Fraser Hammersly | First 5 LA Digital Content Specialist

July 28, 2022

First 5 LA’s Meeting of the Board of Commissioners convened virtually on July 14. The agenda included a vote to approve an amendment to a strategic partnership related to AAIMM, information on an authorization request to receive funds to support refugee families, and a presentation on First 5 LA’s first strategic plan review and refinement cycle. 

Los Angeles County Supervisor and First 5 LA Board Chair Sheila Kuehl began the meeting by sharing out details of an earlier closed session that was focused on the executive director recruitment and hiring process.

Last month, First 5 LA Executive Director Kim Belshé announced that she would be stepping down from her position at the end of 2022. Kuehl shared that while no actions were taken yet, the closed session discussed plans for a broad internal and external search to find a replacement with a deep understanding of L.A. County and First 5 LA’s special population of children ages prenatal to 5, with a goal of recruiting a candidate by December 2022.

Secondly, Kuehl utilized her time to speak about the recently passed 2022-23 state budget, highlighting the investments made in several of First 5 LA’s highest priorities. This included those shared during this year’s First 5 Advocacy Day meetings with lawmakers, such as waiving family fees and continuous Medi-Cal coverage. For an analysis of the 2022-23 state budget, click here.

To close her remarks, Kuehl called attention to an information item on the agenda focused on the launching of First 5 LA’s first 2020-28 Strategic Plan review and refinement cycle.

“The analysis and presentation are really deep and it’s an excellent opportunity to ask ourselves: ‘What are the problems we’re really trying to solve? And how can we prioritize our work?’ Even to look at our North Star and ask ourselves, ‘Is this really what we want to prioritize?’” she said.

Building on Kuehl’s comments, Belshé spoke on the scheduled presentation on reframing First 5 LA’s North Star in the context of its Strategic Plan review and refinement process.

“This is the first time we’re going to have an opportunity to execute on the Strategic Plan’s provision that calls for what we call a ‘strategic plan review and refinement cycle’ every three years. So, we’re going to be learning together,” Belshé said.

The consent agenda was unanimously approved.

Notable actions included the approval of an amendment to a strategic partnership with California Community Foundation (CCF) Community Initiatives Fund, fiscal sponsor for the Los Angeles Partnership for Early Childhood Investment.

The approved amendment, in the amount of $400,000, will support the advancement of the countywide African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) initiative by providing backbone support for the AAIMM Community Action Teams (CAT) to aid in capacity building, advocacy, and community grantmaking. For more information, click here.

The next item on the agenda was presented as information by L.A. County Senior Strategist Reid Meadows on a request for the Board to authorize First 5 LA to receive funds from First 5 California’s Refugee Family Support Grant in the amount of $354,727.

Following the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and subsequently Ukraine, First 5 California began convening with First 5 Commissions across the state to better understand the needs of refugee families arriving in California, Meadows shared.

As a result, a $3 million statewide grant was created to support refugee families with young children. First 5 LA applied for, and was awarded a portion of the grant. Upon a vote by the Board in September, will use the funding to support refugees in L.A. County by connecting them with public services such as emergency child care and housing.

For more information, click here.

Next on the agenda was a presentation by Chief Transformation Officer Antoinette Andrews Bush, Senior Strategist Kaya Tith, Early Care and Education Director Becca Patton, Health Systems Director Tara Ficek, and Chief Government Affairs Officer Charna Widby on a discussion focused on reframing First 5 LA’s North Star as part of First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan review and refinement cycle.

Taking place every three years as dictated by the Strategic Plan, the review and refinement cycle is an opportunity for First 5 LA team members and Board to reexamine the rapidly changing context within which First 5 LA is operating, apply learnings from implementation thus far, and sharpen the agency’s focus, priorities, and strategic plan of action based on these insights, Andrews Bush explained.

In the 2019 development process of the 2020-28 Strategic Plan, First 5 LA set out the North Star goal that by 2028, all children in L.A County enter kindergarten ready to succeed at school and life. The first review and refinement cycle, however, has brought up new learnings related to this goal, and Tith shared some of these learnings.

