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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Becoming kindergarten ready through pediatric care coordination in El Mirage

mom-and-girl-with-bookYou may look at Gianna Cota today and see that she is a self-assured, motivated first grader who loves math and science, meeting new friends and learning new things.

But Gianna’s confidence was not always present, according to her mom, Maria Cota. “I was concerned with Gianna’s speech, specifically her ability to pronounce words…and her shyness,” Cota said.

Cota was a stay-at-home mother of three when she learned about the Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS) Medical Home/Pediatric Care Coordination Program at the El Mirage Family Health Center.

The First Things First Northwest Maricopa Region funds the program, which uses a team-based approach between providers and families while addressing the physical, emotional and developmental growth of children from birth to age 5. Pediatric care coordination can include basic necessity, medical, behavioral and social needs for the child and their parents/caregivers.

Maria and her husband Anthony began taking Gianna to the MIHS El Mirage Family Health Center for well-child visits when she was 4 years old.

Through care coordination, Gianna’s parents, healthcare provider and dedicated pediatric care coordinator agreed that Gianna should be in the Raising a Reader program, an eight-week early literacy program.

After an initial slow four weeks, family and staff began to see dramatic improvement in Gianna’s speech and her confidence in social settings. Not long after the program ended, Gianna entered kindergarten.

“Gianna was comfortable connecting with her teacher,” Cota said. “As a mom, it really gave me a sense of confidence knowing we were supporting her and that she was ready for this next step.”

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