Fraser Hammersly | First 5 LA Digital Content Specialist

June 29, 2023

First 5 LA’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners convened in-person and virtually on June 8. The agenda included a vote to approve First 5 LA’s Draft Budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24 and the updated Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP), and a presentation and board discussion on Landscape Findings in the context of First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan Reset. Additionally, First 5 LA’s annual report to First 5 California was presented as a public hearing and several amendments to strategic partnerships were approved.

L.A. County Supervisor and Board Chair Holly J. Mitchell opened the June 8 meeting by calling attention to the primary focus of the meeting, namely, First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan Reset within the context of the current fiscal reality and a Board vote on the agency’s 2023-24 draft budget and the updated Long-Term Fiscal Plan (LTFP).

Reflecting on how a budget articulates an organization’s values, Mitchell uplifted the investments that First 5 LA is making in the 2023-24 fiscal year budget — such as the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality initiative and the Welcome Baby home visiting program — and applauded the positive impact these programs have on young children and their families in L.A. County.

“The question I often ask myself is … ‘How big is your brave?’” Michell said. “Sometimes I tweak that to be: ‘How big is my why?’ I really want to push forward why we do this work and really think about it on a significant, grand scale. Because that’s what allows us to do all that we can for Angelenos, the youngest among us.”

“As the Chair mentioned, this budget really does reflect our values and signals the type of work that First 5 LA has done,” Karla Pleitéz Howell added during remarks from the executive director.

For full remarks, click here to see the June Executive Director Report.

The Board then unanimously approved the consent agenda, which featured several amendments to key strategic partnerships, including:

  • Strategic Partnership with 13 Welcome Baby Grantees in the Amount of $54,223,000 to Implement Welcome Baby Program: Representing First 5 LA’s continued investment in home visiting, the approved amendment will continue the implementation of Welcome Baby in 13 hospitals in L.A. County over a two-year period. For more information, click here.
  • Strategic Partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) in the Amount of $11,000,000 to Manage the Implementation of Quality Start Los Angeles: The Board also greenlit an amendment to a strategic partnership with LACOE that will allow First 5 LA to continue building on its quality rating and improvement system with a new emphasis on providing quality improvement services within Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) care and home-based child care settings. For more information, click here.
  • Strategic Partnership with the California Community Foundation (CCF) Community Initiatives Fund, Fiscal Sponsor for the Los Angeles Partnership for Early Childhood Investment, to Continue Building Sustainability Strategies Within the AAIMM’s Community Action Teams: The Board approved an amendment in the form of $450,000 to support the Village Fund’s Third Cohort to implement community-driven strategies. For more information, click here.
  • Strategic Partnership with Public Health Foundation Enterprises, Inc. (PHFE) in the Amount of $1,401,000 for the WIC Data Mining Project: The approved amendment will continue PHFE WIC’s work of providing First 5 LA with critical data on low-income families that participate in WIC programs that will help First 5 LA understand the conditions of families in L.A. County. For more information, click here.

During the previous May Board meeting, First 5 LA staff had delivered a presentation focusing on both the agency’s draft budget for 2023-24 and the updated LTFP. At this month’s meeting, Finance Director Raoul Ortega and Financial Planning & Analysis Manager Daisy Lopez presented a summary of the proposed draft budget ahead of a motion.

“The budget does tell a story. It highlights not only the values we hold tightly to as an organization, but it also reflects commitment to our young children of L.A. County,” Ortega stated. “It reflects on how big our ‘why’ is — because $99.1 million invested in children 0-5 is definitely a very big ‘why’ for L.A. County, and I’m happy to be a part of that.”

The Board unanimously approved the Proposed Budget and updated LTFP; both will go into effect at the start of First 5 LA’s new fiscal year on July 1. For more information, click here.

Next on the agenda was a public hearing to receive and file First 5 LA’s fiscal year 2021-22 annual report to First 5 California. Every year, all 58 First 5 commissions across the state are required to submit a report to the state agency and hold a public hearing on the findings to ensure transparency and accountability as a requirement for receiving Proposition 10 funds.

This year’s annual report was presented by Data Strategy Specialist HaRi Kim Han. Han shared highlights related to statewide expenditures, population data and policy progress and called out specific findings related to First 5 LA’s impact and policy efforts.

According to Han, First 5 LA reached more children under 3 compared to other county commissions as a result of First 5 LA’s Welcome Baby investment. First 5 LA, in partnership with other First 5 commissions, also played a key role in advocacy efforts that contributed to the reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIEHV) program and the passage of SB 951, a state bill that increased earnings for low-wage earners while taking paid family leave.

To read the First 5 California 2021-22 Annual Report, click here.

The final item on the agenda was a presentation on a landscape analysis conducted within the context of the Strategic Plan Reset. At the March 2023 Board meeting, Commissioners had recommended that the agency undertake an analysis of its external and internal contexts to better understand the role that First 5 LA can play so as to have the greatest impact on L.A. County kids and families, while also adjusting for the reality of declining revenues in the wake of Proposition 31, as the organization undergoes a Strategic Plan Reset.

