Sue Yale, educator Diane Bricker and businessman Roger Kortman are among the seven Gila County appointees to a council that advocates for children from birth through age five.
First Things First, funded by Arizona's tobacco tax money, will create new programs for parents, educators and children. The council aims to streamline cooperation between existing agencies.
"If there is intervention in the early years of children's development the children and the community will be better for it," Kortman said.
"Given that Gila County is really short of funds to be able to provide for children, being on this committee is an opportunity to step up our involvement in a state-funded program," he added.
Bricker found it appealing that FTF is a "grassroots effort that includes an array of people with different backgrounds and perspectives."
In late March, the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health board, approved a three-to-five-year strategic plan that includes $8 million in funding for statewide programs.
Grant money will begin to become available the summer of 2009, Yale said. She is one of the "at-large" members of the council. She worked in the state department of education's early childhood development unit and was on the governor's rural health initiative task force.
The state may eventually allocate $160 million dollars or more received through Arizona's tobacco tax to First Things First regional councils to find and decide which needs to address.
The child advocacy organization received hundreds of qualified applicants for the 11-member councils, but occasionally did not get enough in certain areas. There are still open appointments for applicants who represent: faith-based, philanthropy, tribal communities. There is one more "at-large" vacancy.
These four positions will remain open until filled.
In the meantime, Yale, Bricker and Kortman will join other council members Alexis Riva (parent), Linda Miller (school administrator) and Ann Tolman (child care provider) in Phoenix for their first meeting with members from the other 22 regional councils. At the April 21 and 22 meeting, they will learn the ins and outs of the program.
FTF fact sheets and applications are available online at www.azecdh.gov. They may also be submitted by fax to (602) 274-7040, or mailed to: Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board, Regional Partnership Council Application, 4000 N. Central Ave., Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85012.
"First Things First is designed to support and build on existing programs, and create a system that is interconnected and comprehensive while being culturally responsive, family driven and community-based. This is an exciting time for the Board and Arizona," said Chair Nadine Mathis Basha. "In simple words, we are about providing young children with fair chances and parents with good choices."
The adopted strategies are:
- Quality improvement and rating system - $4.5 million (state fiscal year 2009), establishes a rating system for child-care settings.
- Child Care Health Consultation - $600,000, establishes child-care health consultation (usually nurses) as a component of the Quality Improvement and Rating System.
- Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) - $375,000, establishes and coordinates the implementation of a comprehensive statewide scholarship system to improve quality in the professional early childhood workforce.
- Statewide distribution of Parent Kit - $500,000, provides statewide distribution of parent kits, distributed through maternity wards contingent upon Virginia Piper Foundation's continued support of distribution within Maricopa County.
- Public Awareness - $2 million, development and execution of a communications plan to increase public awareness as well as generate sustainable financial and political support for early childhood development and health, resulting in improved outcomes for children and families.
Key measures for each goal area are in place to ensure FTF member accountability.
Goal areas include:
- Professional development of the early childhood development workforce
- Family support for education and access to information about early childhood development
- Coordination of existing efforts at the tribal, state and federal level
"By adopting these focused goals, and more importantly, these well researched strategies, we are taking a profound step forward in shifting outcomes for all children in Arizona." said Elliott Hibbs, executive director.
The Strategic Plan Roadmap, which includes all goals, measures and strategies adopted, is available on the First Things First web site at www.azecdh.gov, under Latest FTF News.
After the April training the next step for all First Things First regional councils will be a needs survey.