Oh, what a year it’s been!

In an innovative Commission Meeting on July 14, First 5 LA staff presented an update on the first year of the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan that featured key progress in the plan’s four priority outcome areas.

Additionally, First 5 LA Commissioners attended breakout sessions to interact with staff directly to ask questions and dialogue about movement forward in the Families, Communities, ECE Systems and Health outcome areas.

“With the first year of the Strategic Plan behind us, we thought about what we’ve been doing well and what we can be doing better. I’m enormously proud of the work we are doing,” First 5 LA Executive Director Kim Belshé told the Board.

“I’m enormously proud of the work we are doing” -Kim Belshé

“It’s really a good thing for us to be zooming out to look at the progress we’ve made in the first year of the Strategic Plan,” said Commission Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

During the presentation, First 5 LA leaders presented key highlights from the first year in one select strategy of the four outcome areas. These highlights are good examples of what future work will look like, said First 5 LA Vice President of Programs Christina Altmayer.

“Our work is taking steps forward in creating systems change for children and families,” said Altmayer, who kicked off the presentation to the Board. “Increasingly as we move forward, our work is going to be done in partnership with the County, community organizations, and leaders that are all working to improve the health and development of L.A. County’s children.”

Program Development Director and Families Outcome Lead Barbara Andrade DuBransky highlighted significant milestones in strengthening family protective factors by developing a strategic partnership with the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to launch Project Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone (Project DULCE) in L.A. County. Project DULCE enhances well baby checkups to support a child’s early development. Through the partnership, DuBransky said, three clinics have already begun serving families through Project DULCE: The Children’s Clinic, Northeast Valley Health Corporation and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center.

Best Start Communities Assistant Director and Communities Outcome Lead Antoinette Andrews highlighted progress on the Community Resource Networks (CRN) investment. During the past fiscal year, First 5 LA conducted a comprehensive information-gathering process to learn from parents, providers, and County department representatives what are the critical issues, barriers, and opportunities of service coordination. In year two of the Strategic Plan, Andrews said First 5 LA will launch an early implementation of a comprehensive CRN capacity building approach based on learning from internal and external sources.

Senior Program Officer and Health Outcome Lead Reena John presented the first year of progress made in the area of developmental screening. Research shows that 1 in 4 California kids under the age of 6 are at moderate or high-risk for developmental, behavioral, or social delays.

“Screening rates are below where they need to be” -Reena John

“Screening rates are below where they need to be,” John told the Board. “Under one-fourth of children in the county actually receive recommended developmental screenings.”

In May, John said, First 5 LA launched Help Me Grow-LA in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter 2, LA CARE Health Plan and the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health, with an additional 33 agencies committing to the overall effort to help bridge the gap when it comes to providing developmental screening services for young children in Los Angeles County. The L.A. effort is sparked by the national success of an innovative systems change framework called Help Me Grow, which helps parents and providers alike identify children at risk of developmental delays and get connected with early intervention services. In the next fiscal year, Johns said, the Help Me Grow-LA partnership will launch and establish a leadership council and workgroups to identify key gaps in and opportunities for a coordinated system of care and to inform early phase development of Help Me Grow-LA that will be implemented by July 2017.

In the Early Care and Education outcome area, ECE Outcome Lead and Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation Katie Fallin highlighted First 5 LA’s advocacy efforts. During the first year, First 5 LA launched a statewide, coordinated ECE Coalition across multiple policy and advocacy groups, representing both ECE and K-12. The coalition, whose advocacy efforts were focused on rates, access and quality, agreed to budget priorities in these areas and established common messaging and advocacy strategies to influence Sacramento lawmakers. In a significant victory for California’s children, their families and ECE providers, early childhood funding will increase by more than $500 million by 2019-20 under the new state budget agreement approved by the Legislature and Gov. Brown in June. The additional funding will add almost 9,000 new full-day slots to the California State Preschool Program over four years and increase reimbursement rates for providers to help address increases to the state’s minimum wage and to help providers cover the cost of care.

“We heard back from a number of legislators that the coordinated efforts of the ECE Coalition sent a powerful message,” Fallin told the Board.

During the breakout sessions, Commissioners engaged First 5 LA staff in further dialogue about progress in the outcome areas.

“We heard back from a number of legislators that the coordinated efforts of the ECE Coalition sent a powerful message” -Katie Fallin

During a Health outcome breakout, Commissioner Philip L. Browning and Altmayer discussed how First 5 LA and the County Department of Children and Family Services – where Browning is the Director might find opportunity to work together in the area on Trauma-Informed Care, which is a priority under First 5 LA’s Health Outcome. Commission Alternate Linda Aragon, Acting Director for the Los Angeles County Division of Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health (MCAH) asked if First 5 LA was looking at examples of TI Care elsewhere. Johns pointed out that the agency is looking at national and statewide models of such work.

Commissioners Judy Abdo, Cynthia Harding and Duane Dennis participated in a discussion about the Communities outcome area with Andrews and Best Start Communities Director Rafael González. Topics included receiving community feedback on First 5 LA’s impact, plans for future research and how Commissioners can be assets to the work in the Communities outcome area.

Dennis also pointed out his appreciation of being invited to attend Best Start partnership meetings, which he called “gratifying.”

For more detailed highlights from the four outcome areas during the first year of the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan, please click here.