July 2023

Since launching the Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Fund (EC PAF), in collaboration with Community Partners this April, eleven grantees have been selected to receive Reimagining Systems Fund (RSF) grants, amounting to a total of $1.5 million to be disbursed by June 30.  

First 5 LA contracted with Community Partners as an intermediary to co-design and implement the First 5 LA Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Fund. The Community Partners’ team held listening and learning sessions, interviewing organizations and individuals, including service providers and parents from historically excluded communities, who have lived experience and expertise with children’s early development and the systems and supports that impact the well-being of families in and beyond LA County, and also commissioned research on historic trends and entrenched racism in U.S. policymaking around issues impacting families and children. 

The EC PAF advances our grantmaking practices towards First 5 LA’s newly refined overarching systems change goal: that public systems most critical to children’s development, prenatal to 5, advance belonging and justice for communities that experience significant inequities, to make systems more equitable and accessible, further community involvement in the development and implementation of policies, and ensure that the financing mechanisms of public systems incentivize a whole child, whole family, prevention-oriented approach. 

From this intentional process, the Reimagining Systems Fund was designed and will award grants of $250,000–$350,000 to 501(c)(3) and fiscally sponsored nonprofit organizations and coalitions that are largely led and/or informed by community members who have lived experiences with inequities and are working towards changing public systems most critical to children’s development prenatal to 5 and their families. 

Based on recommendations from Community Partners, and as demonstrated through their submitted EC PAF proposals, the selected organizations will meaningfully engage community members negatively impacted by the systems they are advocating to reimagine, both in terms of leadership and decision-making processes. These organizations also are marked by their focus or presence in L.A. County, and together cover a diverse set of policy areas and priorities through their engagement with systems or policy change affecting children prenatal to 5 and their families. 

We are now excited to turn the spotlight on the selected organizations and initiatives, who have illustrated their deep engagement as champions for California’s children and families. 

Grantee Spotlight: 

InnerCity Struggle  

InnerCity Struggle (ICS) is dedicated to empowering the Eastside of Los Angeles and advancing justice, life opportunities, and dignity in the community. ICS is a member of the Whole Child Equity Partnership and focuses on implementing past victories and driving long-term campaigns in education, housing, and youth justice through a comprehensive multi-issue platform. 

ICS notes that the Eastside is a majority Latino population facing significant challenges, as inequities begin early in a child’s life, long before children enter school and structural racism disrupts family stability, child health, and overall well-being. As a result, ICS advocates for the development of a comprehensive system of services and resources designed to support the success and upward mobility of underserved children and their families, employing a whole-family approach to early care and education. 

Funding received through the EC PAF will help ICS in state-level advocacy efforts, integrating ECE priorities into existing campaigns, and advocating for funding in budget advocacy work and increasing the active participation of ECE community stakeholders in the Eastside of Los Angeles, ensuring underrepresented voices have a platform to improve outcomes for young children and families. 

California Child Care Resource & Referral Network 

The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network has long advocated on behalf of home-based child care providers, who have faced prejudice compared to formal, licensed care challenging discriminatory requirements such as English proficiency and marital status for licensing through our California Child Care Initiative Project (CCIP). 

Through the funding received through the EC PAF, the network aims to increase and support family child care providers by addressing biases against license-exempt care, also known as family, friends, and neighbors (FFN) care. The network aims to shift the narrative and change mindsets around FFN care, redesigning systems and establishing new social norms by collecting data, amplifying the voices of families and caregivers, and advocating for policy changes that prioritize equitable outcomes and community aspirations.  This is in order to integrate FFN care as an option in the referral process of child care resource and referral agencies rendering FFN care a visible option that can align with federal regulations and meet families’ needs.    

Community Coalition 

The Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (CoCo) was established in 1990 to respond to the crack cocaine crisis, which disproportionately impacted families in South LA, causing significant community devastation due to disinvestment and ineffective government policies. Through organizing and engagement, CoCo empowers community members to improve conditions and promote equity using various strategies such as narrative change, arts/culture, and civic engagement to advocate for systemic change in South LA. CoCo amplifies the voices of those most affected by these issues in South LA and focuses on building resident leadership to advocate for resources and policy changes. 

CoCo recognizes the importance of the “whole child, whole family” philosophy, understanding that the well-being of children is intricately tied to the well-being of their families. Their work in this area includes base-building, systemic efforts related to public assistance, and coalition building around spending priorities. This includes CoCo’s engagement with the Make LA Whole (MLAW) Coalition, a collaboration of over fifty civic, labor, community, civil rights groups, and LA residents, formed in 2021 to ensure equitable allocation of $1.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds and support communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition continues to advocate for investments in women and families, including housing supports, family care, and guaranteed basic income. Additionally, CoCo is engaged in advocacy efforts around access to stable housing to support families and ensure the safety and security of young children, elevating this priority of South LA residents through housing justice campaigns and initiatives to address affordable housing and homelessness in these neighborhoods. 

Catalyst California  

Catalyst California seeks to dismantle racial injustice and redesign systems for access and equity by shifting and building power with movement leaders in communities of color who are making real change. Since 2019, Catalyst California has convened the Whole Child Equity Partnership (WCEP), comprised of organizations with experience and expertise in issues that impact the learning, health and well-being of children of color in California. 

