Today we know more than ever about the importance of children’s earliest years in shaping their learning and development. Yet, never before have the needs of young children and their families been more pressing. According to Harvard’s “Center on the Developing Child,” there are three basic foundations of lifelong health that are fundamental to early childhood development:  1) stable and responsive relationships, 2) safe and supportive environments, and 3) sound and appropriate nutrition. Through Strong Families AZ, Child Care Licensing, and Empower, our programs at the Arizona Department of Health Services do just that and support the health and wellness of children and their families in a variety of ways.

Child Care Licensing oversees the health and safety of nearly 220,000 children, from birth through age 14, in approximately 2,400 child care facilities across Arizona. Licensing surveyors work diligently to license, monitor, and provide information to 2,100 child care centers and 300 child care group homes. More than 99% of these providers are also enrolled in the Empower Program, designed to promote physical activity, nutrition, sun safety, oral health, breastfeeding, and reduce tobacco exposure for children in child care facilities. Data shows steady improvement in the implementation of the Empower standards each year over the past five years. Strong Families AZ is a network of free home visiting programs that helps families raise healthy children ready to succeed in school and in life. Programs focus on pregnant women and families with children from birth to age five. Home visiting provides families the opportunity to take part in parent education programs within the comfort of their own home. Program involvement for families is completely free and participation is voluntary.

The purpose of the Week of the Young Child is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. This year’s Week of the Young Child, is celebrated April 8-12, and is an annual observance hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to celebrate early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. Join ADHS in celebrating this year’s Week of the Young Child.