First Things First — A network of support for child care providers

| February 23, 2021
News and happenings about First Things First

February 2021

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Despite continued struggles, child care in Arizona finds support in new ways

Nearly a year after the pandemic hit our state, it’s clear that its impact on Arizona’s child care providers will be long-lasting and industry-changing. In response, providers are turning to trusted programs, support from others who face similar challenges and new initiatives for help.
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FTF honors three “extraordinary” women for Board service

The First Things First Board recently celebrated the contributions of three outgoing members whose collective service to FTF spanned more than a decade. The three individuals lauded for their contributions to the organization were Amelia Flores, who resigned from the Board; and Dr. Sherry Markel and Heidi Quinlan, whose terms have expired. In addition to their recognition during recent Board meetings, each member also received a written commendation from the Governor’s Office thanking them for their service. 
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Parents can build early literacy by talking to babies, FTF expert shares during local podcast

Babies start communicating from day one, said First Things First’s Kat Willard in a recent guest spot on The Parenting Brief, a podcast hosted by Strong Families AZ. 

Willard, who is FTF’s senior director for Family Support and Literacy, encouraged parents to have back-and-forth “conversations” throughout the day, no matter how awkward it feels at first. While babies won’t talk back, of course, they do have their own way of responding – through eye contact, gestures, crying and babbling.

Hear the episode

News Round-Up

News about early childhood around Arizona and across the U.S.

Pima County initiates plan to fund early childhood education for some low-income kids

Arizona Daily Star/, Feb. 17
Pima County supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday (Feb. 16) to allocate $10 million of the upcoming fiscal year budget to fund early childhood education opportunities for youngsters from low-income families.

If approved in the budget process in May, the funding would provide full and partial scholarships to parents who wish to enroll their 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children in a high-quality early childhood program. The scholarship program will specifically target families whose income is under 200% of the federal poverty level.


Following COVID-19 protocols ‘is key’ to keeping preschool open in Ahwatukee

ABC15 Arizona, Feb. 17
Children of Hope Preschool in Ahwatukee has managed to stay open during this entire school year.

“We were all really concerned, we didn’t know what the school year would look like,” said Lynn Hockenberger, the preschool’s director for the past 14 years.

Hockenberger, who also serves on the FTF East Maricopa Regional Partnership Council, shared that special attention on hand washing and teaching preschoolers to wear masks have gone better than expected.

“Kids are resilient, when you teach them something, they learn it and do it, they are amazing.”

Preparing for the first day of kindergarten

Casa Grande Dispatch, Jan. 25
The start of the new year may seem early to begin thinking about the first day of school, but for families with children entering kindergarten next school year, it’s not too soon to get ready. In fact, many schools hold their kindergarten registration events beginning this month.

In 2021, discussions about virtual learning vs. onsite classrooms also are a factor for families preparing their child for their first year of elementary school. The first step is for parents to contact their local school for kindergarten registration information. First Things First, Arizona’s early childhood agency, offers resources and tips for parents and caregivers to prepare.

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Category: Child Welfare, Education, Programs, Resources

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