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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.

Dawn Beville is the East Maricopa Region Champion

Dawn Beville has been selected as the First Things First East Maricopa Region Champion for Young Children. The award is given to local champions who are going above and beyond in their efforts for young children from birth to age 5.

Beville is as registered nurse and developmental specialist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Chandler Regional Medical Center. In her primary role, Beville cares for high-risk, premature and sick babies. In addition, she and her team help parents and families of newborns navigate their time at the NICU, understanding that it can be a scary and overwhelming experience. She helps keep parents engaged with their little one and informed every step of the way.

As a nurse and developmental specialist, Beville understands the critical brain development that takes place from the beginning and how important parents are as their baby’s first teacher.

She has led efforts with parents and the NICU team to participate in a national Babies with Books Read-a-thon to support NICU families and celebrate reading.

The annual Babies with Books Read-a-thon is a voluntary, friendly reading competition between NICUs nationally, to encourage reading with babies for its many benefits to NICU babies and families, including brain development, family bonding and stress reduction.

In planning this year’s event, Beville reached out to FTF to partner and distribute parenting resources. The event helped parents introduce reading to their baby in the NICU. Beville said it is one way for parents to feel like they can do something proactive, feel more empowered and a sense of control. They are able to bond with their baby and start their journey of learning and growing in a positive way.

We recently spoke with Beville.

QUESTION: Why do you think it’s important for people in your field/position in the community to be a champion of young children and families?
ANSWER: As a NICU Developmental Specialist RN, I have a unique role in supporting the health and well-being of premature or ill newborns and their families. Being a champion for young children and families is impactful for several reasons. Working with the vulnerable population requires specialized care and attention to address their unique needs. The well-being of the infant is closely tied to the well-being of the family unit. As a nurse, I make every effort to support the family as a whole unit, addressing emotional needs, education, advocacy, continuity of care, long-term impact, prevention and community integration through multiple supports provided before birth, during hospitalization and after discharge. The holistic approach, combining medical expertise with emotional support and advocacy, plays a pivotal role in ensuring the best possible outcomes for NICU infants and their families.

QUESTION: Your actions make early childhood a priority. What inspires you to do that work?
ANSWER: I am inspired to promote early childhood education through my personal experience of having premature triplet babies, including one with special needs. My journey provides a unique perspective and understanding of the challenges and needs of families with premature infants and those with special needs. One passion I support in our NICU are the read-a-thons and kangaroo-a-thons by creating a healthy competition on the unit. Parents have the opportunity to earn raffle tickets each time they hold and read to their infant. A drawing is done daily for a gift of a “Cuddle Bear” book and a teddy bear to take home to continue to promote early literacy with reading. The staff also has a drawing to win a gift card. All parents receive educational material provided by First Things First that encourages a lifetime of literacy and educational resources. By promoting parent-infant bonding, encouraging parental involvement, and offering educational opportunities, these fun events contribute to creating a supportive and nurturing environment in the NICU while increasing awareness of early childhood education and learning for a lifetime.

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