Friday, July 25, 2014

Sex Trafficking: Raising Awareness to Protect Arizona’s Foster Youth

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, traffickers target children and youth with low self-esteem and minimal social support. The majority of individuals who are lured into sex trafficking have experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse in childhood, and are victims of domestic violence, neglect or abandonment. These traits are highly prevalent among young people who have run away from home, endured a life of poverty, experienced homelessness and/or additional adverse experiences.
      
As we work with foster youth and young adults across the state, the Independent Living Program has come to recognize the vulnerability of this population to being targeted for human trafficking. The vast majority of youth involved in the Independent Living Program have had one or more of the above factors greatly impact their lives.
               
Arizona’s Children Association’s Independent Living Program (ILP) provides young adults, ages 16-21, who are in or have been involved in foster care with opportunities to develop mastery in major life areas. This is done by teaching youth essential life skills, assisting the youth in learning self-advocacy, identifying mentors and natural supports, and working with the youth on concrete measurable goals.
      
The Independent Living Program is designed to aid youth in their transition into independence and assists them in gaining tools for self-sufficiency. ILP specializes in the various needs and opportunities for youth in foster care. Services include educational support, employment skills, financial literacy, food preparation, health & wellness, housing support, transportation support, leadership skills, participation in a Youth Advisory Board, mentorship, clinical support, and much more.
      
Is human trafficking a problem in Arizona? Trafficking for labor and/or services occurs, but sex trafficking definitely has the largest impact on children and youth in Arizona. According to Arizona State University’s School of Social Work Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, “Arizona has many factors that make it a profitable market for sex trafficking including 1) traffic corridors enabling easy, anonymous movement throughout the state and across state lines 2) a large resort community and mild climate that brings conferences and other tourist attractions year round.”
“One of the most important aspects of this issue is prevention through awareness,” said Brandy Verderosa, Independent Living Program Coordinator. “Many communities are still misinformed or under informed about human trafficking. I have heard many people say that this only happens in third-world countries and that it would never happen in the United States, let alone Arizona.”
                
In order to build awareness, the Independent Living Program will be holding a mandatory training for ILP staff on human trafficking. The training will assist staff in recognizing the signs of trafficking, provide guidance on how to properly intervene, as well as, introduce resources across the state that will provide prevention and aftercare services through connections made across the state with law enforcement. In seeking trainings and education, Arizona’s Children Association and the Independent Living Program will be able to provide resources that can be used to assist youth that are being targeted or trafficked and inform others.
        
“This training is a collaboration to bring people together to better understand how to combat this issue,” said Candy Espino, Vice President of Child Welfare. “Following the training, our staff will truly be able to better serve our clients, especially youth in transition.”
 
To learn more about our Independent Living program, visit www.arizonaschildren.org.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Born to Thrive: Birth to Five Conference

Human service professionals and students recently joined Arizona’s Children Association for a day of professional development, exploring how individuals can brighten the futures of Arizona’s children.

Earlier this month, Arizona’s Children Association’s presented our first annual conference: “Born to Thrive: Birth to Five.” As an Arizona statewide leader on the challenges facing our families and the Birth to Five population, we recognized that this was a prime opportunity for us to share our expertise and review cutting edge trends on the topics of child welfare, foster care, behavioral health and neurodevelopmental research.

At the event, attendees had the opportunity to learn from experts in the field from both Arizona’s Children Association and partner agencies. The cofounder of New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development (NDI), Dr. Jill Stamm, was the featured keynote speaker. Her presentation was titled: “Mindfulness in Parenting: Using Brain Science to Boost Our Skills.”

Conference sessions were divided along three tracks: Trauma Informed Care, Medical Integration, and Children with Systemic Involvement. Among the session presenters included Sara Rumann and Dianna Contreras from the Department of Health Services who presented on how substance exposure in utero can influence brain development. Richard Brubaker and Heidi Kaminski from Arizona’s Children Association presented on trauma-affected children and how to identify and manage associated behaviors. Marcia Stanton from Phoenix Children’s Hospital discussed the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) and Dr. Melissa Johnson & Tallona Dixon from Arizona’s Children Association shared knowledge on other assessment tools for 0-5. Dr. Svetlana Sembrano and Ricky Dennis of Arizona’s Children Association, Nicole Valdez of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, Ryan Krench of the Attorney General’s office and Dr. Julia Kelly of Maricopa Integrated Health Systems also covered additional topics, including medical integration, medication management, importance of attachment, the foster care process and the court process for kids in care.
                
"We were excited to present this day of professional development to students and human service professionals and we were thrilled with the community response to this event,” said Arizona’s Children Association President and CEO Denise Ensdorff. “This opportunity allowed those in the field, alongside Arizona’s Children Association, to share and gain new insights and information, helping us all improve our work with the children and families we serve.”
                 
