Delton Francis has been selected as the 2022 First Things First Navajo Nation 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.
Francis, who is a prevention specialist with the Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral Mental Health Services in the Kaibeto Outpatient Treatment Center, provided parents and caregivers in his community with information and resources to help them support their young child’s healthy development.
He distributed care packages during the pandemic to families in his community who were in need of baby formula, diapers, baby wipes and it also included FTF learning kits. Francis handed out FTF-sponsored children’s books and other reading materials with information on brain development to encourage reading.
Francis volunteered his time and was the moderator for many of the Early Childhood Speaker Series talks and served as the Navajo translator on many of the speaker series. The series was designed to give participants, especially parents and caregivers of young children an opportunity to increase their awareness of early childhood topics. These series are recorded and aired on the local radio station KTNN.
We recently caught up with Francis:
QUESTION: Your actions make early childhood a priority. What inspires you to do that work?
ANSWER: One day when I was a kid, my older brother said, “Hey brother, I notice your shoes are untied, you might fall. Today we are going to learn how to tie your shoes.” If he didn’t have patience and support me, I probably would have learned to tie my shoes later. I feel the same way about early childhood development. The sooner our kids learn to be aware of healthy behaviors, the healthier they will be as adults. I’ve worked many years on the Navajo Nation and have come to notice that prevention is the best tool for our young children. Having those discussions about expressing yourself and learning to cope with feelings plays a major role for our Navajo children. If we delay the onset of substance use, the better chance we have of raising responsible children. We can all teach our children to tie their shoes so they won’t fall and hurt themselves.
QUESTION: How do you convince people not connected to early childhood that they should be a voice for Arizona’s young children?
ANSWER: I would encourage everyone, especially our young adults in the community, to do their best to become positive role models. “Don’t talk about it, be about it,” is a phrase I learned from working with at-risk youth. Just as we try and teach, we have to always remember to keep an open mind, listen and teach our children. I believe we can all agree we were young once, and we sometimes felt like we wanted to be heard. Be that positive advocate for our children and encourage them to make healthy choices.