November 10, 2022

Today, First 5 LA made several announcements as it enters into a year of continued transformation to evolve its complex and consequential work to create greater impact for Los Angeles County’s youngest children, families and communities, particularly those experiencing the greatest inequities in outcomes and opportunities.   

The First 5 LA Board of Commissioners named Karla Pleitéz Howell as the next executive director of the organization, to succeed current Executive Director Kim Belshé in early January 2023. As the next leader of the organization, Pleitéz Howell will further the organization’s mission as a dynamic, action-oriented champion for L.A. County’s children prenatal to age 5 and their families. 

Pleitéz Howell has been a relentless advocate for children, families, and communities. Through community partnerships and innovative strategies, she has helped to increase resources and designed targeted programs, focusing on advancing justice and creating equitable opportunities so that all children can thrive. Most recently Pleitéz Howell served as branch chief for the Child Care Development Division within the California Department of Social Services, where she led efforts to develop the division’s strategic plan and improve administrative efficiencies. Prior to this role, she served as director of education, managing director and chief of Policy and Programs at Advancement Project California (now Catalyst California).  

“I am deeply humbled and honored by this appointment to lead this remarkable organization in partnership with the dedicated First 5 LA team,” said Pleitéz Howell. “I look forward to building on the great work that Kim Belshé has so strategically led to achieve the highest impact for L.A. County’s children and surging ahead with bold innovation that will ensure opportunities for our families and youngest children, especially within communities experiencing deep poverty and health and education inequities.” 

To learn more about First 5 LA’s next executive director, Karla Pleitéz Howell, click here to view the official press release. 

The announcement was made during the board’s final meeting of 2022, which was also the first in-person board meeting since March 2020. Held at an outdoor location to ensure health and safety, the board meeting was the last for both Kim Belshé, who announced her intended departure in June of this year, and L.A. County Supervisor and First 5 LA Board Chair Sheila Kuehl, whose term as supervisor and role as First 5 LA chair concludes on December 5. 

In her final report to the board as executive director, Kim wrote, “It is the lucky person who can say that what they do matters; that what they do makes a difference in the lives of others; that what they do contributes to a safe, just, and equitable community.  What a gift and opportunity we have all been given to do this work, to make First 5 LA stronger, more focused and more impact-oriented, all in-service of helping L.A. County’s children reach their full developmental potential throughout the critical prenatal to age 5 period.” 

Kim has served as First 5 LA’s executive director since November 2012, and has provided decisive and steadfast leadership throughout her tenure. Acknowledging the implications of First 5 LA’s declining revenue, Kim set the organization on a policy and systems change path to achieve greater impact for L.A. County’s children. Her deeply thoughtful, values-driven leadership has earned the respect and admiration of her First 5 LA colleagues, commissioners, and diverse partners. She will be greatly missed.  

Supervisor Kuehl has served as First 5 LA’s Board chair since 2016, and has brought consistency, strength, and humor to guide the governing body of leaders. For the past seven years, Supervisor Kuehl’s leadership and guidance of the board has helped to solidify a deep commitment to making a stronger First 5 LA, a more focused First 5 LA and a more impact-oriented First 5 LA to ensure that every child in the county will reach their full development potential throughout those most critical years of prenatal to age 5. 

“It has been my great privilege to serve as First 5 LA’s board chair over these past years, and to be allowed to be part of an impressive organization dedicated to advancing change and to ensuring the health and well-being of all of L.A. County’s children and families,” said L.A. County Supervisor and First 5 LA Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “I’ve spent most of my adult life working to improve the lives and opportunities of others, especially our most vulnerable populations – our children – the very reason that the work of First 5 LA is so critical. I’m especially proud of First 5 LA for its leadership, vision and focus on systems change, and its work to enhance the power of county partnerships and community voices so that all children will be able to, without barriers, achieve their full potential.”  

In addition to announcing new, and honoring outgoing, leadership during the meeting the board approved initial refinements to First 5 LA’s 2020-2028 Strategic Plan as part of the organization’s first-ever strategic plan review and refinement cycle. These refinements, grounded in First 5 LA’s experience and learning with partners, will enable the organization to continue to focus and clarify the work and systems change approach to advance outcomes for children and families in 2023 and beyond. 

For more details about the strategic plan refinements, click here. To view the materials shared at today’s board meeting, click here. 

With these significant announcements and leadership transitions, First 5 LA continues to evolve and sharpen its focus on the work to create impact on a scale worthy of L.A. County’s youngest children and their families.  

First 5 LA welcomes you to join these endeavors as we work together to create an L.A. County where all children can reach their full developmental potential.