First Things First releases study on challenges for Arizona young children

First Things First released a report called Building Bright Futures which detailed several challenges the infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Arizona.

The report laid out several findings including about one in three young children live in poverty, the population of children birth to 5 years old is expected to grow 19 percent by 2030 and 29 percent of young children in Arizona live in poverty, according to a press release.

(Submitted photo)

Other findings in the report included 34 percent of young children lack the needed vaccinations, 26 percent of Arizona parents reported they had been asked to complete developmental screening for their children and 64 percent of Arizona children don’t attend preschool.

Most of these finding are above the national average with the 26 percent of Arizona parents reported to have been asked to complete a developmental screening for their children being around the national average, a release states.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain growth happens before kindergarten and early experiences lay the foundation for their success in school and in life,” FTF Chief Executive Officer Marilee Dal Pra said in a prepared statement.

“This data shows us that too many young kids face challenges in the critical early years that threaten their lifelong success.”

The release states research shows children with negative experiences early in life are more likely to drop out of school; become teenage parents; suffer from chronic illness; experience unemployment, homelessness or domestic violence; and engage in high-risk behaviors, such as drug use.

By contrast, research demonstrates that children with access to high quality early learning are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. As adults, they typically earn more and are less likely to be involved in the criminal justice or social welfare systems, according to a release.

“So many facets of our community impact young children’s lives — families, schools, businesses, faith communities, and government at all levels. This report not only shows that we can all do more to support young children; it gives us invaluable data with which to inform those decisions,” Ms. Dal Pra said in a prepared statement.

FTF has posted most of the data in Building Bright Futures on its Data Center, so that stakeholders can access and interact with data most useful to them.

This tool enables users to view, sort and map aggregate data related to FTF’s investment in strategies to support the healthy development of Arizona children from birth to age 5.

The impact of those strategies includes 54,000 screenings were completed in fiscal year 2017 to detect developmental or sensory issues that can become learning problems later on and scholarships were provided to help 8,800 children access early learning.

Another impact is 925 child care and preschool providers work with FTF’s Quality First program to improve the quality of early learning programs for more than 60,000 young children statewide.

“While First Things First is improving outcomes for thousands of young children statewide, we know more needs to be done and no one entity can do it all,” Ms. Dal Pra said.

“We hope Building Bright Futures will help community leaders at all levels see the urgent need to support early childhood development and health, and spark community conversations and partnerships that ensure more children in Arizona are ready for school and set for life.”

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