Southwest Human Development, Educare Arizona offer free, high-quality preschool for Valley families

As parents return to in-person work environments or start new jobs, child care is an increasingly stressful part of that transition. The high cost of preschool sometimes also discourages parents from returning to the workforce at a time when they may be already struggling financially.

Southwest Human Development’s free Early Head Start and Head Start programs have immediate openings available for eligible families in Phoenix who are looking to enroll their children in high-quality child care to help prepare them for kindergarten success and positive outcomes later in life.

Federally funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start programs are designed to fulfill the early learning, health and family well-being needs of young children and their families. All children who participate gain access to a welcoming, high-quality learning environment, highly-trained staff and low child-to-teacher ratios. The programs also provide participants with health and development screenings, nutritious meals and snacks, dental and mental health support, and other related services.

“Our part-day and full-day programs help ensure every child has the chance to succeed during their earliest years, when they enter the K-12 school system, and beyond,” said Mindy Zapata, M.Ed., director of Early Head Start and Head Start at Southwest Human Development. “While our programs have always been a lifeline for families and essential to their children’s early development, since the start of the pandemic, we’re really seeing how fundamental these programs have been for underserved families throughout our community to receive the support they need.”

The nonprofit’s early education programs serve more than 1,200 children and their families. Programs are offered at Educare Arizona and in the Balsz, Creighton, Madison, Osborn and Paradise Valley school districts. Additionally, Southwest Human Development’s Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs are offered at several Phoenix child care centers.

“A core component of our programs is their two-generation approach that not only helps meet the needs of the child, but also those of the child’s family,” added Zapata. “Parents or caregivers of Head Start participants have access to comprehensive social support services and other related resources. There’s ample opportunity for parent engagement with the programs and we also help them develop and maintain an engaging home environment to achieve their family’s academic, financial and home-life goals.”

Each of the Head Start programs has varying age and eligibility criteria. To enroll in Head Start, children must turn 3 prior to August 31 of that school year and also be age 5 or under, while Early Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs are available to pregnant women and their children from birth to age 3. Families with income levels that fall below federal poverty guidelines receive priority entry into Head Start programs.

Families can call (602) 560-0000 to speak with one of Southwest Human Development’s Head Start enrollment specialists who will walk parents or caregivers through the application process, provide eligibility information and help them find the most convenient Head Start location to meet their family’s needs. Whether it is near a family’s home or their place of work, high-quality preschool is available.

Learn more about Southwest Human Development’s Head Start programs or complete an online application at swhd.org/HeadStart.