Who We Are

We develop research and policy thinking in order to improve early childhood systems in California.

Grounded in the experience of First 5s, the Center studies and disseminates best practices and solutions in early childhood development; convenes experts inside and outside the early childhood space to inform policy; and evaluates solutions within and outside California that can be adapted for the state.

Our Staff

Sarah Crow

Managing Director

Avo Makdessian

Executive Director

Melanie Flood

Director of Communications

Alexandra Parma

Senior Policy Research Associate

Kit Strong

Senior Policy Research Associate

Caitlyn Schaap

Communications Associate

Our Funders


The First 5 Center for Children's Policy is an initiative of the California Children and Families Foundation, a sister organization of First 5 Association of California.

The First 5 Association of California was created in 2001 to offer opportunities to learn across the 58 First 5 counties, and to give voice to the counties’ experiences and stories at the state level. During the years since its inception, the Association has built a strong network across the counties as well as with First 5 California, the state-level agency created by Proposition 10. The First 5 network has become a testing ground of innovative solutions and early childhood system building over the last two decades.

The California Children and Families Foundation was also founded in 2001 as the sister organization of the First 5 Association, in order to provide a platform for philanthropic support for then-nascent First 5 entities throughout the state. The Foundation coordinated technical assistance funding in the start-up phase of the First 5s, leading learning communities in priority areas (e.g., quality supports for preschool, early childhood mental health, early intervention systems, and child nutrition) as well as in important infrastructure development, including financial planning, measurement, and evaluation.

This original function of the Foundation, coupled with the emerging strength of the First 5 network, created the opportunity to launch a new initiative at the Foundation, the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy. The Center develops research and policy ideas with the goal of helping to improve early childhood systems in California.