Frustration and anger poured out from commentators at a forum on poverty and early childhood Thursday, with many saying the same problems have gone on far too long.

The gathering included nearly 100 community members as well as a panel of state legislators and representatives from the Tucson City Council and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s office.

The session focused on the importance of meeting the needs of children before they reach age 5, which is the age by which 90 percent of the brain has developed.

Drastic funding cuts to education and social services continue to plague children and their families, said Susie Huhn, executive director of Casa de los Ninos.

“That track has really led us to this growing poverty,” she said. “We have to stop living at the expense of our children.”

The Children’s Action Alliance and several community partners organized the event, which was moderated by Erin Lyons, chief executive officer for Child-Parent Centers, Inc., which oversees Head Start and Early Head Start for southeastern Arizona.

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The event was held at the YWCA,

525 N. Bonita Ave.

Other issues that were discussed include:

  • The high cost of quality child care, which studies show can take up half or more of a family’s budget, particularly if there is more than one young child in the household.
  • Lack of affordable child care can put families in dangerous situations, where a young family member is forced to care for younger siblings while parents work.
  • Lack of school readiness. Information provided at the forum shows about one-third of the children entering kindergarten here do not have the fundamental skills necessary to succeed in school.
  • Concerns about the number of children being removed from their homes by the Arizona Department of Child Safety and the lack of in-home services to help the parents of these children improve their parenting skills.
  • Anticipation of how much worse things might get for Arizona’s children once the cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families begin July 1, 2016.

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 806-7754 or