to raise is a good nudge to us in terms of thinking more broadly … We’re trying to create some of the basic blocking and tackling around our measurement and monitoring broadly, and KRA specifically, that we view as very foundational to beginning to get at some of the bigger picture questions you’re raising,” Belshé concluded.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting will be held virtually October 15. For more information, visit first5la.org/our-board/meeting-materials.