For the analysis, First 5 LA staff focused on several key areas: the conditions of L.A. County’s young children and their families; the public policy opportunities that could be leveraged to address these conditions; First 5 LA’s current initiatives and operations and the risks, challenges and opportunities they present; and the insights and lessons learned from the field.

To present the findings and guide the Board in discussion around emerging themes, Chief Transformation Officer Antoinette Andrews-Bush, Senior Data Strategist Agnieszka Rykaczewska, Executive Vice-President John Wagner, Chief Government Affairs Officer Charna Widby and Chief Operating Officer JR Nino joined the meeting.

The first half of the presentation was dedicated to sharing data about the conditions of L.A. County kids and families, as well as emerging policy opportunities, analyses of First 5 LA’s role, initiatives and partnerships, present work and current challenges within a context of what First 5 LA knows about family and community priorities.

“Most children under 5 in L.A. County are children of color. And across conditions, the data is elevating disparities by race/ethnicity, language, and, potentially, immigration status,” Rykaczewska reported. “Black children and families experience poor health and safety outcomes, along with high rates of poverty and food insecurity, combined with significant disparities in their access to safety net program and other families supports.”

Rykaczewska explained that while the data sheds light on the conditions of kids in L.A. County, there are limitations to the findings. This is due to both a lack of data collected post-pandemic as well as the limited availability of collected data on kids under 5 — particularly as it relates to race/ethnicity— and data that highlights the root causes of disparities.

Widby spoke on emerging public policy opportunities within the criteria First 5 LA utilizes to determine the most impactful avenues for First 5 LA to deploy its policy and advocacy efforts.

“First 5 LA works at the intersection of systems. We prioritize opportunities that enable or support multiple systems working together. We prioritize opportunities that are deeper than just advocacy — not just the wins on paper, but prioritizing meaningful implementation and impact and for what works in L.A. County and the diverse needs of our families,” Widby explained.

Providing a snapshot of current policy opportunities, Widby shared examples where First 5 LA could play a meaningful role in both advocacy and implementation efforts, such as the Families First Prevention Act, child care rate reform, Universal Pre-K implementation, the Cradle to Career Data System, California Innovating and Advancing Medi-Cal (Cal AIM), and Behavior Health System and Mental Health Reform.

To learn more about section 1 of the Landscape Analysis, see slides 4-18 here.

“What occurred to me is that First 5 is uniquely positioned to gather this data — when I thought about all the entities — and what role we must play to share it broadly … I think it merits presentation at a full [L.A. County] Board meeting,” Mitchell said when it came time for Commissioners to provide feedback on what themes they saw emerging from the data and, as such, what roles best position First 5 LA for success now and in the future.

Other Commissioner feedback on First 5 LA’s potential role focused on bringing together disparate systems and funding streams while identifying pockets of need in communities, supporting the development of culturally competent workforce recruitment and intentionality where systems are supporting and rolling out services, and helping systems focus on preventing and reducing family isolation.

The second half of the presentation centered on an analysis of First 5 LA’s operations, including risks, challenges and opportunities, as well as lessons from the field.

Nino highlighted the current risks and challenges faced by the agency, such as declining revenues, the lack of alignment between roles and long-term professional skills as strategies shift, outdated policies and procedures that lead to inefficiencies, and limited metrics to track internal and external success. In addition, Nino highlighted potential opportunities for the agency in terms of people, investments, infrastructure, and external partners. Based on both these areas, a number of emerging themes were identified, such as a need to cultivate greater alignment, nimbleness and innovation; engage the community as partners; and center equity as a defining strategy.

To better understand insights and lessons emerging from the field of early childhood, Andrews-Bush shared that First 5 LA had conducted an analysis of 29 reports and gave the Board an overview of lessons learned.

“The pandemic really did exacerbate pre-existing issues,” Andrews-Bush reported, calling out as a primary finding from the analysis. “And the reports underscored that no single organization can do this alone.”

Other field learnings focused on undertaking a multidisciplinary approach, working with diverse stakeholders to achieve a common goal, as well as partnering with families and the community in designing systems, and taking a long view when it comes to addressing both the immediate need of families and long-term systemic issues.

For more information on section 2 of the Landscape Analysis, see slides 32-40 here.

“It must be a super-exciting time for the staff at First 5. Because we’re actually taking it to a new level and trying to figure out: ‘How do we best meet the needs of our community?’” Commission Vice-Chair Brandon Nichols said. “And to me, that’s very exciting, so I truly appreciate all the work you’ve done.”

At the June 29 Program and Planning Committee meeting, Commissioners will have an additional opportunity to dive deeper into the findings, as well as offer feedback on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis that is currently being conducted as part of First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan Reset.

Board members will continue to provide feedback on the findings as First 5 LA undergoes its Strategic Plan Reset, with the next two months being dedicated to drafting the Strategic Plan with additional Board discussion and feedback scheduled for the July and September Board of Commissioners meetings.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for July 13, 2023. For more information, please visit 72 hours in advance of the date.