First 5 LA Commission Funds Implementation of Best Start in 14 Communities and Approves over $7 Million for Black Infant Health Program

Child advocacy agency sharpens focus on families and communities and extends program for black infants

Nov 15, 2013, 14:31 ET from First 5 LA

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In a unanimous vote, the First 5 LA Commission allocated up to $4.9 million in funds to begin implementing the Building Stronger Families Framework (BSFF) within its 14 Best Start Communities.

As part of the organization's 2009-2015 Strategic Plan, First 5 LA shifted its grant-making approach to partner with and strengthen families in 14 select l communities in Los Angeles County, while continuing to fund a broad array of investments that touch children and systems countywide. Best Start is First 5 LA's place-based initiative to improve outcomes for young children by working with these select communities to develop and lead a common agenda to strengthen and support families.  

The Best Start framework reflects First 5 LA's belief that if parents are strong and communities support families, then child health, safety and school readiness will improve.  Towards that end, First F LA is partnering with Best Start communities to support parents to develop the capacities foundational to early learning and positive child outcomes. 

"The implementation of this plan creates a clearer pathway to strengthen the collaboration between First 5 LA and the Best Start communities," said Kim Belshe, executive director of First 5 LA. "Partnering with communities, First 5 LA is working to strengthen family capacities that support child well-being and promote systems change that will improve services and long-term outcomes for children, families in their communities."

The 14 Best Start Communities are; Central Long Beach, Compton and East Compton, East Los Angeles, El Monte and South El Monte, Lancaster, Metro LA, Pacoima, Palmdale, Panorama City, South Los Angeles/Broadway-Manchester, South Los Angeles/West Athens, Southeast L.A. County Cities including Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy and Maywood, Watts-Willowbrook and Wilmington.

In other actions, First 5 LA Commission Chair and County Supervisor Mark Ridley- Thomas presented a successful funding motion for the Commission to allocate $7.2 million to maintain and enhance the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program over a five-year period; $500,000 to support policy and systems changes that address the disparity in positive birth outcomes in African American families; and $600,000 for a two-year effort that supports young at-risk fathers of children 0 to 5 years who are or have been on probation or have been in foster care but demonstrate motivation to become part of their child's life.

Recognizing the importance of the Black Infant Health program, the Commission voted in 2009 to support this effort after reductions in state funding.  The program in Los Angeles County, which seeks to lower the rate of black infant mortality, was facing severe cutbacks without the state funding for its three local programs, provided by the cities of Pasadena and Long Beach and the L.A. County Department of Public Health. First 5 LA agreed in 2011 to continue funding these contracts until the end of June 2014.

The state-wide program began in 1989 to address the alarming number of black infant deaths. Even now, black infants still have twice the mortality rate than their white counterparts, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The additional funding will be used to enable the current Black Infant Health programs to maintain an individualized case management and home visitation approach rather than the state program which uses a group intervention model.

"The Black Infant Health program targets pregnant women and new mothers and aligns with First 5 LA's Building Stronger Families Framework," said Belshe. "It strives to empower and connect mothers to important social support programs that help women develop healthy and supportive relationships with their children and partners and it also educates communities so that health outcomes can improve for African American infants."

The Commission also approved a motion by Chairman Ridley-Thomas to allocate $1.5 million to expand funding for First 5 LA's Children's Vision Care Countywide Initiative to a total of $5.6 million, targeting the additional resources to Vision to Learn in an amount not to-exceed $1.2 million over four years and Junior Blind of America in an amount not-to-exceed $300,000 over two years.

About First 5 LA

First 5 LA oversees the L.A. County allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds raised help pay for health care, education and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age five and their families. First 5 LA's mission is to increase the number of young children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe, and ready to learn. For more information, please visit

Sharon Woodson-Bryant (213) 482-7507