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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.

Experienced mom gets support to parent 2-year-old daughter in Rio Rico

There’s always more to learn as a parent. That’s what Elizabeth Arrieta thought when she became pregnant with her daughter, Luisa. She had raised two kids with her husband in Rio Rico, but wanted to expand her parenting knowledge.

She signed up with the Santa Cruz County Superintendent’s Office Los Padres son Los Primeros Profesores (Parents are the First Teachers) home visitation program.

The First Things First Santa Cruz Regional Partnership Council funds the program, which provides parents with no-cost, in-home visits from a parent educator who teaches parents how to support their children’s emotional, cognitive and physical development. The program supports parents with children from pregnancy up to age 5.

Arrieta worked with Melissa Gallegos, a Los Padres parent educator, on nutrition, safe sleep and other ways to help her daughter’s development. When Luisa turned 2 years old, parenting got a lot more difficult.

Luisa could speak only one word at a time. She would get frustrated at being misunderstood and had frequent tantrums. Arrieta didn’t know how to help her daughter and lost confidence as a parent. She asked Gallegos for coaching.

“I started with mom and helped her to feel empowered and know that she can make a difference with her daughter,” said Gallegos.

Then Gallegos taught Arrieta how to help Luisa expand her vocabulary and manage her emotions.

Arrieta would include Luisa in everyday tasks by pointing and naming pieces of furniture, food and other household objects. She also taught Luisa to identify and name her feelings.

In a few months, Luisa went from speaking one word at a time to five-word phrases, and her number of tantrums declined.

“I have seen astonishing progress in her growth and learning,” said Elizabeth Arrieta. “She can carry a conversation and asks questions.”

Gallegos said she’s also seen a big change in Arrieta’s relationship with her daughter.

“Luisa has completely improved on expressing herself, and it’s made a 180-degree turn in their relationship,” Gallegos said. “After Luisa started hearing more words and mom felt that she was supported, she helped make a change in her daughter’s development.”

Now the mother and daughter spend time doing activities and reading together. Arrieta is helping Luisa get ready for kindergarten.

“We have accomplished many goals in Luisa’s development,” Arrieta said. “Luisa can now count up to 10 in English and Spanish. She can draw pictures, use scissors, glue and finish activities and projects.”

Luisa is also able to manage her emotions and can read.

“I love to recommend this program, because it helps with child development in a way that includes the whole family,” said Arrieta. “It’s great to have someone help you problem solve situations that worry you.”

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