Southwest Human Development sets national standard for early care and education

Despite Arizona ranking near the bottom in U.S. education metrics, innovation and leadership is taking place at the earliest stages of the educational spectrum thanks to a local nonprofit.

Southwest Human Development is helping fill a void in the Valley and developing programs that are being scaled on a national level. Whether it’s a program that helps train teachers in early childhood centers or a dedicated workshop where children ages birth to 5 with physical disabilities can get individually-designed equipment, Southwest Human Development provides 40 early childhood programs and services to 135,000 children and their families each year.

And more and more, national and local organizations are taking notice.

Prestigious national foundations and Valley organizations have announced nearly $3 million in new grants for Southwest Human Development, including some that will help scale its local practices on the national level.

An anonymous family foundation provided a three-year grant to support Southwest Human Development’s Early Childhood Quality Teaching Initiative in 32 community childcare classrooms throughout Maricopa County.

The grant provides intensive training and coaching designed to improve the quality of teaching in the early child care centers and builds on Southwest Human Development’s deep expertise in providing high-quality coaching and professional development services. Participating classrooms receive weekly intensive, on-site coaching, modeling, practice, video review and feedback, and the program also includes peer learning communities for teachers.

The Buffett Early Childhood Fund is also providing a three-year grant to enhance Southwest Human Development’s Early Childhood Quality Teaching Initiative and expand the program to include Educare Schools in Arizona, Maine, Wisconsin and Colorado.

The ultimate goal is to equip teachers to provide rich early learning experiences that improve outcomes for the children they serve.

“I feel honored being a part of the Acceleration Project,” said Yvette Aguiniga, a child development assistant for Southwest Human Development’s Head Start program at Educare Arizona. “I feel it has helped me become a stronger observer and be more diligent in my work with the children.  My coach is very helpful and has opened my eyes to different ways of looking at a lesson activity and simple conversations with others.  This will be an experience I would love to carry with me and be able to show others by example and word of mouth.”

Since 1981, Southwest Human Development has been empowering children and their families to flourish.

“For years, Southwest Human Development has constructed and operated nationally-recognized early childhood programs for young children and professionals,” said Ginger Ward, CEO of Southwest Human Development. “Now, some of this work is being replicated across the country. If what we have started here can help more children and their families, it makes it all the more worthwhile.”

Science has documented that the earliest days, weeks, months and years of life are a period of unparalleled growth when brain cell connections are made. As children, health and development are directly influenced by the quality of care and experiences with parents and other adults. How children are held, talked to and cared for teaches them about who they are and how they are valued. This profoundly shapes who children will become.

The investments made today in young children provides an important foundation for human development, with critical, in-the-long-run links to economic earnings and opportunity later in life. More and more evidence suggests that there are aspects of early skills – achievement, behavior, and mental health—that if improved early in life can improve children’s life chances.