Southwest Human Development Providing Training for Those Caring for Arizona’s Youngest Students

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Ryan Narramore

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The first five years of a child’s life are vital for social, emotional and cognitive development. These early experiences set the stage for the future and can be highly predictive of how well a child fares in adulthood.

That’s why the 900 caring and highly qualified staff at Southwest Human Development are delivering programs to young children in Arizona and the adults who care for them. As the state’s largest nonprofit dedicated to young children, Southwest Human Development is committed to the 135,000 children and their families served every year. Their range of evidence-based programs include everything from child development and mental health to early literacy and Head Start programs.

For instance, Southwest Human Development was awarded a grant to implement Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships as a way to blend and braid varied resources to make them work more efficiently for parents of young children. By utilizing local, state and federal programs and dollars across the care continuum, families are able to access affordable care for their child, which is also providing a quality early learning experience. Beyond academics, families are also aided by health, nutrition, social services and other vital learning. This integrated approach is available all over Arizona and is currently impacting nearly 2,000 children. The structure of the program allows for the needs of low-income families and makes high quality resources available, setting the children on an early path to success.

From a caregiver standpoint, Southwest Human Development is making inroads to helping preschool and childcare providers better understand and address behavioral issues in young children, in an effort to reduce expulsions. In fact, Arizona is a leader in this respect. Through the Smart Support program, the team from Southwest Human Development teams with child care providers to provide consultations and training based on their youth’s unique needs. Last year alone, they served more than 400 child care settings. By partnering with highly trained providers, the team can assist with a variety of issues, ranging from a baby’s problem feeding to toddlers who hit or bite. Most importantly, they can aid caregivers in developing healthy, trusting relationships with the families that they serve.

The free service aims to enhance the capacity of adults to meet the varied needs of the children in their care. The trainings help to avoid preschool expulsions, which can be highly detrimental to young children and stressful for families. By providing caregivers the tools they need to address challenging behaviors, students are enabled to remain in their environment and retain the stability they need at the formative age.

In the first four years that Smart Support was active, the team reached close to 600 child care providers and more than 1,500 teachers. The comprehensive look at their efficacy showed that the classroom mental well-being improved, teachers became more hopeful and the relationships between teachers and students improved. What’s more, children’s risk for expulsion decreased.

Southwest Human Development is strengthening the foundation that is necessary for Arizona’s children to get a great start in life. Through these and many other programs offered around the state, they are helping to ensure the academic, mental, and economic health of these youth and their families.

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