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First Things First Emergency Response - Child Care Scholarships


Providers and parents have been notified that assistance through the First Things First Emergency Scholarship Program is temporary. Unfortunately, the funding to support the program in the Central Maricopa, Coconino, Gila, North Phoenix, Northeast Maricopa, Southeast Maricopa and Yavapai regions is being depleted quickly. As a result, no additional providers will receive contracts to provide services and no additional scholarships to children will be approved.   We will regularly update the list of regions where funding is running out.

The First Things First Emergency Child Care Scholarships is a temporary plan to financially help families with young children (birth through age 5) with incomes up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). 

The Guidelines are an official measure of the income at which the numbers of people living in poverty are determined.  They are also used to determine eligibility for a number of state and federal programs such as Head Start, the Food Stamp program, and Medicaid.    

Many families in Arizona are unable to afford the costs of early care and education for their children as a result of job loss, decreased earnings or other factors related to the economic downturn. 

The First Things First (FTF) response stems from a worsening decline in access to child care by families in economic crisis.  The immediate need for child care propelled First Things First to design a response that promotes continuity of care, one of the most important factors in the healthy development of young children.   

What is First Things First doing?

First Things First is providing temporary scholarships for roughly 10,000 children statewide.  The distribution of scholarships is based on a combination of the number of children birth through age 5 and the number of children birth through age 5 living in poverty in any given region as a proportion of the total number of children in the state.  A region refers to the 31 Regional Areas created by First Things First to assure that decisions about community needs and targeted funding are made locally.  The Scholarships are037 awarded directly to participating providers for eligible families by the administrative home, comprised of a partnership between the Valley of the Sun United Way, United Way of Northern Arizona and United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.  

How do providers participate?

Center- and home-based child care providers who are accredited by national organizations recognized by the Arizona Department of Education and the Department of Economic Security and/or who have applied to and are eligible for Quality First may participate in the emergency scholarship response.  Being eligible means providers are regulated and in good standing with the regulating body.  Selected providers will be determined based on their geographic location or region and preference will go to providers that offer full-day, full-week, year-round services and services to infants and toddlers.  True to the FTF mission, this plan ties scholarships to quality care.  Accredited centers and those who applied for Quality First can contact the appropriate United Way to apply to participate.  First Things First will inform the United Ways which Quality First applicants meet eligibility requirements.  Interested providers who have not applied to Quality First can do so at

Which families qualify for scholarships?

Families with children birth to age 5 (prior to kindergarten entrance) whose household income is at or below 200% of the FPG who are employed, seeking employment or advancing their skills to attain or maintain employment are eligible for the scholarships.  Families receiving a DES subsidy are not eligible for scholarships.  Those who qualify for a DES child care subsidy but are on a waiting list also qualify, but they must retain their status on the waiting list, especially since the First Things First Emergency Child Care Scholarships are temporary.   

When will the scholarship be available?

First Things First and the partnering United Ways implemented the program as of April 1, 2009. 

Also, please check  for additional updates.


Participating United Way Contact Information –



Phone /Fax

First Things First Regions Covered

Valley of the Sun United Way





Toll Free:


Gila River Tribe, Graham/Greenlee, Gila, Pinal, North Phoenix, Central Phoenix, South Phoenix, NE Maricopa, Central Maricopa, SE Maricopa, NW Maricopa, SW Maricopa, San Carlos Apache Tribe

United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona





520 -903-9002

North Pima, Central Pima, South Pima, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Cochise, Tohono O’odham Nation, Yuma,  Santa Cruz, Colorado River Indian Tribe

United Way of Northern Arizona






Yavapai, Coconino, LaPaz/Mohave, Navajo Nation, Navajo/Apache, White Mountain Apache