By Kim Belshé, Executive Director, First 5 LA

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.

Welcome to Connecting Points, First 5 LA’s new blog where I offer a topline on our key initiatives. We’re just in our second month, so if this is your first visit, glad to have you! If you’re returning – thanks for staying connected. One of the most important things we can do for L.A.’s youngest kids is to stay in touch on the issues and ideas that will help us prepare them for success in school and life.

Each month before our Board of Commissioners meeting, I am providing a snapshot of a few select items scheduled for presentation or Board action, as well as easy access to the Board meeting’s Agenda, Commission materials, and the Executive Director’s Report where I highlight recent developments or initiatives of note.

Connecting Points also has another purpose. My intent is to bring to the forefront examples of First 5 LA’s efforts to integrate our work across different domains of First 5 LA activity – programmatic, public policy advocacy and communications, partnerships, and learning and evaluation – to advance our policy and systems change goals for young kids. Each is a key to achieving significant and lasting social change and making collaboration work – within First 5 LA and across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations, and citizens, so that every child, today and tomorrow, can reach their full potential.

Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story. Josh Shipp

This month, I point to two such items on the May 10 agenda to illustrate the importance of this integration. One is our request for Board approval to amend the Strategic Partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), for up to $10.1 million over a five-year period (2018-2023), as the Help Me Grow-Los Angeles (HMG-LA) Organizing Entity. The other, is a panel presentation and discussion on systems change, “The Funder Perspective: What Does It Take to Do Systems Change?”

First 5 LA’s Board approved last fall a Strategic Partnership with LACDPH as the HMG-LA Organizing Entity. At the May 10 meeting, we are asking Commissioners to approve $900,460 for first year costs to support LACDPH to build out the infrastructure and oversight support necessary for LA County to move forward with implementing Help Me Grow. HMG is a model that can improve the coordination and functioning of developmental and behavioral screening, assessment and early intervention among young children across LA County. The Strategic Partnership would build upon the investments and resources LACDPH has already dedicated to improving screening rates for young kids and promoting American Academy of Pediatrics developmental screening guidelines.

If approved, this funding support will advance the critical work LACDPH is leading to ensure all young children in LA County have access to timely and appropriate screening and, where needed, early intervention services. This can only happen when services are child-centered and coordinated across health, early learning and behavioral health systems to meet the needs of parents and providers alike. Consistent with First 5 LA’s investment guidelines, this is the kind of systems change First 5 LA is working to advance, in partnership with LA County, family-serving providers and parents.

Also on our May 10 Agenda is a discussion panel to address: “The Funder Perspective: What Does It Take to Do Systems Change?” This session is intended to give Commissioners, staff and the public the opportunity to hear from three leaders in philanthropy who are working to drive systems change to improve social conditions throughout California’s diverse communities. This type of work is hard, complex and takes time. It also has enormous potential to contribute to significant change for all, not just some, young children.

As a learning organization, First 5 LA is eager to listen to and learn from our colleagues in the field of philanthropy. The practical insights that we learn and can possibly adapt from their findings – from grassroots community mobilization efforts to policy advocacy and policy implementation strategies – can help inform First 5 LA’s efforts to effectively advance systems change – in short, making services and supports work better for families.

We look forward to hearing from our panelists: President and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Peter Long; Liberty Hill Foundation President and CEO, Shane Murphy Goldsmith; and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Director of Children, Families, and Communities Program, Meera Mani. Their presentations will be followed by a discussion facilitated by First 5 LA Vice President of the Integration & Learning Division, Daniela Pineda. Together, they will share their respective foundation’s efforts to influence systems to advance social change, the focus of their strategies, and how they measure their contribution to impact.

When I think about First 5 LA’s commitment to the hard work of today, I know that long-term benefits for children will follow. I hope this, and a great quote from TEDx speaker Josh Shipp, will serve as inspiration for the work still ahead: “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”

I encourage you to make Connecting Points a part of your effort to stay up to speed on First 5 LA.

Please remember – your feedback helps me refine this new tool to keep you well informed.

Always wishing you and our kids the best,