These Commission Summaries are intended to provide highlights of the First 5 LA Board of Commissioners’ actions to advance the outcome areas of First 5 LA’s 2015–2020 Strategic Plan.

Highlights from the March 8 Commission meeting include approval of a strategic partnership with UNITE-LA for Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, approval of the Best Start Regional Network grant awards and an update on efforts to combat African American birth disparities..

The Board of Commissioners meets on the second Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m., unless otherwise indicated, at the First 5 LA offices. All meetings are open to the public, and agendas are posted on our website at least 72 hours in advance. Please check our Commission Calendar for all updated meeting information and click here for Commission meeting packets, agendas, summaries and meeting notes.

Guided by First 5 LA’s North Star that all children in L.A. County enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life, the Board unanimously approved a strategic partnership between First 5 LA and UNITE-LA to further the development and implementation of a countywide effort to measure kindergarten readiness.

First 5 LA launched its Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) project in June 2017. In collaboration with districts and communities, First 5 LA supports the implementation of the Early Developmental Instrument (EDI), which provides a community snapshot of children in five development domains and informs place-based planning. Data collected through the EDI is used to drive Early Care and Education (ECE) policy, fiscal and systems change to provide the best outcomes for L.A. County children.

The two-year, $415,000 contract establishing a strategic partnership with UNITE-LA will ensure the continued momentum of First 5 LA’s KRA initiative by allowing UNITE-LA to work with L.A. County leaders and community stakeholders as they use the KRA data in equity-based planning and decision-making that drives changes in school policies and systems. Read more about the strategic partnership here.

“We count on our staff, our volunteers, the community, all the people with whom we work to care about this. Otherwise, what the hell?” –Sheila Kuehl

In a milestone for community capacity-building, the Board also unanimously approved a new regional and local network structure for Best Start, First 5 LA’s signature investment for partnering with community members — parents, residents and local organizations — to spark new, empowering and innovative approaches that improve the lives of children prenatal to age 5. Read the related article here.

Representing a critical opportunity to align First 5 LA’s work in improving perinatal outcomes with the efforts of L.A. County to eliminate the African American infant mortality disparity, Family Support staff joined Commissioner Dr. Barbara Ferrer in presenting a project in partnership with the L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) to address the issue.

The project, which will assess African American women’s use of and experience with health and social services during and following pregnancy, will be twofold: 1) funding and supporting focus groups with African American mothers, grandmothers and women of childbearing age to understand their perspectives and 2) to analyze and profile the use of health services of pregnant African American Medi-Cal managed care enrollees in L.A. County and, to the extent feasible, compare to all enrollees. A report with key findings will be presented to the board in late 2018.

The project is funded by a 2014 Board allocation of $500,000 to support policy and systems change approaches that address the disparity in positive birth outcomes for African American families.

“We really have to make sure that we backtrack how we think about prevention of these inequitable outcomes by focusing on making sure women are healthy before they go into their pregnancy. Because those nine months are a very short period of time,” said Dr. Ferrer, who serves as the DPH Director. “I think there will be some information we will be able to glean from this about how black women interact with the provider community that will be helpful.”

In April, the Department of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity released its five-year draft plan to close the black-white gap in infant mortality. This followed an alarming report in March that highlighted a number of sobering statistics regarding these birth disparities.

On another matter, Commissioners reviewed a report on key themes and issues that emerged from breakout sessions during the March Board meeting that focused on support for the implementation of the county’s Office of Child Protection (OCP) Prevention Plan; Early Identification and Intervention (EII) of children’s development needs; and broad impact and evidence-based practices. The report is available here.

The Board meeting also marked the first attended by Diane Iglesias, who replaced Genie Chough as the Alternate Commissioner representing the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services. Ms. Iglesias joined the Department of Children and Family Services as the Senior Deputy Director in 2014, where she manages the Office of Litigation and Risk Management Division. For the last 27 years, as both a social worker and a child abuse lawyer, Ms. Iglesias has served an essential role in the field of child abuse and neglect in L.A. County.