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.

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

Here’s what Engaged Neighborhoods work looks like:


Family Advocacy

  • 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

Child Care

  • Supporting family, friend, and neighbor programs to increase quality
  • Educating the community on the importance of quality early learning and resources that are available
  • Advocating for policy change and support of early childhood programs

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

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.

a dad lays on the couch holding a baby on his chest

Anaheim Learn Well

Increasing family engagement and pinpointing one neighborhood for the work

2021-22 Activities and Goals:
  • Engage early health & development resource providers
  • Use the Early Development Index/Neighborhood Risk Index data to select one neighborhood to focus efforts
  • Introduce Resident Leadership Academy
  • Increase advocacy around policies that benefit early childhood

“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 their task force and leveraging city relationships to connect families to resources

2021-22 Activities and Goals:
  • Engage families of children 0-5 with educational workshops
  • Increase city-wide awareness of early childhood development
  • Create advisory workgroup of parents that will provide guidance to the city’s resource and referral process and task force
  • Increase parent participation on task force

“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

La Habra Little Learners

Educate the community on the importance of “learning through play every day”

2021-22 Activities and Goals:
  • Create a family engagement strategy
  • Develop and implement a neighborhood outreach plan
  • Create a plan to engage additional stakeholders
  • Continue to engage city leadership

“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)

Neighborhood Leadership Teams host Parent Leadership trainings in 20 targeted elementary schools

2021-22 Activities and Goals:
  • Create Wellness Centers that are one-stop shops for family resources
  • Increase coordination of developmental screenings and well-child visits
  • Strengthen parenting skills
  • Implement Neighborhood Leadership Teams
  • Support advocacy campaigns

“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

a smiling dad holds his happy baby up in the air

For more information on Engaged Neighborhoods, please contact Mike Anderson, at michael.anderson@cfcoc.ocgov.com