In August 2019, the First 5 Sonoma County Commission established a Strategic Plan Design Team composed of three Commissioners and senior staff members to develop a proposed design and roadmap for the strategic planning process for consideration by the Commission. The workgroup met four times to design the Roadmap, which iterated the six foundational principles described on page 3, affirmed the four outcome areas of the First 5 mandate and set parameters and a timeline for key stakeholder input.
Proposition 10 requires each local First 5 Commission, as well as the state Commission (First 5 California) to have a strategic plan focused on achieving its mandate to support an integrated system of care for children and their families. Over the last ten years, First 5 Sonoma County has been guided by its 2010-2020 plan, updated in 2017, to address the changing landscape.
In January 2020, the Commission launched a 12-month strategic planning process. The process began with the Early Childhood Landscape Scan an extensive analysis of recent and relevant data related to the health and well-being of children, birth to five, and the caregiver and community context in which they develop. The Scan informed the discussion and recommendations of the Strategic Planning Advisory Team, composed of systems and philanthropic leaders from the Sonoma County Funders Circle and Cradle to Career Sonoma County, several members representing the First 5 Sonoma Leadership Advisory Roundtable as well as four First 5 Sonoma County Commissioners.
The SPAT was convened three times to review and discuss data from the Early Childhood Landscape Scan, with a special focus on place-based analyses, as well as READY kindergarten readiness assessment data. These deep-dive dialogues surfaced a number of recurring themes and preliminary priorities for the Commission to consider for strategic investment.
The Commission leveraged four meetings of the First 5 Leadership Advisory Roundtable to ensure robust input from leaders of local provider agencies serving children, 0-5 and their families. Similar discussions were facilitated to support interpreting data from the perspective of providers, consideration of potential systems solutions to address systemic and chronic barriers that families face and to provide input and feedback regarding the Commission’s emerging commitment to diversity, equity, belonging and anti-racism.
An online parent survey was conducted in April 2020 to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on families and children. The findings from that survey were striking and informative and compelled immediate action and investments by both the Commission and other system leaders and funders, including the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, to address the health and economic impacts of the pandemic on families. The survey was conducted again in September 2020 to gauge any changes and to go deeper into some areas of inquiry. Although the survey was initially intended to inform Responsive Grants funding in the current fiscal year, it is clear that the information is highly relevant as we move forward still gravely impacted by COVID-19, past and probably future disasters and the emerging economic recession.
The input of parents will be solicited via online focus groups prior to the release of funding opportunities. The focus groups will specifically focus on issues related to systemic barriers to access and other topics that have direct implications for how First 5 focuses our systems change and policy work in the next four years.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Anti-Racism
To address the persistent and worsening local disparities in child and family outcomes across race, the First 5 Sonoma County Commission has formally adopted a commitment to an intentional focus on diversity, equity and belonging in the implementation of the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, and to develop the capacity to practice and embed anti-racist approaches across our work. True, long-term, systemic change to address racial disparities in school readiness, family self-sufficiency, and health outcomes cannot occur without action to address the root causes of inequity.
First 5 Sonoma County Commission’s Statement of Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Anti-Racism:
“First 5 Sonoma County Commission’s Statement of Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Anti-Racism:envisions and contributes to a community and society where children 0-5, families and everyone in our communities can fully and safely participate, regardless of their race or ethnicity, the languages they speak, the makeup of their family, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, where they live, immigration status, their family’s economic status or any other defining characteristic.
We will work to dismantle racism in our own operations, transform our systems, and partner with organizations that demonstrate commitment to anti-racism.“
The Commission is positioned to mobilize resources, align funding policies and practices and to act as a catalyst for change, while ensuring that the internal culture of staff and governance is fair, diverse, inclusive and just. In order for families and community-based organizations to thrive, community partners must ensure spaces of belonging are created and fostered where parents, caregivers and frontline service providers are able to hold full agency, experience safety, make demands upon, and take part in leading organizational, cultural, institutional, and systemic change.
Beyond a statement of commitment, the Commission will invest during the first year of strategic plan implementation in co-creating a framework with providers, parents and caregivers, that guides capacity building goals and activities and provides metrics and benchmarks to ensure accountability. Opportunities are needed for the Commission, staff and stakeholders to develop a deeper understanding of the root causes of inequity in Sonoma County and to learn about and adopt best practices to advancing racial equity in the field of early childhood development, as well as practice on an organizational level.