A special thank you to all of our presenters and the agencies who teamed up with us to provide presenters for this great event!
                   
A very big thanks as well to the more than 200 conference attendees and to our Gold Sponsors: APS and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, along with our Silver Sponsors: Allegra, First Things First, and Child Crisis Center.

Stay tuned to our Upcoming Events calendar on our website for information on our 2015 conference!

Conference Collage

Gold Sponsors:APSMMIC
Silver Sponsors:FTFCCCAllegra
Conference Logo

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mission Accomplished! Reay's Road to 1 Million!

On April 25th, Reay’s Ranch Investors, LLC hosted their 6th Annual Charity Golf Tournament benefiting Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) at Tubac Golf Resort and Spa. Thanks to Reay’s, the event and raffle sponsors and outstanding volunteers, the tournament continues to grow. This year, the tournament raised $66,731 for an outstanding six-year golf total of $324,059!

Reay’s currently owns and manages 39 retail sites which are located primarily in Central and Southern Arizona. Their sites include convenience stores and Subway locations.
 
In case you weren’t aware, the golf tournament is not the only way that Reay’s Ranch Investors has raised money for AzCA. In their eight year effort that started in 2006, their amazing customers have purchased $1.00 placards during placard drives, as well as, donated spare change during their many “Change for Children” drives. When you add these efforts to the proceeds from the golf tournaments, Reay’s has helped AzCA to “Protect Children, Empower Youth, and Strengthen Families,” raising a total of $1,045,334
      
To show their success in reaching their million-dollar goal, Reay’s presented AzCA with a giant million dollar bill to put on display at the corporate office.
                 
In appreciation for their continued support, AzCA President & CEO Denise Ensdorff presented Chief Operations Officer/General Manager Richard Couch and Reay’s employees with a trophy and plaque for the corporate office, along with plaques to be displayed at Reay’s locations throughout Central and Southern Arizona.
Nancy&StevePrizes were awarded to the winning teams and sponsors were presented with awards for their support in making the event possible.
                
During the raffle, we were surprised with a visit from singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve McCarty from the Steve Miller Band. He auctioned off his personal guitar—signed by many legendary artists. The highest bidder was Richard’s wife, Janet! (Photo on right.)
      
Special thanks to Richard and Janet Couch and the sponsors: Northland, Arizona Fuel Distributors, Coca-Cola, Crest Insurance Group, Arizona Select Distribution, and McLane.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Arizona’s Children Association Presents Annual “Born to Thrive, Birth to Five” Conference

In recent years, scientific research and knowledge on the critically important educational window of opportunity that occurs in infancy has increased dramatically.  With increased understanding of how our early development affects the growth and wellbeing of the individual, the area of Birth to Five research and clinical practice has steadily come into focus in the Human Services field.  As the body of psychological research on early development continues to expand, translating and sharing that important information about infant brain development with Human Service professionals is critical to the foundation of learning and success in the field.

 
As an Arizona statewide leader on the challenges facing our families and the Birth to Five population, Arizona’s Children Association presents the Born To Thrive, Birth to Five Conference.

 
The intricacies of professional Human Service work with the Birth to Five population are complex; with issues ranging from developmental to sociological in nature. The conference will focus on overviews of cutting edge trends and knowledge bases in the fields of Child Welfare, Foster Care, Behavioral Health, and Neurodevelopmental Research and will attempt to answer many of the questions that Human Service Professionals have in regard to trends, background, research, and practical application of clinically appropriate service within the field.

 
At the event, attendees will have opportunities to learn from experts in the field. The conference will feature cofounder of New Directions Institute for Brain Development (NDI), Dr. Jill Stamm, as keynote speaker. Her presentation is titled: “Mindfulness in Parenting: Using Brain Science to Boost Our Skills.”

 
Dr. Stamm earned her doctorate in Learning from Arizona State University, where she is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychology in Education. She is an author and a national and international speaker on early brain development and the connection of healthy brain growth to later learning and school achievement. Dr. Stamm is a member of the National Advisory Panel of the Learning & the Brain Conference series and serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (STEM) and is on the Advisory Board for the Arizona Science Center’s exhibit on the brain.  She has appeared on numerous television segments and is frequently quoted in child development articles in The Arizona Republic. 

