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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Jessica Brown Anna Marie Smith are Phoenix South’s 2018 Champions for Young Children

J Brown and AM Smith

Jessica Brown and Anna Marie Smith have been selected as the 2018 Phoenix South First Things First Champion for Young Children.

The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health. Champions spend a significant amount of time volunteering with FTF and building public awareness about the importance of early childhood issues.

Brown and Smith engaged in awareness-raising efforts such as:

  • Organizing an Early Childhood Everyday Training at their workplace to ensure that their colleagues know to talk about the importance of early childhood with their clients.
  • Distributing FTF resource information, such as Family Guides that highlight early childhood programs in the area, at community events they attend.
  • Consistently sharing FTF early childhood information and with their clients on a monthly basis throughout the year, potentially reaching dozens of immigrant and refugee families with children 5 and under.
  • Signing up families to receive the FTF E-newsletter so that they can receive tips about early childhood development and health and broaden their awareness about FTF.

We recently caught up with Jessica Brown and Anna Marie Smith who are social workers at the Children’s Program with Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. 

Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is so important?

Brown: Early childhood development and health is incredibly important as it can have such an impact on the trajectory of a child’s life. Early childhood development and health can support healthy attachments and the overall health and well-being of a child on so many levels, including physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially, and as such, can greatly impact the health and well-being of the family system. 

Smith: Early childhood development and health are essential in supporting children to be able to determine their own goals and paths in the future. This has been demonstrated by numerous scientific studies and I can see it in the clients that we work with. Early childhood development and health at this critical time not only set habits for the future, but also allow for the best social and emotional development. I also see a focus on early childhood development and health as a protective factor for children as they grow and are exposed to varying positive and negative experiences. Having a solid base of health and development allows children to better cope with the adverse experiences they might encounter.

Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?

Brown: Knowing what resources are available in the community and helping to share that information is essential. Increasing the number of access points so that more people in the community can obtain the information and resources is one basic way we can help more families on a path of success. There are also many volunteer opportunities and organizations that can greatly use donations. If you see a need not being met or a population not being served, reach out to your local community organizations or local officials. By sharing information and getting involved in our communities there is the ability to support healthier children, healthier families, which in turn leads to healthier communities.

Smith: There are so many ways for people to get involved. I would encourage the community to learn about the different resources that we have, access those resources, distribute this information, volunteer and give money to organizations which are involved in the health and wellness of our children. I would also encourage the community to identify gaps in resources and then work with existing organization to fill those gaps.

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