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Eric Santiago,
Regional Coordinator

Mary Jo West
Communications Director
(602) 771-5021  


First Things First

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First Things First Southwest Maricopa Regional Partnership Council: Bringing Much Needed Early Services and Supports to Young Children and their Families


Avondale, Arizona (December 29, 2008) - How can we best ensure that young children grow up healthy, ready to succeed?  That question was not only asked but answered by a group of volunteers in the Southwest Maricopa County area.  These volunteers, as members of an eleven-person Regional Partnership Council, recently identified needed investments in children ages 0-5 and their families in the Southwest Maricopa Region. They also selected funding priorities where First Things First monies will be invested in 2009.

After conducting local assessments of the needs of young children and their families, the First Things First Southwest Maricopa Regional Partnership Council announced their funding priorities. Beginning July 1, 2009, more than $1.8 million dollars will be invested in the Maricopa County area. The following are just some of the highlights of the funded strategies that will impact children 0-5:

  • Health Education and Screenings-Children in the region will receive dental, hearing, vision, and developmental screenings to identify undetected health needs and connect them to appropriate services. 
  • Scholarships and Training – First Things First monies will also be invested in scholarships and training for early childhood professionals. Research suggests that such investments help improve outcomes for the young children in their care.
  • Quality First!-  The Southwest Maricopa Regional Partnership Council has invested in creation of a quality improvement and rating system (called Quality First!) for early care and education providers.  Monies will be invested to help improve child care, and provide information to families on assessing quality care.  
  • Family Support Resources -  Parents and families in the region will have expanded access to high quality programs, services, and resources that focus on supporting and strengthening families.

 First Things First funds are generated by a statewide 80 cents tax on tobacco products that Arizona voters approved in November 2006 when Proposition 203 was passed.  Over $54 million was allocated to be used across the seven regional partnership councils in Maricopa County. When asked about the impact of all the work that is to be done in the Southwest, Council Member said,  “Through our work with First Things First, we have an incredible opportunity to positively affect the lives of our young children. It is truly an investment in our future, the future of our children and the future of our society. Our investment in children age birth to 5 years is like throwing a pebble into a lake: the ripples from the investment will affect not only those children’s lives, but the lives of generations to come.”

First Things First and the Southwest Maricopa Regional Partnership Councils are in sync with the national movement emphasizing the early years as the best time for investment.  Recent media coverage has highlighted President-elect Obama’s strategic focus on early childhood education.  In these tough economic times, it is more important than ever to invest in children now since most of a child’s brain development occurs from zero to five. If they are not prepared for Kindergarten, research shows us that they will falter in school and not achieve their potential, but may cost the community in the long run. Regional Councils across Maricopa County are focusing on their future workforce, preparing their children to compete in a global market place.

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