Groups interested in understanding the current state of early childhood in Los Angeles County now have access to a new and vast amount of data they can mine to make informed decisions about how best to design and deliver social programs.
First 5 LA on Wednesday, which seeks to ensure that by 2028 every child in Los Angeles is ready to learn and succeed in life by the time they enter kindergarten, released its first progress report toward achieving that ambitious goal.
“Pathway to Progress: Indicators of Young Child Well-Being in Los Angeles County” presents a mixed picture based on 10 “results” indicators and 20 “contextual” indicators. All the results were measured before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and First 5 cautioned that the next progress report will almost certainly look much different.
The results indicators measured population-level changes in conditions for children and families that First 5 LA will use to gauge how well systems are working for them.
The contextual measures conditions within L.A. County will be used to understand the group’s work in context and to tailor strategies for those working with L.A. County’s young children and their families. These indicators relate to child characteristics, maternal characteristics, family resources and community characteristics.
Of the 10 results indicators, three are rated overall as mostly negative (publicly funded early childhood education, for example), two mostly positive (average age of kids entering special education), four mixed or modestly positive (family engagement with child) and one unknown (quality early childhood education). Within each overall indicator, the report also measures whether the trend is improving; whether conditions are equitably distributed among races and income levels; and how well children are connected to a positive intervention or protected from harmful or negative circumstances.
The contextual indicators also paint a mixed picture. For example, in terms of child well-being, Black and, to a lesser extent, Latino children are not doing as well as white or Asian/Pacific Islander peers. And while most mothers are getting prenatal and postpartum care, again Black and Latina moms consistently fall shorter on these measures.
First 5 said the group hopes the report will help it and its partners gauge how well systems are working for children and families, assess the effectiveness of their change strategies, guide decisions on improving services and inform their understanding of the big picture.
Disclosure: First 5 has provided financial support to The Imprint, an independent, nonpartisan publication that covers child welfare and youth justice issues. Our journalism is supported by many foundations, individual donors and subscribers.
[First Five LA is a financial supporter of The Imprint. The foundation played no role in our decision to publish this article, per our editorial independence policy.]