8 must-have resources for preschool and child care programs

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the preschool and child care industry throughout Arizona and across the country. Whether programs have temporarily closed or remained open, preschools and child care centers are facing numerous programmatic and financial challenges.

At the onset of the crisis, Southwest Human Development immediately began working to identify the most pressing needs of the early care and education community and responded by supporting providers and families through its Family Assistance Fund, COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Early Care and Education Programs, drive-thru meals for children and families, as well as providing hard-to-find cleaning supplies, diapers, formula and more.

Given the precarious state that many providers find themselves in, it’s important that the early childhood community receives additional support to ensure safe operations and high-quality learning experiences for children in its care.

Here are eight must-have resources that can help your preschool or child care program stay on track:

Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry

What better way to help your team than through professional development? The Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry is a centralized application that can help center-based and in-home child care providers, teachers and directors grow their skills and advance their careers. Find and register for free and low-cost trainings and professional development opportunities, manage your career profile and access scholarships to assist with classes toward a degree or credential. To sign up for free, visit www.azregistry.org.

Birth to Five Helpline | 877-705-KIDS (5437)

Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline is a free service open to all Arizona families with young children looking for the latest child development information from experts in the field. What some people don’t know is that professionals may also take advantage of this free service! Bilingual experts can help with a variety of topics such as sleep, challenging behaviors, potty learning/training, health and nutrition, feeding and eating, fussiness/colic, community resources and more. Learn more at www.birthtofivehelpline.org.

AZToolkit

Managed by AzAEYC, AZToolkit is a comprehensive resource for early learning providers to help save time, increase quality, reduce costs and share knowledge. Through AZToolkit, providers can find resources for business operations, insurance, family engagement, health, handbooks and more. This includes curriculum ideas and classroom materials; human resources tools, templates, forms and policies; and discounts at leading vendors/retailers. Learn more at www.azaeyctoolkit.org.

Smart Support

Smart Support partners early childhood mental health consultants with child care providers to promote the social and emotional development of all children in care. Smart Support can help ensure the children in your program are engaged and learning, manage children’s difficult behaviors effectively, enhance staff communication skills, guide conversations with parents about children’s needs and behaviors, and provide referrals to community resources. Learn more at www.swhd.org/smartsupport.

Quality First

Quality First is Arizona’s quality improvement and rating system for early learning programs. Created and managed by First Things First, Quality First partners with more than 1,000 licensed and regulated child care and preschool providers across the state to improve the quality of their early learning programs for children from birth to age 5 to ensure children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. Visit www.qualityfirstaz.com to find out more.

Expulsion Prevention

Young children are being expelled from preschools and child care programs at an astonishing rate, often because of challenging behaviors that caregivers feel unprepared to manage. Research shows that these practices have long-term harmful effects. Organizations like Child Care Resource and Referral and Southwest Human Development offer resources for families and/or training and technical assistance for professionals. To view a list of training opportunities, visit www.swhd.org/expulsion. An all-new training, “Supporting Children in Uncertain Times: Response to COVID-19, How to Best Take Care of Ourselves and Children,” has also been added to the Registry at www.azregistry.org.

Inclusion Program

Research suggests that including children with special needs in regular education and care settings gives them the greatest opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Inclusion programs are designed to help preschool and child care providers support children with developmental delays or disabilities in the classroom. With training, providers find they are better equipped to serve all children, not simply those who are typically developing or just those with special needs. Learn more at www.swhd.org/inclusion.

Professional Development Institute at Educare Arizona

The Professional Development Institute (PDI) improves early care and education teacher and leader practice through professional development and training, and serves as a knowledge hub of tools and resources. PDI is currently recruiting new cohorts for its Leadership Development Program that helps child care directors ensure effective operations and enhance organizational leadership, and Journey Through Books that supports teacher knowledge and practices designed to promote early communication, language and literacy development. To learn more about the fall cohorts, email nbyars@swhd.org.