Family Resource Centers providing hubs for support services

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Annette Bourne

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When the Creighton Family Resource Center opens its doors every week, Phoenix families can access everything from kindergarten preparation to a food pantry and fitness classes. On any given day, the center may host classes on pre-natal nutrition, baby’s brain development and storytime.

First Things First, Arizona’s early childhood agency, funds more than 40 family resource centers (FRC) across Maricopa County to help support parents as their child’s first teacher, including the Creighton center. FRCs collect and share resources with their community. The goal is to ensure that families receive services they need or be referred to a program that can help. Some centers are housed in schools, while others are placed in locations that residents were already frequenting, like local libraries.

One of the primary aims of FRCs is to ensure that children enter kindergarten ready to learn. At these one-stop centers for families of kids birth to age 5, families and caregivers can attend parenting classes on topics such as early literacy, the importance of play to children’s learning and how to deal with challenging behaviors.

For instance, each summer, the Creighton center hosts a kindergarten bootcamp for youngsters who haven’t had a chance to attend preschool. The 4-week class focuses on literacy and writing, while helping prepare them for the behavioral expectations in a kindergarten classroom. Parents are also engaged in the process so that they better understand how to help their children through their education.

Each FRC is unique based on local needs and resources. The Creighton center, which opened November 2018, has already made great inroads in the community. While the primary mission is getting kids ready to learn, FRCs understand that many families face barriers. As a result, the Creighton center boasts a food pantry, free clothing store, access to health and wellness classes and parenting classes. A twice-yearly festival and resource fair helps to pair families with needed services, all while having fun. This wide variety of support is possible thanks to help from dozens of partner agencies.

What Creighton and so many other FRCs are doing would not be possible without grant funding from First Things First. The agency created the FTF Family Resource Network, an umbrella network to help FRCs share best practices, mentor new staff and assist each other. Family resource centers in the FTF Family Resource Network give parents and caregivers the tools they need to support the learning and healthy development of their young children.

The Creighton center is seeing encouraging changes in how parents and children interact. More positive and productive relationships will aid the children as they enter school. Currently, Arizona Education Progress Meter shows that only 22% of 3- and 4-year-olds in Arizona are enrolled in a high-quality early learning setting. This means that many young children aren’t adequately prepared for the classroom.

In 2019 alone, FRCs directly served more than 13,000 families at 42 sites. As a result, thousands of Valley children are getting critical early learning experiences. They’re more likely to succeed in kindergarten and beyond, and be better prepared for the classroom environment.

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