Supervisor Kuehl also serves as the Chair of the Board of Commissioners of First 5 LA, an innovative funder, leader and advocate on early childhood issues working collaboratively across LA County. Created in 1998 to invest L.A. County’s allocation of funds from California’s Proposition 10 tobacco tax, First 5 LA has invested more than $1.2 billion in efforts aimed at providing the best start for children from prenatal to age 5 and their families.

Here’s the Supervisor’s recap of this month’s First 5 meeting:

As Chair of the First 5 LA Board of Commissioners, I am privileged to work with great Commissioners and First Five staff on all the exciting efforts underway to shape the strong programs and healthy outcomes we want for our youngest children ages 0-5. I am proud that First 5 LA provides a strong and influential voice to ensure our policymakers put young kids first and support their health, safety and school readiness. In partnership with parents, families, schools, our communities and those who share our aspirations, First 5 LA continues to work to positively affect the life trajectory of young kids in Los Angeles County.

I am doubly pleased that detailed conversations and partnerships continue between First 5 LA and a number of County departments in order to leverage one another’s strengths and bolster one another’s accomplishments. As one example, please read the information about the partnerships between First 5 LA and the Departments of Public Health and Mental Health and the Office of Child Protection, below.

At this month’s Board Meeting, Commissioners participated in breakout sessions centered on the advantages of partnering with the County on three of First 5 LA’s six aspirational activities for 2018. Commissioners selected two out of three discussions in which they would like to participate, so we each attended breakouts with a particular interest and/or we brought our areas of expertise to the table. The same thought-provoking questions were posed to each group: What are the benefits and challenges of approaching our work in this new way? What are additional opportunities we can leverage? How can we more intentionally engage parents?

Breakout Discussion #1 was “Prevention: Office of Child Protection (OCP) Prevention Plan”
Last June, the Office of Child Protection submitted a report to the County Board of Supervisors entitled “Paving the Road to Safety for Our Children: A Prevention Plan for Los Angeles County,” which outlines seven strategies for decreasing child maltreatment. This breakout session focused on one of those strategies: connecting existing prevention networks by gathering information on the whole range of them, including those formally funded by county departments, as well as those firmed more organically by community members, that provide important support to parents. This model is being called the “Network of Networks.”

Breakout Discussion #2 was “Systems and Policy Change: Early Identification and Intervention”
Early identification of developmental delays is can help children reach their optimal development. Help Me Grow (HMG), a national model, aims to improve the coordination and functioning of developmental and behavioral screening, assessment and early intervention supports. The LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) has agreed to serve as the organizing entity for this model, providing input on a foundational infrastructure and support for long-term system sustainability. The discussion regarding the implementation of an HMG system in LA highlighted the need for an increase in the quality and prevalence of screening, as well as linkage to appropriate services and supports.

Breakout Discussion #3: “Broad Impact and Evidence-Based Practices”
The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), which requires the use of evidence-based practices, has a Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) component through which the Department of Mental Health (DMH) is able to expand opportunities for families to receive supports that promote positive outcomes. Beginning in the perinatal period, these efforts include social and emotional supports, high-quality mental health screening and effective referrals to prevent symptoms from progressing. Continuation of these services once the child is born aims to enfold families in an array of supportive services within an integrated service delivery model. Research and data identify critical touchpoints that provide the greatest impact.

As someone who sits and has sat on many Boards, I found the interactive breakout sessions to be energizing and engaging, and an exciting way to discuss ideas that will guide the future of First 5 LA. The reports back from the Commissioners included some very innovative ideas to further build First 5 LA’s partnerships with county agencies and to identify and advance opportunities for strategic alignment. These ideas will yield a more refined role for First 5 LA as a strategic connector and convener, bringing together and participating in networks of organizations working to shape, influence, and drive efficient and effective early childhood development systems so that children can grow, develop and thrive to their full potential. I believe this model will be a critical tool in directing and sustaining First 5 LA.