Dear Friends,

First 5 LA’s commitment to young children and families and partners is unwavering during this time. Our work continues to be grounded in our Strategic Plan and our values as we further our commitment in this quickly changing environment.

During this period of great uncertainty, our ability to act quickly has been tested and has revealed the need for greater flexibility and adaptive leadership. We continue to be encouraged by the mobilization and resilience of communities, including our grantees and contractors, who rise to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the ways in which it puts families at even greater risk.

More broadly, this global pandemic is revealing, with great clarity, the cracks and chasms that far too many in our communities face. It is highlighting the deficits of systems to be responsive to the basic needs of children and families under extraordinary circumstances like a pandemic or recession, and even more so for those who are already most impacted by inequities.

First 5 LA will continue to be a remote organization for the foreseeable future, aligned with the guidance and protocols recommended by state and county public health officials. Our work will continue and our commitment to collaborate with our partners to address the challenges this pandemic is creating for our most vulnerable families is front-and-center.

Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on these priorities:

  • Supporting our staff so that they can stay healthy and be equipped to prioritize the needs of Los Angeles County’s children and families today and in the future
  • Supporting our contracted partners (grantees, vendors, contractors) upon which many of our County’s children and families rely for family-serving services
  • Supporting L.A. County’s young children and their families, with a particular focus on those most vulnerable during this pandemic

We are all operating in an environment that is unpredictable and rapidly changing. There are many unknowns. What is known is the role First 5 LA plays in its COVID-19 response is grounded in our refined strategic plan that was approved in 2019 to improve the lives of L.A. County’s young children.

Guiding Principles for First 5 LA’s Response

In recent weeks, First 5 LA has been increasingly focused on where and how to support the continuation and expansion of critical services and systems that are essential for child and family well-being.

In the context of the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have set four overarching goals for First 5 LA’s response:

  • Minimize the impact on First 5 LA-funded grantees, contractors and vendors by providing the maximum flexibility possible to support continuation of the work we have funded them to complete.
  • Sustain the workforce of our grantees and contractors and stabilize infrastructure. We recognize that most of what First 5 LA funds are the staff employed by grantees and contractors, and we are working to support agencies to retain their staff as much as possible. This will allow them to respond to immediate needs and provide the capacity for their teams to reengage on our important shared work when they are able.
  • Protect against any “gifts of public funds.” As a public agency, First 5 LA needs to use taxpayer resources appropriately, consistent with actions approved by our Board, and compliant with applicable restrictions.
  • Minimize administrative burden. As we develop and implement emergency policies and authorities, we are looking to minimize the administrative contract processing requirements on our own staff and the staff of our partners, recognizing we are all juggling demands on our time.

This week, members of our team have begun systematically engaging grantees and contractors to discuss the impact of the pandemic on their scopes of work and the potential need for adjustments.

Guided by Our Strategy, Our Values and Our Commitment to Our Partners

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief the systemic barriers and challenges that impede progress and opportunity for too many of L.A. County’s children and families.

Containing the spread and impact of COVID-19 has made plain the critical need for systems change – changes in policy, practice and public will to prioritize young children and ensure our children – all children – have access to the quality, coordinated and sustainable services and supports so vital to child well-being, today and beyond this pandemic.

Just as our public health response will follow critical guidelines, such as physical distancing, handwashing, and no hands-to-face contact, our organizational response will be guided by our 2020-28 Strategic Plan and values.

First 5 LA and its partners will continue to focus on strengthening public and community systems, advancing and building on community experience, expanding our influence and impact with data, and optimizing our own organizational effectiveness.

How we move forward together is by working collaboratively to make these systems of service work better. At First 5 LA, we do that by changing policies and practices and building public will to prioritize young children and more effectively meet their needs.

We are inspired by the early results of our collaborative efforts. Working together, we have helped coordinate a countywide childcare plan, transitioned our home visiting workforce to virtual models, collaborated with our Best Start partners to address urgent community-identified needs, and developed clear federal and state advocacy messages that prioritize young children.

These are a few highlights of the important work we have launched and will continue to support with your partnership to minimize the pandemic’s impact on our young children and their families.

Please know that First 5 LA is committed to supporting our contractors and grantees during this difficult time. We are reaching out to our partners to be a support and listen to and learn from them to inform our response in the weeks, months and years to come. Our partners are there for children and families. And First 5 LA, in turn, will be there for them.

Thank you for your continued commitment to our children.


Kim Belshé

Executive Director