Fraser Hammersly | First 5 LA Digital Content Specialist

March 30, 2022

First 5 LA’s Meeting of the Board of Commissioners convened virtually on March 10. The agenda included updates on First 5 LA’s long-term financial planning (LTFP) process, the planned transition to a hybrid work model, the Capital Improvement Project (CIP), and the recommended disposal of eligible public records, as well as action items related to mid-year adjustments, the executive director succession plan and executive director contract.

Reflecting on the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, First 5 LA Commission Chair Sheila Kuehl spoke on the importance of addressing the impact of trauma on children during her opening remarks as Commission Chair. 

“The CDC has indicated a number of ways that the pandemic has affected young kids birth to five years, directly and indirectly. Even if they do not contract the virus, we’ve heard a lot of reports about how many young children’s social or emotional, mental health, and well-being have been impacted by all of the issues related to the pandemic. As we know, trauma faced at this very young age can have very long-term consequences,” Kuehl said. 

“I want to praise First 5 LA for its support of the community and innovative thinking over the whole past two years dealing with the pandemic, including watching out on issues of mental health. I want us also to give some thought to whether there is even more we might do to talk with and work with our partners, as this issue will persist.”

Executive Director Kim Belshé responded to Kuehl’s comments, stating that self-care, both at an employee and societal level, and caring for the community broadly has been a major theme over the last two years. She highlighted the important role that healthy adults play in children’s well-being and noted how focusing on what we can control –– such as clarifying First 5 LA’s priorities and promoting the values of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) –– can empower the agency in the face of ongoing crises.

The Board then approved the consent agenda unanimously. Notable items included the approval of the Executive Director Succession Plan and the approval of the Executive Director contract, both of which had been presented as information items at the February Board of Commissioners meeting. 

For information about the Executive Director Succession plan, click here. For information related to the Executive Director contract, click here. 

Additionally, the Board approved recommended mid-year adjustments to First 5 LA’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget. Presented as an information item at the February meeting, the adjustments came about due to changing circumstances and updated information, requiring additional approval from the Board. For more information, click here. 

Next, Information Technology (IT) Team Enterprise Content Management Specialist Danna Schacter was joined by Richards, Watson, & Gershon Legal Counsel Serita Young to present on First 5 LA’s record retentions policy. The information item was presented ahead of a request for the Board to authorize the disposal of eligible public records. 

According to Young, it is part of best practices for public agencies to annually review and dispose of public records that have met their retention requirements. Schacter, who oversees First 5 LA’s public record retention, provided an overview of the types of documents — both digital and physical — that would be disposed of if approved by the Board at the next Commission meeting. 

For more information on the request to dispose of eligible records, click here. 

Next on the agenda was a presentation titled, “Updates on COVID-19’s Impact on First 5 LA and Plans for Transitioning Toward Hybrid Work, given by Chief of Staff Peter Barth and IT Director/Interim Chief Operating Officer Jasmine Frost.

Barth explained how, at the start of the pandemic, First 5 LA quickly responded by establishing mandatory remote work and updating its business process to align with a remote work setting. Looking to the future, he shared how First 5 LA has established a hybrid work transition team to inform First 5 LA’s return to on-site work as well as a future hybrid work policy. 

Part of the return to on-site work is dependent on First 5 LA’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP). Frost updated the Board on progress made in building upgrades, noting that the first phase of the project — which includes upgrades to the building’s mechanical, IT, plumbing, roofing, and HVAC systems — will be done by the start of First 5 LA’s hybrid transition phase, scheduled to begin in mid-April. 

For more on First 5 LA’s hybrid work transition and CIP, click here.

Following a break, the Board returned to a presentation given by Chief Transformational Officer Antoinette Andrews Bush and Chief Financial Officer Raoul Ortega on long-term financial planning in the context of First 5 LA’s fiscal reality. 

When the Board of Commissioners voted in 2019 to approve the 2020-28 Strategic Plan, it solidified First 5 LA’s commitment to maximizing its impact through a systems change approach. The agency had begun its evolution from being a funder of direct services to a champion of systems-level change in 2015, when declining Proposition 10 revenues sparked First 5 LA to consider how it could strategically optimize its effectiveness while embracing the fiscal realities of that time.

In a continuation of this trajectory, Andrews Bush explained how First 5 LA is moving toward greater efficiency in light of its fiscal reality by embracing the four imperatives — or what Andrews Bush also called the critical “must-dos” to strengthen First 5 LA’s role as an agency of systems change. 

Andrews Bush outlined the four imperatives, which are: 1) Impact: Clarify what First 5 LA is holding itself accountable for and focusing and prioritizing work to achieve measurable progress; 2) Process: Concentrate on what is really needed, simplify tasks, and avoid process overload; 3) Culture: Ensure how we do our work demonstrates our values internally and externally; 4) Fiscal: Embrace our fiscal reality, invest in our human capital and deploy fiscal resources strategically to maximize impact.

With this understanding at the forefront, Ortega presented on First 5 LA’s Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP). While First 5 LA’s current financial health is strong, Ortega explained how annual expenditures have consistently exceeded yearly revenues, which means First 5 LA must move toward planning wisely for the future by following the three spending and budget cap guardrails outlined in the LTFP that were approved by the Board in 2020. 

Ortega went on to highlight several near-term opportunities that could reduce the gap more substantially between revenues and expenditures over the remaining years of the LTFP. These include working with partners to review contract agreements with cost savings that can be recuperated; assessing First 5 LA’s current strategies, identifying new opportunities for refinement and sunsetting work that does not reflect the agency’s focus on systems change; and gradually reducing contracted amounts over time to mitigate stark reductions in outer years. 

Andrews Bush closed the presentation by underscoring the connection that strategic choices play in aligning First 5 LA’s expenditures to its revenues.

“We want to do the work that yields that greatest impact, and we want to do our very best to avoid stark reductions in the future,” she said. “Which means we have to make strategic choices today about the work that we will and will not do, and plan wisely for the future because we know that our current spending is not sustainable, and we’re very committed to aligning our revenues and expenditures.” 

When it came time for Board discussion, Commissioner Judy Abdo remarked on how home visiting is a great example of how First 5 LA worked to scale the investment strategically by creating sustainable funding streams at the county and state levels. 

“The power of what First 5 here in LA has done, in order to create proof-of-concept with home visitation, is very powerful,” Commissioner Romalis Taylor added. “And that’s a strength that we’ve got to bring to the state and say, ‘not only are we funding these things,’ but more to model concept, change, and how these things are done. And we have successfully proven this.” 

For more on First 5 LA’s Long-Term Financial Plan, click here.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for May 12. Additional information will be available 72 hours in advance of the meeting at