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 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 2016 Annual Report, First Things First demonstrated the significant impact it has made in Arizona communities:

  • 72,058 newborn Parent Kits were provided to parents before they left the hospital with information about healthy parenting practices and how to support their baby’s early learning.
  • 9,250 infants, toddlers and preschoolers received scholarships to access safe, nurturing early learning programs while their parents worked.
  • 27,376 screenings were completed to detect vision, hearing and developmental issues in young kids and prevent learning challenges later on.
  • More than 232,000 families have accessed early childhood information, training or referrals through Family Resource Centers.

Updated July 2017.

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