In focusing on children ages prenatal to 3 years old within their policy agenda, Catalyst California aims to advance policies, investments, and lead narrative change for more equitable and accessible whole child systems of support and reimagine structures and systems via policy advocacy and implementation to ensure that families that have faced historic barriers and systemic racism are benefiting from these measures. This includes advancing strategies that promote healing and long-term asset building for children, families, and communities most impacted by institutionalized anti-Black racism, elevating community-centered, culturally and linguistically affirming solutions in health, education and social systems, and uplifting community strengths and leadership to meet the needs of children and families. 

Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles  

Since 1997, the Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles (CCALA) and its ten Resource & Referral and Alternative Payment agencies have worked to achieve racial justice in early care and education (ECE), influence child care policy both locally and federally, and deliver programs and resources at the neighborhood-level. CCALA has been a leader in uplifting and advancing the voices of the diverse ECE communities in LA County to ensure a child care system that meets their needs. 

CCALA strives to advance child care as a fundamental human right, and seeks to connect families and the child care workforce within their communities to help influence policy, strengthen relationships with legislative members and administrative leaders, shape policy priorities, and enhance media relations to uplift the voices of those most impacted. 

The Children’s Partnership 

The Children’s Partnership (TCP) envisions a California where all children – regardless of race, ethnicity or place of birth – have the resources they need to grow up healthy and thrive, with a mission to advance child health equity through research, policy and community engagement, promoting policies that center the experiences of BIPOC families and are driven by community-informed research. 

TCP co-leads the Whole Child Equity Partnership (WCEP) to advance family-informed policy priorities and support the healthy development of children prenatal to 5, leveraging long-term relationships with county partners to support systems change. TCP will work to strengthen family engagement, improve implementation, advance child-centered policies, and drive narrative change to build a movement for child health equity. 

California Coalition for Black Birth Justice 

The California Coalition for Black Birth Justice was co-founded in 2021 by Black women leaders from the California Preterm Birth Initiative and Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies, with the goal of unifying and strengthening the Black birth justice movement in California by convening birth equity and reproductive justice experts to drive coordinated, systems change efforts.   

To scale and expand the Coalition’s existing efforts, the Coalition will produce a landscape analysis report that examines existing birth equity initiatives and current needs, a brief focused on birth equity research and tools, identify improvement opportunities for clinics and develop a platform for statewide communication and collaboration. This will help inform the Coalition’s future work and will add to the collective knowledgebase of LA County partners and birth equity stakeholders across the state.  

California Black Women’s Health Project 

For 29 years, California Black Women’s Health Project (CABWHP) has designed and delivered programs focused on changing individual, family, community, system, and cultural norms around health and well-being for Black women, girls, families, and communities. 

With funding from the EC PAF, CABWHP will seek systems change for children prenatal to 5 years old and families by expanding their Maternal and Reproductive Health Initiative (MRH). The MRH initiative includes a variety of activities, such as working with Maternal Health Ambassadors in Los Angeles County who act as regional advocates, community liaisons, and system navigators for Black pregnant persons, conducting capacity building activities for Black women birthworkers, collaborating on community-based research projects, and conducting policy advocacy in partnership with coalitions including the Whole Child Equity Partnership and the California Coalition for Birth Justice to improve birth outcomes for Black women, birthing people and children.  

AAPI Equity Alliance 

AAPI Equity Alliance is a coalition of community-based organizations advocating for the rights and needs of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Los Angeles County since 1976, through civic engagement, capacity building, and policy advocacy. AAPI’s policy advocacy and programming work aims to improve the economic, environmental, racial, and social justice equity of L.A.’s AAPI community. 

Through a series of listening sessions, focus groups, and trainings, AAPI Equity Alliance proposes to change systems affecting children prenatal to 5-years-old and their families in Los Angeles County by supporting its member community-based organizations who work in early childhood development in cultivating policy advocacy skills and knowledge. 

Black Women for Wellness 

Black Women for Wellness (BWW) is committed to addressing the health and well-being of Black women, girls, and families through health education, empowerment, and advocacy. By developing partnerships and coalition-building with key stakeholders working in the healthy equity and reproductive health, justice, and rights fields, BWW ensures that the voices and lives of Black women and babies are uplifted and prioritized.  

BWW has helped pass several bills that aim to mitigate health disparities faced by Black infants and their families, including the California “Momnibus” Act (SB 65) and the California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act (SB 464), which seek to address maternal and infant mortality and morbidity rates known to disproportionately impact Black birthing people and families. BWW is focused on monitoring the implementation of these policies, in addition to informing community members about their rights during pregnancy and childbirth. 

Crystal Stairs 

Crystal Stairs, Inc. is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit child care and development organization, founded in 1980, that promotes programs to strengthen and assist families towards reaching self-sufficiency and providing enriched lives for their young children. Through the Community Voices (CV) advocacy program, Crystal Stairs builds parent and provider leadership and advocates for children and working families through workshops, community organizing, revitalized civic engagement, advocacy events and legislative interactions.  

Crystal Stairs intends to use this funding to expand the breath and reach of the CV program to include more grassroots advocacy and policy trainings, workshops, and legislative interactions for a newly empowered and informed cadre of child care and parent leaders to ensure systems change that is inclusive, equitable, and influence policies that affect children and families.  


Congratulations to the Reimagining Systems Fund grantees. First 5 LA is excited to see all that you accomplish in the name of children and families in LA County! 

There are still opportunities to participate in the EC PAF!   

Work around the EC PAF continues with the opening of the Community Opportunities Flexible Fund (COFF) to applications. The COFF will continue to provide a broad range of grants, stipends, contracts, honoraria, and related expenditures of $2,500–$85,000 to organizations and volunteer efforts seeking to change systems affecting children prenatal to 5 and their families and build community connections. 

More information can be found here.