Conference sessions will be divided along three tracks. Among the noted session presenters include the FASD prevention bureau which will be presenting on the topic of substance exposed newborns for those who want to learn more about how substance exposure in utero can influence brain development. Marcia Stanton from Phoenix Children’s Hospital will share her knowledge of how adverse childhood experiences can be crucial in our understanding of trauma and its presentation in infants and toddlers.  Sessions included in each track are:

Track 1: Trauma Informed Care for Birth-5

• “Working With Parents of Trauma-Affected Children 0-5” – Richard Brubaker + Heidi Kaminski, Arizona’s Children Association

• “Birth to Five Assessments” – Melissa Johnson + Tallona Dixon, Arizona’s Children Association

• “Overcoming Adverse Childhood Experiences: Creating Hope for a Healthier Arizona” – Marcia Stanton, Phoenix Children’s Hospital

 
Track 2: Medical Integration for Children Birth-5

• “Preventing and Assessing Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol and Other Drugs – Understanding the Effects on a Child’s Development” – Sara Rumann + Dianna Contreras, Arizona Department of Health Services

• “Medication Management For 0-5 & Appropriate Alternatives” – Dr. Svetlana Sembrano, Arizona’s Children Association

• “Integrating Primary Care with 0-5” – Dr. Julia Kelly, Maricopa Integrated Health Systems

 
Track 3: Children with Systemic Involvement, Birth-5

• “Never Shake A Baby AZ: The Dangers of Shaking and How To Soothe a Crying Infant” – Nicole Valdez, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona

• “Foster Care Process for 0-5” –  Ricky Dennis, Arizona’s Children Association

• “What You Need to Know About Baby Court” – Ryan Krench, Attorney General’s Office

“We are excited to present this day of professional development to students and Human Service professionals,” said Arizona’s Children Association President and CEO Denise Ensdorff. “This opportunity will allow those in the field to share and gain new insights and information, helping us improve our work with the children and families we serve.”

Registration is available at www.BorntoThriveConference.org.  Early registration is available for $95 with a discounted rate of $85 for students.  CEUs are included.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Golden Gate Community Center transitions from Arizona’s Children Association to Wesley Community Center

On May 1st, 2014, Golden Gate Community Center in west Phoenix will officially transition from Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) to the care of Wesley Community Center. Golden Gate Community Center has been a member of Arizona’s Children Association family of agencies since 2004.

Golden Gate Community Center has been a trusted health, wellness, and social support resource for children, adults, and seniors for more than 75 years. Without Golden Gate, thousands of individuals and families would not have affordable access to recreation and personal development activities, educational classes, or preventive health services. AzCA acquired Golden Gate Community Center in 2004 because their Board and leadership strongly believe in the value and impact of the services provided by Golden Gate and understood that these programs were vital to the community. Since that time, Arizona’s Children Association has assisted them in growing their core services while also providing the critical fundraising support they needed to maintain services.
 
The key factor in the AzCA Board decision to transition Golden Gate Community Center was rooted in Wesley’s ability to enhance and expand programs for the local community. Wesley has extensive experience specific to the business of leading a community center and has community service work at its core which will allow for improved support of Golden Gate staff and programs. The Board and leadership of AzCA and Wesley believe this move will result in growth and sustainability for Golden Gate so that the Center may continue its leadership role in the community. Wesley has successfully run a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) since 2009 and anticipates that they will be able to expand and bring healthcare to the Golden Gate community.
 
“We now have a great new opportunity through Wesley that will provide further growth and expansion of Golden Gate programs – beyond AzCA’s current abilities,” said Denise Ensdorff, president and CEO of Arizona’s Children Association.
 
As a part of the Arizona’s Children Association’s original commitment to Golden Gate in 2004, the AzCA Board of Directors have decided to pay off the remaining mortgage of the Center – allowing for the best possible start for the success of the Center. In addition, current Golden Gate staff and programming will remain in place.
 
“We’re so thankful to all of you who have supported the mission of Golden Gate over the years and we believe you will not only be pleased with this partnership, but also impressed with the expanding success of the Center in future years,” Ensdorff added. “We are also thankful to all of the Golden Gate staff for their patience and trust during this process.”
 
Community members are invited to join representatives of Golden Gate, Arizona’s Children Association and Wesley Community Center for an open community “celebration” on April 21st from 6:00pm-8:00pm at Golden Gate Community Center. Golden Gate Community Center is located at 1625 N. 39th Ave, Phoenix, Arizona 85009.
 
About Wesley Community Center
The Wesley Community Center, a nonprofit organization located in South Central Phoenix, Arizona, since 1950, provides programs and services with children, youth, adults, families, senior adults. Comprehensive healthcare is a major component of these services through the family practice emphases of the Wesley Health Center. Learn more at www.wesleycenterphx.org.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Building a Better Future for Arizona’s Children

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is an international early childhood parent education and family support program within Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA). The core value of the program is founded on the principle that parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. PAT is a free home visitation program that partners with families by providing information, support, community resources and fun educational activities to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. PAT increases parent knowledge of early childhood development, provides early detection of developmental delays and health concerns, and prevents child abuse and neglect. Funded through First Things First, its effective curricula is known as an outstanding evidence-based best practice model for any pregnant family or family with children from birth to age six.
 
