First 5 LA's 5 Reasons to Feel Good About 2021:

Stories of community, partners and parents coming together to build brighter futures for young children and families

1. Making the Connection: Testimonials, New Evaluation Report & Toolkits Reveal How First Connections Helps Families Access Early Intervention Services

During the pandemic, as many struggled with isolation and connection, First 5 LA’s First Connections — a program that administers developmental screenings in community-based clinics — did not stop linking families with screenings, referrals and services when they needed “connection” the most. This article by First 5 LA Writer/Editor Jeff Schnaufer highlights the real-life stories of families with young children who have been helped by the early intervention services offered in community clinics across L.A. County.

“We try to normalize things for the parents so they don’t get overwhelmed,” Alies for Every Child Disabilities Manager Guadalupe Gálvez said. “We support the parents from day one in the journey of the referrals process, no matter what issues come up. We do a lot of hand-holding.”


Through Gálvez’s efforts, Erika was referred to several resource agencies, including the Westside Regional Center, and Emma was enrolled in Allies Early Education Center. She received a second screening and began seeing a speech therapist twice a week and an occupational therapist to improve her fine motor skills.

2. Honoring Heroic Child Care Heroes

When K-12 schools shut down at the start of the pandemic, child care centers and home-based providers kept their doors open so that essential workers could serve their communities knowing that their children were being cared for in a safe and nurturing place. Recognizing the critical work of child care providers and early educators, First 5 LA joined with its partners on National Child Care Provider Appreciation Day to thank them for their heroic efforts and uplift stories that show why more public support is needed to support the early care and education workforce. 

“They gave me peace of mind,” she said. “I did not have to worry about my kids. They were well cared for, on track for all their developmental milestones and it allowed me to focus on patient care.”


But, she added, more needs to be done to recognize the sacrifices of all those who provide care and early learning for young children. 


“I do not think they get enough credit,” Kirstie said. “Working with kids is hard and there is not enough recognition of how hard it can be, especially during a pandemic. Preschool teachers are a special kind of unicorn. They are magical.”

3. It Takes a Village to Reduce Black Maternal and Infant Mortality

L.A. County Department of Public Health and First 5 LA’s African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) initiative knows that community is key when it comes to solving a crisis. This past year, public, private and community partners have been hard at work to promote healthy and joyous births for all Black families, even the in midst of a pandemic. This article highlights the progress that can be made when a vast array of partners come together to solve an issue. 

Two years into the initiative, Pritzker Fellow Melissa Franklin, who leads the First 5 LA and L.A. Department of Public Health AAIMM intiative, said shes encouraged and hopeful that the collective work that builds upon decades of efforts by primarily Black women-led organizations and programs like Black Infant Health will generate meaningful change that will result in healthy and joyful birth outcomes for all Black women. Weve gone from the idea of an initiative to a full-blown movement in a very short period,” she said. Were starting to see a shift in how people are talking about AAIMM and responding to it. The key to seeing this shift result in meaningful change will be for every person and organization possible to see themselves as a part of the village and act in a manner that centers Black individuals. 

4. First 5 LA Aims to Keep Focus on Food Insecurity with Collaborative Efforts

Food insecurity emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic as a pressing issue, but in fact, it has been a longstanding challenge in L.A. County. First 5 LA, and its nonprofit partners and Best Start community leaders, as well as governmental agencies, are seeking to end food insecurity in L.A. County both during the pandemic and after. This story highlights the innovative solutions that arise when public partners join forces with community leaders. 

One of the key barriers to food access that emerged early in the pandemic was transportation for families to food sources  — an issue that was uplifted by Best Start community leaders and inspired an innovative solution. In response to the challenge First 5 LA stepped in to coordinate an unusual collaboration between LA Metro, the county’s public transportation agency, and First 5 LA’s nonprofit partners in its five Best Start regions. LA Metro tapped drivers lacking work for its Mobility on Demand program — a low-cost ride-hailing service — to deliver food boxes to families. First 5 LA’s partner organizations established distribution hubs, sorting goods into boxes and organizing recipient lists and delivery schedules.


“The pandemic has really exposed this need across agencies to break out of our silos,” said Debbie Sheen, First 5 LA program officer. “We’ve had to work in ways we’ve never done before. This is exactly the kind of action we’re going to need more of.”

5. Home Visiting Sees Success With Online Services

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the success of virtual home visiting. With more scheduling ease and flexibility, some families have found that getting support from a home visitor virtually has allowed for more members of their family to join along in the visit and strengthen their family bond. Additionally, with technological advances such as virtual translation services, home visitors have been able to adapt and reach more families who otherwise might have faced a language barrier.

“It’s turned into a time for their families to bond together,” said Anna Ybarra, home visiting program supervisor at Human Services Association. She added that the older brother of an infant in the program enjoys the sessions so much that he gave them the nickname “Fun Fridays,” which the agency now uses as a slogan for their meetings.


The online sessions have become quality family time, said PAT participant Madhaí Meza, mom of 13-month-old Isaac. Meza said her eight-year-old brother also loves to participate in the activities, which include reading stories, making crafts, dancing and singing. Home visitors drop off materials for activities beforehand during contactless visits to the families. “It really has its benefits,” Meza said. “I’m connecting more with my son, and my brother is a role model for Isaac.”

Celebrating Filipino American History Month 2022

Celebrating Filipino American History Month 2022

October 1, 2022 October is Filipino American History Month, a time for celebrating the heritage and achievements of Filipino Americans whose contributions have helped build and change this nation. As the second-largest Asian American population in the U.S. – and the...