January 4, 2022

Dear Partners,

In June 2022, I shared with you my decision to step down as executive director of First 5 LA at the end of the year. It’s extraordinary how quickly six months have come and gone. And yet, these months have been a source of pride as the First 5 LA Board and team have prepared the organization for a transformative new year. 

I’m excited for First 5 LA and its future under the leadership of Karla Pleitéz Howell, named Executive Director by our Board at its November 12, 2022, meeting.  Karla, who assumes her new role on January 5, 2023, is a thoughtful, strategic, inclusive, and results-focused leader who is passionate about First 5 LA’s mission and values.  And, as a commissioner from 2015 to October, 2022, Karla brings a deep knowledge of, respect for, and confidence in First 5 LA’s staff, board, partners, and strategic direction.

The future of First 5 LA is strong.  Together, we have put in place the foundational elements for First 5 LA’s effectiveness and impact well into the future:

  • A clear strategic direction grounded in systems change and transformation at a scale worthy of our children, particularly children and families experiencing systemic inequities and biases. 
  • A stellar team of mission-driven, values-based, passionate, caring and fun colleagues who bring their diverse professional and lived experience to their work, a commitment to making a difference in the world, and a kindness and humanity that ground us all.
  • A strong Board with solid governance protocols, deep experience and expertise, and trust and confidence in the staff, all of which are essential to a high-performing, high-impact organization.   
  • A willingness to test, learn, and refine new ways of working together to more effectively and strategically focus our work, integrate across functions and center diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in all that we do.
  • A team and Board that are learning and living into our DEI values and investment guidelines, grounded in the staff-led DEI Governance Board’s work and 12 DEI commitments
  • A Board and staff that recognize our fiscal assets – both our human and financial – and fiscal realities; and our responsibility to be good stewards of those funds, a responsibility all the more imperative in the context of Prop 31.
  • A diverse set of partners who share their wisdom, challenge our thinking, and walk alongside First 5 LA and others to advance a more just and equitable Los Angeles.

Adaptability and nimbleness have never been more important.  The world in which we are privileged to do this work is in constant motion; the opportunities and threats to young children and their families are changing; organizations are evolving to respond, to anticipate, to have impact; and First 5 LA must constantly adapt and improve our work to be the systems change leaders our children and communities deserve.  

Thank you for pushing us.  Your deep knowledge and experience, learning and feedback, ideas and insights have been critical to First 5 LA’s ability to change, adapt and grow.  With your partnership, I’m confident First 5 LA can contribute to a future in which every young child in L.A. County will reach their full developmental potential throughout the critical years of prenatal to age 5 – First 5 LA’s refined North Star.

It is the lucky person who can say that what they do matters; that what they do makes a difference in the lives of others; that what they do contributes to a safe, just, and equitable community. What a gift and opportunity we have all been given to do this work, to make First 5 LA stronger, more focused and more impact-oriented, all-in service of its bold North Star.

It will be with pride and gratitude that I admire the work ahead for First 5 LA and all of you, as partners, dedicated to transformative change for the county’s communities, children and families too often overlooked and underserved. It has been deeply meaningful to have walked this path with and learned so much from you. And I will find deep pride in every milestone yet to come. 

Be safe. Be well.

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Kim Belshé
Executive Director