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 Advisory Group

Parents and Caregivers are encouraged to join the Parent Advisory Group at your local Neighborhood for Learning (NfL). No training is required to participate in these leadership positions that help shape the future of your NfL. Email for more information.

Parent Leader Network

Parents who want a deeper level of engagement may be interested in joining 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). It provides 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 in 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.

The Founding Parents of the Ventura County Parent Leader Network are Arledy Trejo, Danielle Thomas, and Elizabeth Szczepanek. We are pleased to currently have eight parents actively serving in the Parent Leader Network: Liz Bruce, Sheri Coffman, Blanca Fernandez, Tania Magaña, Sandybell Romero, Chrystal Tipping, Elizabeth Szczepanek, and Leticia Zamora. All of our Parent Leaders started out as participants in PACT classes at their local NfL sites. 

Elizabeth Szczepanek, our most experienced parent leader, started participating with F5VC in 2012. She continues to work alongside our parent leaders, providing guidance for the continued development of the program and support for our newest Parent Leader Network representatives, Chrystal Tipping and Blanca Fernandez.

The Parent Leaders work closely with Joanna Mackie, Program Manager with First 5 Ventura County. For more information, please contact her at

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.

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