Fraser Hammersly | First 5 LA Digital Content Specialist

October 28, 2021

First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners convened virtually on October 14, 2021. Los Angeles County Supervisor and Commission Chair Sheila Kuehl opened the meeting by reflecting on the connection between elder care and caring for young children, sharing that Los Angeles County is in the midst of developing a Department of Aging.  

 “Thinking about the issues that affect people at the senior end of their lifespan, it struck me how similar it is to the kind of care that we need to think about and provide to people who are at the beginning of their lifespan — those who are in our care and for whom we exist,” Kuehl said.  

 Kuehl stated how the question of isolation was something that impacted both age groups, along with the support needed to help meet basic emotional and physical needs. In posing this question, she shared how First 5 LA’s home visiting model was something that the County was considering establishing for aging populations to meet the need for connection and support in elderly populations.  

 “It struck me — as the poet said, ‘No man is an island’ — how incredibly important our connections have become. And I know that there’s a long discussion about when we can safely get together and meet again — and I look forward to that. Although safety is much on my mind this year as well … I know that [connection] is a deep, emotional part of our work with our kids zero to five and their families,” she concluded. 

During her remarks, Executive Director Kim Belshé echoed Kuehl’s theme on connection, drawing a parallel between the statement “No man is an island” and First 5 LA’s emphasis on working in partnerships and in concert with others to impact systems change.  

 Additionally, Belshé spoke on First 5 LA’s work to embody its values of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), noting that the preliminary findings from the DEI assessment that was conducted by First 5 LA’s DEI consultant, Seed Collaborative, would be presented at the meeting.  

 “Tensions and disconnects within organizations are normal. But what’s problematic and when issues arise is when we ignore them or pretend those issues don’t exist. We are not pretending at First 5 LA. We are leaning into this work, and we are lifting up questions and learning together. I think we are a good example of an organization whose story is one of intentional learning and trying to do better. And to live up to our values to achieve our aspiration for young children,” she said. 

 For additional remarks from Belshé, see the Executive Director Report here 

 The consent agenda was unanimously approved. Notable action items included:  

  1. The approval of an amendment to First 5 LA’s strategic partnership with Resource Legacy Fund that includes an increase in the amount of $150,000 to manage the pooled fund for Link Advocates, Governments, Families and Parks (LINK), First 5 LA’s open space and advocacy program led by the Communities Team in Best Start regions. For more information, click here.   
  2. The approval of a new strategic partnership with Communities Lifting Communities — the fiscal sponsor for Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies –– in the amount of $500,000, to provide a hospital quality improvement initiative to reduce birth disparities over a 24-month period. This partnership falls under the work of the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) initiative led by First 5 LA’s Health Systems team. For more information, click here.   
  3. Authorization for First 5 LA to receive funds in the amount of $385,000 from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for the AAIMM strategic communications efforts. For more information, click here.   
  4. Approval of First 5 LA’s annual report for First 5 California for fiscal year 2020-21. Each year, First 5 LA’s Office of Data for Action prepares a report to the State Commission that provides fiscal, demographic and programmatic information. For more information, click here.   
  5. Approval of a draft of First 5 LA’s annual comprehensive audit, including an independent auditor’s report for the fiscal year 2020-21. The draft will be submitted to the State Controller’s Office and First 5 California on November 1, 2021. Additionally, Finance Director Raoul Ortega shared that First 5 LA was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for the 13th consecutive year. For information related to the independent audit, click here. For the draft of the comprehensive audit, click here.   

Following the vote, Chief of Staff Peter Barth provided an update to the Board on First 5 LA’s request for qualifications (RFQ) for legal services. According to Barth, First 5 LA released an RFQ for legal services in August 2021. Following a competitive solicitation process, First 5 LA team members are now recommending that a three-year contract for legal services be entered with Richards, Watson and Gershon (RWG).  In November, First 5 LA team members anticipate returning to the Board for a vote to approve a contract with RWG. For more information, click here 

Next on the agenda was a presentation from Office of Equity, Strategy, and Learning Chief Transformation Officer Antoinette Andrews Bush and Seed Collaborative Co-Founder and Consultant Evan Holland entitled, “Living First 5 LA Values: Progress Towards Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” 

For the past year, Seed Collaborative has been supporting First 5 LA’s mission to integrate DEI more fully into its practices and policies. Andrews Bush gave an overview of Seed Collaborative’s work, which has included conducting a baseline assessment of First 5 LA’s current organizational practices and level of DEI awareness and competency, integrating insights and knowledge on DEI best practices and developing and supporting the early implementation of an organization-wide DEI roadmap and action plan.  

Holland provided an overview of the DEI assessment findings, sharing that Seed Collaborative has been conducting both qualitative and quantitative analysis from interviews with First 5 LA team members, Board members and grantees, all of which informed the presentation being shared with the Board at the October meeting.  

Focusing on the high-level takeaways from the DEI assessment, Holland stated that First 5 LA — like many organizations taking up DEI — is already pivoting toward greater DEI insight and understanding. To illustrate, Holland mentioned DEI understanding is varied, and that the findings reflect a desire to meet needs and cultivate a deeper sense of belonging and inclusion within the agency.  

In looking ahead, Holland described how there is work to be done in aligning policies and practices with organizational values and that there are opportunities to better infuse DEI within First 5 LA’s strategic plan. Holland noted, however, that DEI is well-positioned within First 5 LA’s reporting structure and that First 5 LA’s process to integrate DEI into its work and internal operations is consistent with best practices and lessons from field experts, specifically within public policy, philanthropy and other nonprofit organizations.  

Highlighting the internal work that is already underway, Holland updated the Board on how Seed Collaborative is supporting First 5 LA in the establishment and management of an internal DEI Governance Board. According to Holland, the board is made up of team members from all backgrounds and positions across First 5 LA and is working together to review the findings from the DEI assessment, establish priorities on urgent needs and long-term DEI strategies and provide recommendations on First 5 LA’s DEI action plan.  

Andrews Bush spoke about the next phase of First 5 LA’s DEI journey, sharing that Seed Collaborative’s contract would return to the Board for approval at the November Board meeting and that the DEI assessment report, action plan and road map would be the primary focus of the next stage of First 5 LA’s DEI journey.   

Additionally, Andrews Bush stated that First 5 LA Board and staff engagement opportunities will be an important part of the next steps in the agency’s DEI work.  

“We acknowledge that First 5 LA commissioners and staff fall into a continuum of DEI competency, and that’s okay. We’re all entering this space with different life and professional experiences, varied understandings and different perspectives — and we all come to this work with a shared commitment to do better. And these are all strengths upon which we can build. So by supporting our collective learning, we’re inviting commissioners and staff to explore the ways in which we can more fully live our organizational values and cultivate belonging, internally and through our external work,” Andrews Bush said, highlighting what Board members can expect as upcoming engagement opportunities.  

For more information on the next phase of First 5 LA’s DEI journey, click here 

The last item on the agenda was a written-only information item related to proposed amendments to First 5 LA’s bylaws to align with the updated procurement policies that were approved by the Board in September. Updates to bylaws are generally routine, and the amendments will be presented for adoption at the November Board meeting. For more information, click here 

The next Board of Commissioners meeting will be held on November 10, 2021. For more details, please visit closer to the date.  

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