Policy Resource

Arizona First Things First

Sep 1, 2017

First Things First was created in 2006, when voters passed a ballot initiative setting aside 80 cents from each pack of cigarettes sold in order to fund the expansion of health and education programs for children ages birth to five. Voters have repeatedly renewed their support for First Things First by rejecting propositions that would have dismantled the program and reallocated funds to the state general fund.

First Things First was created in 2006, when voters passed a ballot initiative setting aside 80 cents from each pack of cigarettes sold in order to fund the expansion of health and education programs for children ages birth to five. Voters have repeatedly renewed their support for First Things First by rejecting propositions that would have dismantled the program and reallocated funds to the state general fund.

First Things First operates primarily at the community level, with 28 regional councils made up of local leaders who make programmatic and funding decisions for their areas. A statewide Early Childhood Development and Health Board oversees the councils and ensures funds are used effectively. Regional partnerships are allocated funds based on the number of children aged birth to five in their community, with extra consideration given for children living in poverty.

Through direct accountability and grassroots leadership, the First Things First program has thrived in supporting early care and learning in Arizona. Regional councils identify the specific needs of their communities and invest in programs and services that support quality child care and preschool, strengthening families and early literacy, preventative health, workforce development and training, and family and community awareness.

First Things First funds are being used to carry out several initiatives:

  • Kith and Kin programs - help relatives, neighbors and friends caring for young kids in their homes expand their skills working with young kids, including classes on brain development and early literacy.
  • Technical assistance to child care programs in areas such as dealing with behavioral challenges or promoting healthy habits in children; and, incentives to keep the best teachers working with our youngest kids.
  • Support for child care staff to attend college courses and earn degrees in early childhood.
  • Quality First program - partners with almost 900 regulated programs in child care centers, homes and schools to enhance early learning in areas proven to help children thrive.
  • Summer Transition to Kindergarten - exposes children who may not have had an opportunity to attend preschool to the routines of school and introduces them to the skills they will need to be successful in kindergarten.
  • Student scholarships - helps more families and young children access quality child care and preschool.

As outlined in the 2018 Annual Report, First Things First demonstrated the significant impact it has made in Arizona communities:

  • 66,094 families of newborns left the hospital with tools to help them support their child’s health and learning.
  • 47,454 families increased their knowledge of effective parenting practices through workshops at family resource centers.
  • 5,809 families with young children participated in voluntary home visiting programs proven to reduce parental stress levels, increase connections to community supports and improve children’s cognitive, motor, behavioral and socio-emotional development.
  • 3,510 families completed a series of classes on topics like brain development, early literacy and nutrition.
  • 42,655 infants, toddlers and preschoolers were in early learning programs that met or exceeded Quality First’s rigorous standards.
  • 7,330 referrals were provided to further assess children for developmental delays/sensory issues and possible treatment or early intervention services.

Updated February 2019

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