Parent Engagement

Kids Thrive When Parents Lead

Kids, families, and communities thrive when parents are engaged partners in decision-making. That’s a guiding theme behind our work at First 5 Ventura County. And that’s why we are collaborating to help parents gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to sit alongside decision-makers as a voice for children and families.

Parent Partners

Parents and Caregivers are encouraged to join the Parent Advisory Committees at your local Neighborhood for Learning. No training is required to participate in these leadership positions and help shape the future of your NfL!

Parent Leader Network

Parents who want a deeper level of engagement than the Parent Advisory Committee may be interested in the Parent Leader Network.

The Parent Leader Network (PLN) was formed in March 2018 with support from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). Its purpose is to provide a space for parents in EC-LINC communities like Ventura County to collaborate with and support each other, represent the parent perspective in EC-LINC and advocate for parent voice and leadership in early childhood systems. In alignment with the Manifesto for Race Equity & Parent Leadership, the Network seeks to:

  • Strengthen parents’ leadership and expertise
  • Increase access to peer-to-peer education, support and leadership opportunities
  • Change communities and systems through parent-led projects and advocacy

The Parent Leader Network believes that:

  • Parents should be at the center
  • Parents should participate at all levels of decision-making
  • Parents should be valued as experts
  • Parents are powerful leaders

The Parent Leader Network brings parents together from across the country to collaborate, build leadership, advance race equity, and advocate for change within early childhood systems.

Our Ventura County Founding Parents of the Parent Leader Network are Arledy Trejo, Danielle Thomas and Elizabeth Szczepanek (bios below).

Contact Jimena Hernandez for more information.

PLN Steering Committee

PLN Steering Committee members gather feedback and ideas from parents in EC-LINC communities and represent them as the decision-making body of the Network. In monthly virtual meetings and work in between meetings, Steering Committee members plan and lead Network strategies and promote the Manifesto locally and nationwide. Two parent leaders from Ventura County were selected by CSSP to serve on the Committee.

First 5 Ventura County adheres to principles in the Ripples of Transformation and Manifesto for Race Equity & Parent Leadership in Early Childhood Systems in our Parent Engagement Work.

Ripples of Transformation: Families Leading Change in Early Childhood Systems is organized around the concept of family engagement as a continuing stream of opportunities for families. The toolkit is divided into three main sections:

  • Engaging with their children
  • Shaping programs and services
  • Influencing policies and systems

Manifesto for Race Equity & Parent Leadership in Early Childhood Systems seeks to ensure families — especially families of color, disenfranchised fathers, parents who do not speak English, and families whose children have special needs — have equitable access to opportunities, resources and supports in their communities, such as social connections, parenting resources, quality schools, good jobs and safe neighborhoods.

PLN Steering Committee Founding Members

Elizabeth Szczepanek

I have three children, ages 9, 7, and 2. I have been involved in the Ventura NFL for 9 years. All three of my children attended the PACT classes. It is a wonderful program that helps connect families in their community and teach parents the importance of being involved in their child’s early development. To stay involved I joined the Parent Advisory Board 5 years ago. Since joining the board I have been an advocate for programs and services such as PACT classes, Developmental Screenings and Kinder Prep. I feel these programs and services are vital in helping families in our communities. I am looking forward to learning how to get more parents involved in the development of our programs and ensuring we are doing our best serving the children of Ventura.


Danielle Thomas

Community Organizer, Coach, Mom, Auntie, Sister, Daughter, Mrs. Thomas; I just call myself Danielle. I’ve gotten involved in Ventura County civics through being the daily care provider for my three busy boys; Gabrel an 11 year old fifth grader, Johnnie is 9 and in the third grade, and Lathan is the 3 year old preschooler. For the past several months I’ve worked with Ventura Neighborhood for Learning (NFL) through the First 5 Program. The Parent and Child Together Class has benefited my son tremendously, and he looks forward to the daily challenging stimulation!

In cooperation with the First Robotics League, I started a community Lego Robotics club in February of 2018. I recently secured a $1,500 grant from Raytheon in Goleta to fund the current LEGO Robotics season, the project focus is on returning to the moon and space exploration.


Arledy Trejo

I am a mother of two children, 4 and 3 years old. I have participating in the NfL program since 2015. I enjoy working directly with parents, motivating and informing them about meetings and activities. I like to tell parents, “If we give our children a good foundation from 0-5 years of life they will a better future.”