The Work of Engaged Neighborhoods

First 5 Orange County is investing in Engaged Neighborhoods work. Being an Engaged Neighborhood looks different in each unique community; however, each community acts to connect families on their journey — from prenatal through the start of school — to resources and supports so their children are ready for school and success.

An Engaged Neighborhood is a collaborative group of parents and community organizations focused on early childhood. Their goal is to engage families to advocate for their children while connecting early health and development systems.

Graphic showing the overlapping stakeholders that make an engaged neighborhood

Engaged Neighborhood Initiative

The Engaged Neighborhood Initiative empowers famlies and neighborhoods to advocate for their young children while connecting families to the early health and development systems, and the systems to each other. First 5 OC currently funds collaborative Engaged Neighborhood groups in four cities: Anaheim, Garden Grove, La Habra, and Santa Ana.

Theory of Change

If we:

  • Support neighborhoods to engage and empower families
  • Connect families to resources
  • Connect resource providers to each other

Then communities will have:

  • Families that are empowered changemakers, advocating for their solutions facing their community
  • Equitable access to services
  • Neighborhoods with the infrastructure to support healthy children

Metrics for Success


# of cities or neighborhoods engaged


# of neighborhoods with increasing proportion of children ready for kindergarten

Here’s what Engaged Neighborhoods work looks like:


Empowering Families

  • Developing family advocates to identify and co-create solutions to their unique needs
  • Building capacity of family leaders to share information in their neighborhoods and create bottom-up movement
  • Building the skills of residents, families, and community leaders to advocate at the city level

Connecting Systems

  • Bringing resource providers to the table to network and streamline systems so that families can easily navigate support with equity at the forefront.
  • Using EDI data to identify which resources are most appropriate to communities and working together to provide equitable access.

Early Development Index

  • Sharing EDI data in the community along with education on what to do to support early care and development
  • Using EDI and other data sources to understand inequities and support advocacy and resident engagement in communities that lack resources
  • Engaging resource providers across sectors in all communities and inviting them to task forces

families participated in workshops

families received school readiness materials

agencies participating on task force

Raising Kids Who Are Healthy and Ready to Learn

a preschool teacher reads a book to young children sitting on the carpet

Kindergarten Readiness Is a Strong Predictor of Future Success

Time and again, research shows that children who are developmentally ready when they enter the classroom are more likely to graduate from high school, compete for higher-paying jobs and enjoy success and happiness throughout their lives.

First 5 Orange County wants all children to thrive and reach their full potential.

One way we’re working toward this vision is by investing in neighborhoods to ensure families have equitable access to resources and closing opportunity gaps. We are engaging family leaders, providers, advocacy groups and other stakeholders, and together we are working to improve Orange County children’s kindergarten readiness, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Communities at the Forefront

The communities currently at the forefront of the Engaged Neighborhoods strategy are in Anaheim, Garden Grove, La Habra, and Santa Ana, where less than one out of every two children is starting kindergarten ready. The Early Development Index shows they are doing great in skills related to learning numbers and early literacy, but need support with gross and fine motor skills, prosocial and helping behaviors, and communication skills. Here’s where these communities are on their journey.

Anaheim Learn Well

The Anaheim Learn Well Task Force continues to work on population change and early childhood development with partner organizations. 

The Task Force launched the Resident Leadership Academy (RLA), where parent leaders educate and empower upcoming parent leaders into new and expanded leadership roles. RLA advocacy projects will be supported by partner organizations.

The task force lead the efforts of the Social Determinants of Health implementation project focused on housing stability to support child development.

“I’ve enjoyed participating in the Learn Well Task Force over the past couple of years. The task force is a catalyst for bringing the community together to push forward common goals for our children and families.”

— Erica Collier, Home Educator

Garden Grove

Created an Early Childhood Coordinator position housed at the Family Resource Center to lead the task force through the activities and efforts.

Provided in-person developmental screening.

Created a partnership with Healthy Smiles Mobile Clinic, Orange County Public Mobile Library (OCPL), and Children’s Healthy Initiative of Orange County (CHIOC).  

Held parent meetings led by the Early Childhood Coordinator to learn about the importance of early childhood development using the EDI data, behavior support and school readiness.  

Working with other city departments to support children and families.

“With the support from First 5 Orange County, we’re able to further the goals of enhancing the lives of our youth. Buena Clinton and Magnolia Park serve Garden Grove’s most ethnically-diverse and youth-populated neighborhoods, and the city is committed to providing families with vital resources.”

— John Montanchez, Community Service Director, City of Garden Grove

Smiling baby holding a ball and looking at her mom
young children playing with plastic bugs on a table in a day care setting

families participated in La Habra’s weekly Readiness on the Road events

La Habra’s Little Learners

Advocating with and for early childhood across the City of La Habra.

Composed of city government, community agencies, school districts, and families to improve the systems that support children and families across our community.   

Launched a family advocacy academy over the summer, educating about the importance of early childhood development and empowered to be leaders in our community.

Provide a weekly Readiness on the Road event where families engage with their children and learn about community resources that support the health and well being of the family.

“It is important caregivers learn and remember how to play together with their child. La Habra Little Learners helps our community to have a better brighter future.”

— Gloria Campaña, parent, La Habra School Readiness Program

Santa Ana Early Learning Initiative (SAELI)

Parents and community agencies engaged in advocacy efforts focused on policy changes around affordable housing through two ordinances (rent control and just cause eviction). Activities included:

  • Trainings 
  • Canvassing neighborhoods 
  • Public Speaking at City Council
  • Community Events
  • Neighborhood Leadership Teams

In partnership with the University of California, Irvine, the Playful Learning Landscapes team co-designed STEM-based installations that could be installed and used in different settings (e.g., grocery stores and parks) throughout Santa Ana.

SAELI collaborated with SAUSD community schools to better support families in the community.

“Estoy muy entusiasmada con este programa porque lo han diseñado en base al lenguaje y las necesidades de nuestra la comunidad.”

[“I am very excited about this program because it has been designed according to the language of the community and the need of the community.”]

— Paola Diaz, parent, Davis Elementary

families participated in housing ordinance advocacy in Santa Ana

For more information on Engaged Neighborhoods, please contact Cristina Blevins at