Our History

Who will take care of my child while I am away?

“The unknown energy that can help humanity is that which lies hidden in the child.” – Maria Montessori

For centuries, mothers who earned wages for work outside of the home have struggled to find care for babies and young children in their absence. Traditionally, they turned to family members, including older children, neighbors or anyone who was willing and available.


The war effort and young children

“Many thought they [the centers] were purely a war emergency measure. A few of us had an inkling that perhaps they were a need which was constantly with us, but one that we had neglected to face in the past.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

The need for child care grew during World War II as more women entered the workforce. Federally sponsored child care programs were established with the caveat that public support would be provided only for the wartime period.

NAEYC’s beginnings

“I believe we must take further steps to encourage day care programs that will protect our children and provide them with a basis for a full life in later years.”  – John F. Kennedy

By the 1960s, many more women had entered the workplace. The President’s Commission on the Status of Women declared that child care would help women who worked outside of the home, but would also serve to benefit children’s development while advancing social and racial integration. Yet efforts to create a universal child care policy failed.

The first Arizona NAEYC affiliate

Research began to point to the disadvantages faced by children growing up in poverty. In Washington, D.C., experts assembled to establish Head Start. The Tucson Association for the Education of Young Children (TAEYC) was founded in 1965, joining with other groups from around the U.S. in establishing charter relationships with NAEYC. In 2004, TAEYC would become the Southern Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (SAzAEYC).

Universal child care: Passed, vetoed, forgotten

“We didn’t want this in the United States of America. The federal government should not be in the business of raising America’s children.” – Patrick Buchanan

In 1971, then Senator Walter Mondale spearheaded a bill to make quality preschool education available to any family in the United States who wanted it. The bill proposed that the Federal government would set standards and provide backup services like meals and medical and dental checkups. Tuition would depend on the family’s ability to pay.

More Arizona affiliates

During the 1980s, NAEYC began encouraging states to form statewide affiliate organizations. Because of the sheer size and rugged geography of our expansive state, Arizona’s local NAEYC affiliates had already formed in the concentrated population centers.

Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, Casa Grande, the Navajo Nation and areas along the Colorado River served these clusters of geographic areas; yet Arizona lacked a statewide affiliate.

AzAEYC established

“A world class education truly does start before kindergarten. It is our job, and our responsibility, to make sure everyone else knows that.” -Nadine Mathis Basha, Board Chair, First Things First

In October 1989, AzAEYC achieved affiliate status under NAEYC. These were the forming years as members continued to work in the role of a state affiliate among the previously established local affiliates.

Expansion and growth

“Our state legislature balances a budget every single year. So, they are thinking about a very short time frame. We have to have leaders in the community, community groups, organizations, and coalitions who are thinking beyond the budget year to the future.” -Dana Wolfe Naimark, Children’s Action Alliance

During the latter half of the 1990s, AzAEYC leadership represented Arizona as a statewide affiliate by participating in several Western States Leadership Network (WSLN) conferences. In 1998, AzAEYC hosted the WSLN conference in Tucson. Affiliates formed in the rural areas of Casa Grande and Verde Valley, meeting new criteria established by NAEYC.


“Based on my own experience throughout decades of work in Arizona, and the many polls that have come out, equitable access to developmentally appropriate, high-quality early learning is truly a bipartisan issue and a moral agenda.” – Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO, NAEYC

Before joining NAEYC in 2013, Rhian Evans Allvin helped to guide Arizona’s early childhood movement for more than 15 years. She co-wrote the citizen’s ballot initiative that created First Things First and later served as that organization’s CEO. AzAEYC continued to fulfill its mission and recruit members and new leaders from all over the state.