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Looking forward to the future

MacKenzie Scott charitable gift helps Arizona early childhood nonprofit celebrate 40th anniversary 

In 1981, Southwest Human Development started with a single program serving young children with disabilities. This year, the organization marked 40 years as a leader in early childhood serving more than 140,000 children and their families every year.

Southwest Human Development, Arizona’s largest nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development, works with young children and their families during their child’s earliest years to have the greatest impact on their future success and development. The organization’s 40 programs and services focus on child development, mental health, Easterseals disabilities services, early literacy, Head Start, family support and child welfare.

“We have always prioritized identifying critical gaps in services for young children and families,” said Ginger Ward, CEO of Southwest Human Development. “We work hard to ensure children and families have equitable access to high-quality programs and services.”

During its first 40 years, Southwest Human Development has successfully provided Arizona families with the tools and resources they need to help their children achieve their fullest potential. Looking to the future, Ward says Southwest Human Development remains committed to strengthening the foundation of Arizona’s children’s need for a great start in life.

“While the field of early childhood has evolved over the years, one thing remains true: the investments we make today in young children provide an important foundation for their future development and success in life,” says Ward.
Author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott recently made a significant investment in Southwest Human Development which allowed the organization to affect transformational changes.

“We’re grateful for the generosity of MacKenzie Scott for helping our organization realize a long-held dream,” said Ward. “With this gift, we’re focusing on scaling and enhancing current programs, leveraging new and existing resources, creating systems change, public policy and advocacy, conducting research, and expanding the number of highly-trained early childhood professionals in the field.”

When announcing her charitable gift, Scott noted the 384 nonprofits selected were chosen because of their high potential for impact and demonstrated commitment to meeting the needs of their clients.

“These teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day.” Scott said. “They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being. This kind of encouragement has a special power when it comes from a stranger, and it works its magic on everyone.”

With start-up resources provided by the contribution, Southwest Human Development launched its Birth to Five Center of Excellence that provides comprehensive disabilities and mental health services and support for young children. The Birth to Five Center of Excellence provides a continuum of support to an increased number of children and families. It also serves as a resource for a wide range of community-based programs that collaborate with the Center’s team to supplement or enhance specialized consultation, assessment and intervention services tailored to each child’s, family’s and community program’s needs.

“This has been our vision for so many years,“ said Trudi Murch, Ph.D., director of Services for Children with Disabilities at Southwest Human Development. “Our disabilities and mental health staff have routinely collaborated and coordinated with each other, but have remained distinct entities. This reflected the long tradition of siloed developmental, medical and mental health service systems.  With very young children, this separation is artificial and often results in ineffective and inefficient care. The gift from Mackenzie Scott has allowed us to build a fully-integrated program that significantly elevates and expands our comprehensive and transdisciplinary services for young children and their families.”

Scott’s investment also facilitated the expansion of the Southwest Human Development’s Smooth Way Home program for premature, fragile infants and their families as they transition home from the NICU. The program offers families developmental guidance, mental health counseling and community resources.

“Smooth Way Home is able to reach families across the state, including those living in rural communities,” said Murch. “We’ve also partnered with Desert Neonatal Associates to establish VINES, a virtual, on-demand neonatal urgent care support and consultation program that serves as a medical bridge for families as they return home from the NICU. The VINES collaboration demonstrates the power of community partnerships in delivering vital services to a vulnerable population at a critical time in their lives.”

To learn more about Southwest Human Development, visit swhd.org


Southwest Human Development is Arizona’s largest nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development. Recognizing a child’s earliest experiences and relationships establish the foundation for all future development, Southwest Human Development’s more than 40 comprehensive programs focus on young children—ages birth to 5—and their families in the areas of child development, mental health, Easterseals disabilities services, Head Start, early literacy, family support and child welfare, and professional development and training. Founded in 1981, Southwest Human Development serves 140,000 children and families each year. Learn more at swhd.org

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