Happy New Year!
With 2020 firmly in the rearview mirror, I look ahead to 2021 with clear eyes and great optimism. Last year we learned much about the needs of young children and families in Orange County. We learned where we could step up and do more. Most importantly, we learned just how much we have yet to learn.
And so, in 2021, First 5 Orange County resolves to learn more and to swiftly turn those lessons into action. We will get involved earlier in families’ lives, elevate equity, empower champions and align systems of care.
Getting Involved Early means working with our community partners, physicians, educators and parents to identify prenatal and early childhood needs and link children and families to resources and services, especially support for mental and developmental health issues.
In 2021, we will pilot programs to increase access to prenatal-to-3 services, including working with clinics to implement the Healthy Steps program, engaging fathers, coordinating home visiting services across platforms and providers and increasing access to maternal mental health resources and support for families that struggle with substance use disorder.
Elevating Equity involves codifying our growing understanding of equity, into investments and actions that directly impact Orange County.
In 2021, we will establish programs in partnership with stakeholders in Anaheim, Garden Grove, La Habra and Santa Ana to set young children in those communities on the path to reach their full potential. We will bolster our training efforts in 2021, educating our staff and consultants, with the goal of addressing racism, equity, diversity and inclusion.
Elevating equity also means listening to and elevating the voices of parents in our work, acknowledging parents are their child’s first teacher.
Empowering Champions is our way of strengthening and supporting parents, community leaders, public agencies and community organizations, encouraging them to co-create and advocate for solutions to pressing issues facing young children and families.
For example, some of the struggles of 2020 brought to light the challenges many families face in finding access to affordable, quality childcare, especially for infants and toddlers. We are using those lessons to Intensify our work and find likeminded advocates to help draw attention to the issue and work with us to find solutions.
Aligning Systems of Care has always been at the heart of what we do – building as many bridges as we can and removing as many barriers as possible to ensure every child in Orange County can reach their full potential. The past 12 months proved just how valuable those integrated systems of care can be for early childhood. Individually, each group or organization can do its small part, but together, we can weave a safety net through which no child is allowed to fall.
Among the bridges we will build in 2021, will be to support developmental and ACE screenings for all young children. We will work with partner agencies across Orange County to coordinate, integrate and align home visiting services to provide seamless and efficient interventions as early as possible for children and comprehensive support for families. We will work with our partners so that vulnerable families are more easily able to connect with health, housing, food and job support such as MediCal, CalWORKs, CalFresh, WIC, and free tax preparation and earned income tax credits.
My greatest hope is that you will join us. Just as the past year exposed the fissures in our society that need mending, this new year offers us the opportunity to make those repairs. But none of us can do this work alone. As we embark on a new year, I ask that you, my colleagues and community partners join in taking the lessons of 2020 and transforming them into the actions of 2021.
I wish you health, inspiration and the courage to take risks as we enter the new year together!