Raising Kids Who Are Healthy and Ready to Learn

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. Our Engaged Neighborhood Initiative empowers families and neighborhoods to advocate for their young children while connecting families to the early health and development systems, and the systems to each other.

We are engaging family leaders, providers, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders, and together we are working to improve Orange County children’s health and development, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Graphic showing the overlapping stakeholders that make an engaged neighborhood

Engaged Neighborhood Initiative

The Engaged Neighborhood Initiative empowers families 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 solutions to issues 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

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.

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

Early Development Index

We share Early Development Index data in the community along with education on what to do to support early care and development.

We use Early Development Index data and other data sources to understand inequities and support advocacy and resident engagement in communities that lack resources.

We engage resource providers across sectors in all communities and invite them to join task forces.

Communities at the Forefront

First 5 OC currently funds collaborative Engaged Neighborhood groups in four cities: Anaheim, Garden Grove, La Habra, and Santa Ana. Here’s where these communities are on their journey.

Anaheim Learn Well

Network Anaheim: Learn Well envisions an Anaheim where children and youth are ready to learn, succeed in school, and are college and career ready. Established in 2014, Network Anaheim: Learn Well was First 5 Orange County’s second Engaged Neighborhood.

Learn Well empowers families to advocate on behalf of their young children and provides early childhood resources to families. Learn Well develops parent leaders through a Resident Leadership Academy, which trains participants to identify their community needs and then become messengers who can clearly and impactfully advocate for those needs. The Academy includes nine sessions with topics like: Telling the Stories of Our Communities through its Assets, Using Data to Support Community Change Ideas, and How to Lead, Get Others to Join and Influencers to Listen. 

“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

Growing Up Garden Grove’s vision is to educate families and community partners about the importance of early childhood, encourage early learning advocacy, and empower adults with the tools they need so that all of Garden Grove’s children have an equitable start in school and life.

Growing Up Garden Grove is the newest Engaged Neighborhood. This group was formed as a subcommittee of the Garden Grove Collaborative to focus on the development of children ages 0-5 in the city.

Leveraging First 5 OC funds, the City of Garden Grove has designated key staff housed at the Magnolia Park family resource center and is working in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Garden Grove to lead the Engaged Neighborhood efforts.

Smiling baby holding a ball and looking at her mom

“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

young children playing with plastic bugs on a table in a day care setting

La Habra’s Little Learners

La Habra’s Little Learners’ vision is that La Habra’s children are socially, emotionally, and academically ready for school, and ready to live their dreams to the fullest.

First 5 Orange County began funding this community of educators, families, and caring community members in 2017. With nearly 20 partnering organizations, and more than 100 parents participating, La Habra Little Learners works to create neighborhoods that support young children and provide equitable access to resources for all community members.

“As the Executive Director of the La Habra Collaborative it is a privilege to take the lead for the La Habra Little Learners. Our core team from City of La Habra Child Development, La Habra City School District and Lowell Joint Early Learning Programs have been working TOGETHER the last few months developing and creating tools and opportunities to support community engagement for sustainable change.”

Scott Miller

Executive Director, La Habra Collective

Santa Ana Early Learning Initiative (SAELI)

SAELI is the largest and longest-running Engaged Neighborhood.

The group formed after First 5 OC put out a call for projects to promote early childhood that First 5 could support by providing initial seed money. Armed with data from the Early Development Index that showed a gap in key outcomes for young children, SAELI applied for funds to get the organization started.

This collaborative of residents, resource providers, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations has become a robust champion for young children and families in Santa Ana. SAELI engages more than 250 families annually and has 30 partner organizations. First 5 OC continues to provide funding for SAELI’s backbone organizational structure, and SAELI has raised $100,000 in addition to First 5 OC’s funding.

SAELI and First 5 OC share a Theory of Change that focuses on empowering families and access to resources. SAELI is empowering families to enhance early literacy and math skills in their young children before they enter kindergarten, based on the children’s unique needs. SAELI believes in the importance of supporting the family/caregiver alongside the child. They connect families to resources through a coordinated effort among their collaborative members.

“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

For more information on Engaged Neighborhoods, please contact Erwin Cox at Erwin.Cox@cfcoc.ocgov.com.