Guest column: Making the world safer for Arizona children

As Arizona communities highlight April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, First Things First reminds everyone that young children who experience abuse or neglect such as family violence, poor nutrition, housing instability and infrequent health care, can have their ability to learn and succeed compromised.

Because 90 percent of a child’s brain development happens by age 5, these negative experiences can have lasting impacts to a child’s physical and emotional health, their performance in school and their likelihood to engage in risky behaviors.

FTF is doing its part to strengthen families and keep challenging situations from becoming worse, including funding programs such as:

• The Arizona Parent Kit, provided free of charge to parents of all newborns before they leave the hospital or birthing center. It contains resources to help parents support their child in each phase of their early development, from baby to toddler to preschooler.

• The FTF digital Parent Kit which is available online at FirstThingsFirst.org/Parent-Kit. Ninety percent of new parents are millennials born between 1980 to 2000. As the most connected generation, the digital Parent Kit is designed to engage those parents with easily accessible, high quality parenting information, which they can then share with others on their own social media outlets.

• The toll-free Birth to Five Helpline, which provides free advice and answers to the toughest parenting questions from nurses and other child development experts. Expert help is a phone call away at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437). Parents can also download the Birth to Five Helpline app to their smart phones through the Apple App Store or Google Play. Search Birth to Five Helpline.

• Home-based and community-based programs to support families in their role as their child’s first teacher by providing information and resources that promote more positive parent/child interactions and healthy development.

• Community-based parent education on topics like safety, dealing with challenging behaviors and early learning.

Research shows that chronic stress on a young child, often induced by abuse and neglect, can have adverse effects on the body’s nervous system later in life, causing poor responses to normal environmental cues.

Here are some ways to help prevent abuse or neglect and to help the youngest victims:

• Volunteer at or donate to community-based organizations that support children and families;

• Join a child abuse prevention council in your area. For information call: (602) 255-2548.

Child abuse is not just a parental issue or a criminal issue. Child abuse is a critical health issue that is 100 percent preventable. Everyone can play a role to ensure that Arizona’s kids achieve a safer and brighter future.

About First Things First — First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. More information is available at FirstThingsFirst.org.

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