Amanda Aguirre has been selected as the 2020 First Things First Yuma Region Champion for Young Children.
The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health. Champions spend a significant amount of time volunteering with FTF and building public awareness about the importance of early childhood issues.
As the CEO of Regional Center for Border Health, Amanda Aguirre has brought her entire agency to be true supporters of early childhood and continues to support the families with young children within our communities.
Aguirre invited FTF staff to provide early childhood training to the agency’s speech therapists and behavioral health staff, where they learned about the early childhood programs that FTF funds. Health staff members were encouraged to share early childhood materials with families of children with special needs and mental health disabilities living in their communities to ensure their healthy development and school readiness.
Aguirre also asked FTF staff to provide a similar early childhood training for the lay health workers at the health agency, called Promotoras, who were then encouraged to share early childhood materials and information through countywide immunization campaigns, health fairs to educate pregnant women, asthma camps for children and meetings with local agencies.
Aguirre provided early childhood information to the pediatricians and medical staff at three of the San Luis and Somerton RCFBH clinics. The staff was also trained through the Reach Out and Read Program to share the importance of early literacy with families with young children attending a well child visit.
Also, because Aguirre understands the importance of early childhood development and health, she is constantly seeking new collaborations. She has created strong relationships with FTF, local and state partners to provide resources and information to strengthen the families with young children. A good example of this is her establishment of the Autism Center, because of her understanding of the critical need in Yuma County for the families to have a place to support their children with special needs, which supports the FTF Yuma Regional Council’s goal to support the need for developmental support services for families of young children with autism to strengthen their child’s healthy development.
We recently caught up with Aguirre, who is President and CEO of Regional Center for Border Health and a former Arizona state senator.
Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is so important?
Answer: The first months and years of a child’s life define the growth and cognitive development, this time is very important because the more positive the experience, the better quality of life the child will have. Parent/child interaction are critically important for the well- being and long-term health of the child.
Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?
Answer: “It takes a village” to raise a healthy child. The responsibility not only falls on the parents but also on teachers, caretakers etc. The local, state and federal governments also play a role by providing and promoting resources to families that can improve living conditions and access to care. Organizations like ours have become a safety net to families for care and to disperse resources and help families in need access it throughout our service areas of western Arizona’s Yuma, La Paz and Mohave counties.