“What we’ve learned that despite this attempt in 2019, the broad and multiple elements in our current Strategic Plan, such as our North Star, our results for children and families, our outcomes, our long-term system outcomes, limit themselves to multiple interpretations of what we’re trying to achieve and why. And therefore, it’s had implications on our ability to prioritize and focus, align, and integrate our work, and as noted earlier, defining, and measuring, and communicating our success,” Kith said.

Based on these learnings, the review and refinement process is exploring reframing the North Star goal, and Ficek explained what opportunities the First 5 LA team have been exploring.

“Our North Star is heavily focused on school readiness which is very different than children developing optimally,” Ficek stated. “Given this, the team decided a reframe was warranted to better reflect the ‘why’ of our work going forward.”

By reframing the North Star to focus more intentionally on children reaching their full developmental potential throughout prenatal to 5, Ficek shared how this would shift the sense of urgency from the 2028 North Star timeline and entry into kindergarten. With this reframe, the urgency would instead be focused on the critical window of a child’s development beginning at prenatal and occurring continuously throughout the first five years of life.

Additionally, the change in language better reflects the entirety of the population that First 5 LA serves and reorients First 5 LA to focus more wholly on the earliest years of life, specifically prenatal to 3, when the brain is experiencing the highest rate of neural plasticity. 

“One of the things that I like about the reframe is that it shifts us from school readiness to really looking at social determinants of health or the overall well-being… that will really launch a stronger trajectory,” Commissioner Dr. Robert Byrd said during discussion.

“One thing I remember from our prior

The second half of the presentation focused on the opportunity that comes with reframing First 5 LA’s North Star.

“We are exploring the ‘what’s’ and ‘why’s’ of reaching full developmental potential and clarifying the opportunities we see in front of us to collectively and relentlessly pursue,” Widby said, highlighting questions that First 5 LA is asking in the context of the reframed North Star.

According to Widby, this begins with identifying what is needed for children to maximize their developmental potential throughout prenatal to 5 and asking: what conditions are needed to support children reaching their full developmental potential? What helps and hinders those conditions that impact a child’s developmental potential? And what makes First 5 LA uniquely positioned for public systems change?

In answering these questions and reorienting to a reframed North Star, Widby unpacked how this creates an opportunity for First 5 LA to acknowledge that all domains of a child’s development are interconnected, and that children’s well-being is dependent on the stability and strength of their caretakers and the conditions of their communities and environment.

Additionally, public systems can either hinder or enable these conditions and reduce disparities caused by systemic inequities. Patton provided an overview of how First 5 LA is uniquely positioned as to shift public systems to prioritize prenatal to 3 to eliminate disparities rooted in racism, bias, and intergenerational poverty that families experience under the reframed North Star.

This reorientation would shift First 5 LA to focus on the conditions that enable children reaching their full developmental potential, and in doing so, would change the way First 5 LA measures its success by monitoring public systems outcomes.

“We will monitor changes in the selected conditions that enable the safe, stable, nurturing, responsive relationships and environment for children, and these conditions will also inform us about L.A. County well-being and what families and communities are experiencing over time,” Widby said.

“These public systems outcomes will be the outcomes we relentlessly pursue. This is where we see our accountability for impact. In our work and strategy refinement, we will prioritize and deploy strategies in order to achieve those identified public system outcomes. This is our reaffirmation and litmus test that we are doing ‘systems change’ work.” Widby said.

Over the summer, First 5 LA team members will incorporate Commissioner feedback into the review and refinement process, while also engaging external partners, community, and systems leaders to test assumptions and build shared understanding. Additionally, the process will include clarifying First 5 LA’s priorities and outcomes as building blocks for making decisions about the work that First 5 LA will and will not do.

When the Board resumes meeting in the fall, First 5 LA will continue Board discussion on Strategic Plan review and refinement, as well as progress on interrelated topics such as potential uses for First 5 LA’s fund balance, First 5 LA’s data strategy and measurement plan, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) assessment report and high-level implementation plan.

To view the presentation on the launch of First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan review and refinement cycle, please click here.

The Board of Commissioners will be on summer recess in August and will resume on September 8, 2022. Please check for more details 72 hours in advance of the scheduled meeting.