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Jul 20, 2011 8:02 PM

Programs can help pay for pre-school

TUCSON - Going back to work after having a baby can be a daunting prospect for many mothers: guilt and the lack of good, affordable infant care are two big reasons why.

Nevertheless, two-thirds of all mothers now go back to work after having a baby... an increase of 50 percent since the 1980's.

Last night here in Tucson was the grand opening of the Children's Achievement Center, an important step in providing more high quality early education for children in our community.

Lavonne Douville, senior vice president for community development for the United Way stopped by to talk about the new center. She says:

Parents with infants and toddlers have very limited choices for care. The cost of care is prohibitive and the quality is often poor. Yet, we know that early brain development requires care from people who are aware of how important it is to talk, read, and sing with babies.

In the absence of many choices, parents resort to availability and aren't able to screen for quality. In Central Pima County, the First Things First Regional Partnership Council was concerned about this dire need for quality care. They funded infant and toddler care expansion through United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona in partnership with the City of Tucson and Microbusiness Advancement Center (MAC).

Together, this partnership has worked with 12 child care centers in Tucson to expand quality care. To date, 25 infant and 62 toddler slots have been created to meet the demand for care. These centers were able to get training on business practices and the cost of expanding care through MAC and support from the City of Tucson for licensing and regulatory issues.

United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona now provides quality improvement guidance and monetary supplements to offset the high cost of quality care. Five centers have expanded care: Easter Seals Blake Foundation Children's Achievement Center, Tucson Nursery School, Wings on Words, Desert Spring Children's Center, and Little Sprouts.

Parents get free referrals to child care centers, pre-schools, family child care homes, and after school programs by calling Child Care Resource and Referral at 1-800-308-9000 or visiting at www.azchildcare.org

Parents can also find a checklist at the CCR & R website that will help them to know what to look for in quality care.

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