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PNC Foundation grant to help child care centers address COVID-19 health and safety concerns

hand hold cellphone with AZ Healthy Child Care Helpline 602-506-6767

A $200,000 grant is providing support to child care programs seeking health and safety guidance as they work to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Things First was recently awarded the generous grant from the PNC Foundation to create the AZ Healthy Child Care Helpline. The foundation’s priority is to form partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations to enhance educational opportunities, with an emphasis on early childhood education.

“This grant is a significant opportunity to help address the critical needs of child care centers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FTF Senior Director for Children’s Health Vincent Torres.

Child care providers have struggled this year as many were forced to close after the coronavirus pandemic hit Arizona. And those providers who have re-opened are serving less children than before as they navigate new health and safety guidelines.  

Child care centers and home-based child care providers will be able to call or email the helpline to get connected with a child care health consultant (CCHC) liaison. These trained health experts can address questions and concerns about required and recommended COVID-19 health and safety strategies that child care centers should follow to reopen or stay open safely.

“The CCHC liaison will be available to provide one-on-one virtual support for providers,” Torres said. “The CCHC liaison will also provide a virtual community of practice meetings/trainings on a regular basis and the topics will be based on current trends identified through email and call inquiries.”

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health will administer the grant. The liaison will ensure the COVID-19 health information and resources made available to child care providers are consistent with state, federal and local guidelines and requirements. They will also establish a contact person at each county health department to help them understand specific local COVID-19 reporting procedures and proclamations that impact child care providers.

The AZ Healthy Child Care Helpline is available to Arizona child care programs not enrolled in FTF’s Quality First program. Those enrolled in Quality First will be routed to a child care health consultant who is already assigned to them.

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A survey from Child Care Resource and Referral from earlier this year showed that licensed child care providers in Arizona cited meeting health and safety guidelines for their programs, potential for getting sick and lack of clarity on COVID-19 health and safety guidance as some of the top barriers to reopening.

The grant provides a way for child care providers to feel more confident in knowing they are doing their best to keep children in their care and their employees safe, said Stephen Sparks, director of FTF’s Fund Development and Strategic Investments.

“Since this pandemic started, more and more people are recognizing how important child care is for the day-to-day function of society,” Sparks said. “This grant is a way to make a tangible impact on Arizona’s early childhood programs.”

The AZ Health Child Care Helpline is free and available at 602-506-6767, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or email AZ.HealthyChildCare@maricopa.gov.

Ofelia Gonzalez is a public information officer at First Things First. You can reach her at ogonzalez@firstthingsfirst.org.​

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