Certified home visitors, called Parent Educators, visit families in the safety of their homes bi-monthly and establish ongoing relationships that are professional, yet trusting. As part of the home visitation curriculum, parents learn to observe their children and learn to focus on developmental skill areas, participate in parent and child interactive activities, and receive follow up activities to work on between visits that utilize typical household items and reading.

“I believe in the mission of educating children as early as possible so that they can achieve and reach their full potential,” said Pam Carder, a Parent Educator in the PAT program in Pinal County. “I have seen the success this program has to offer with many of my families. Children love to learn. Children also love to play. This program allows them to learn while playing and I find it to be a true success story for the families we serve.”

Parents have the opportunity to share concerns and ask questions about their child’s developmental growth. Parents take the lead in setting goals for the child and family, and identify family strengths as they work with their Parent Educator.

An integral part of the program is the group meetings, or Group Connections. These are held monthly and offer parents the opportunity to share information about parenting issues and child development, learn from and support each other, observe their child’s interaction with other children, and practice parenting skills. Group Connections also offer a social network for parents to develop relationships with other parents.

As a requirement of the National Center for Parents as Teachers, and as part of the First Things First requirements, children also receive developmental screenings at regular intervals, as well as, hearing and vision screening.

Cheyloh Hamilton, a single mother of two energetic young boys, was working two jobs, cooking over a wood stove, and had a house in dire need of repairs when she came across the PAT program in Yavapai County. The program has helped Cheyloh to unlock the doors to her own successes, as well as, the success of her two young boys.

“Many people don’t know about Parents as Teachers, but I believe more people need this,” said Hamilton.

With the help of the program, Cheyloh and the boys have set aside family time each day dedicated to reading and learning. Parents as Teachers have also helped Cheyloh develop skills to parent her two very different boys. Ciel is sharp-minded and calm, whereas, Tre is more adventurous and sensitive. Cheyloh wants to make sure that she nurtures their individual personalities and strengths.
“Parents as Teachers is based on your child, wherever they’re at and whatever they need,” Hamilton said. “Parents as Teachers have had a big impact. It brought our family together, connected us to resources, lessened my anxiety and strengthened my parenting.”

Cheyloh is grateful for her partnership with Parents as Teachers as her boys continue to grow, and recommends Parents as Teachers to all families with young children that she knows.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love and also make a difference every single day!” explained Director of Prevention and Parents as Teachers Shelley Tellez. "This program is primary prevention first and foremost. Social service staff are invited into family homes in four different counties in Arizona to provide individualized parenting instruction. I cannot imagine anything better than that."

Photo: Cheyloh Hamilton, Ciel Hamilton, Tre Hamilton and Parent Educator, Jodie Campitelli.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Unforgettable Fun & Neon Memories

More Colorful Opportunities Headed Your Way!


On Saturday, February 8th, runners, walkers, volunteers and spectators came out to enjoy the most colorful fun-filled day of their lives at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler for the Color Vibe 5K. They came prepared to be blasted with more color than their happy levels could handle — all in support of Arizona’s Children Association’s (AzCA) children and families in the community. We would like to thank everyone who came out for this exciting event and for your support of Arizona’s Children! An additional thank you to AzCA employees, volunteers and board members who joined in the fun!
 
Couldn't make it? See what’s in store for Yuma and Tucson!
 
Check out these great photos from the Color Vibe 5K in Chandler! You can also check us out on Facebook for more photos and videos from the event! Click here to see a short clip from the event!


Join us for a morning not to be forgotten! 


Saturday, March 22 @ Gateway Park in Yuma

 Why not color outside the lines while being active, social, and a little wacky! The Color in Motion 5k gives you all these benefits plus unforgettable fun and heaps of memories! By the end of the CIM5k your blank canvas will be brighter than ever — your clothes, health, and outlook on life will be changed for the better! For a limited time, use the code “AZCA” for $5 off! For more information, or to register, visit www.colorinmotion5k.com/Yuma.


ColorInMotion

Get Ready to 'Get Bubbly!'
 
Saturday, March 29 @ Southwestern International Raceway in Tucson
 
The Neon Bubble Dash is a unique nighttime run and foam party that illuminates the sky all along its 5k route. Participants will run, walk, skip or dance their way into the foam-infested Neon Zones and Glow Caves throughout the course.

The fun doesn’t stop at the finish; all participants receive free entry in the ‘Get Bubbly’ foam party! You’ll also have the opportunity to challenge your friends and fellow Neon Bubble Dashers to illuminating field games! For a limited time, use the keyword “AZCA” & save $10 off of registration! Register today at www.NeonBubbleDash.com.

NeonBubbleDash