LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The board of First 5 LA, which works to improve education and care services for children younger than 5, has approved a $161.5 million spending plan that includes a home or hospital care program for new parents, the group announced.

The budget includes funding for the Welcome Baby program, in which parents can request in-hospital or in-home assistance on breastfeeding and other baby care techniques, enlist the help of a parent coach or nurse and items such as thermometers, nursing pillows, toys and baby-proofing supplies.

The program is available for free to people of all income levels through 13 participating hospitals.

The budget also funds the Best Start Communities program, which focuses on developing child-friendly environments in specific neighborhoods around Los Angeles County.

The spending plan reflects the second year of First 5 LA’s strategic shift away from funding its traditional programming toward programs that meet four specific policy priorities, which are to:

   — give parents and families the ability to better access services;

   — help make neighborhoods more nurturing to children;

   — increase the availability of low-cost education and care services for

children 5 years old and younger; and to

    — improve health, mental health and substance abuse services for families with young children.

“Our mission at First 5 LA is to work in partnership with others to strengthen families, communities and systems of service and support so all children in L.A. County enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life,” said Sheila Kuehl, a Los Angeles County supervisor who sits on First 5 LA’s board.

The budget “will help enable us to achieve this mission by maximizing our impact for the greatest number of kids prenatal to age 5 in L.A. County,” she said.

First 5 LA Executive Director Kim Belshe said the budget “puts parents at the center of the commission’s work.”

The five-year strategic plan on which the budget is based was implemented last year, amid a decline in revenues from the tobacco taxes that fund First 5 LA.