Thursday, October 28, 2010

Congratulations to Nehemiah and Amanda….

And congratulations to the hundreds of children whose adoptions will be finalized this year. National Adoption Day is November 20, 2010. Your families love you, the uncertainty is over and your futures are bright.

And congratulations too, to Sara and Israel and Melissa and Jason, your lucky adoptive parents.

"The Miracle Baby"

Melissa and Jason first laid eyes on their 'miracle baby,' Nehemiah on the AdoptUSKids website. They will finalize his adoption next week. Nehemiah is no ordinary toddler. He's the 'miracle baby.'

When Melissa and Jason went to California in November of last year to visit him for the first time, "we fell in love with him at first sight," said Melissa. "We didn't want to leave."

Melissa returned to California to celebrate Nehemiah's 2nd birthday in December, and then their entire family, including six year old Jaron and seven year old Jaylynn went to visit the baby for New Year's. He came home to Arizona with his family in February, and immediately had to have emergency surgery and landed in the ICU for two weeks. Nehemiah has a neurological disorder and his brain isn't full developed on one side. He is never expected to walk and may not be able to talk. He requires 24 hour-a-day care including g-tube feeds, a suction machine and svn machine, and four to five therapies a week – speech, physical, occupational and vision, plus .

"When we brought him home, they told us he wouldn't ever be able to do much," said Melissa. "Now we call him our 'miracle baby.'" Nehemiah rolls over, scoots on his back, eats a jar of baby food a day and has started grabbing toys. "He is the happiest, most smiley baby. He's in love with our family and we are in love with him. He smiles and kicks when we come in the room, and he has learned to laugh out loud."

In October the family will travel to California to finalize Nehemiah's adoption, and then (what else!), go to Disneyland.

"We love her to Death"

Amanda's journey began at her birth in prison. She moved from home to home, family member to family member until the Escandon family picked her up from a CPS office in 2008. Amanda was 12 years old. "She thought we were weirdo's," said Sara. "Our sons were in the back seat of the car with Batman and Superman masks on and she thought my husband and I should have known more about her." Over the past two years, the Escandon family has "fallen in love" with Amanda, and her with them. "We have seen Amanda grow tremendously," adds Sara. "She's come so far. She's a beautiful girl. She's not afraid to speak up. She's amazing."

Amanda's brothers adore her and she and her sister share secrets and friendship bracelets and have developed a really great relationship.

"It was hard to blend at first, but they are all really great friends now," said Sara.

And Saturday, November 20 is National Adoption Day, a national day of celebration of adoptive families and an opportunity for courts to open their doors and finalize the adoptions of children from foster care. This year on November 20, families, adoption advocates, policymakers, judges and volunteers will come together and celebrate adoption in communities large and small all across Arizona. To learn more, visit

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned" - Benjamin Franklin

For many of us…a penny earned is a penny spent…which can result in not too many Benjamin's in our wallet for the things we really want. Golden Gate Community Center, in partnership with the Valley of the Sun United Way and Arizona Saves, is dedicated to turning financial instability around for the families it serves with a series of FREE Financial Stability Classes to help start families down the road to financial success. The content of the classes includes Banking Basics, Building a Better Budget and Taking Charge of Credit.

"The purpose of the program is to help our families move toward the goal of financial literacy armed with knowledge, clear direction and confidence," said Enrique Vargas, program director. "Through classes and individual assistance we will provide information about how to open bank accounts, establish savings and manage credit. It's information that every family can use."

Angelica signed up for the series of classes when they were first offered. "I was interested in the topic and had a general lack of knowledge about how to establish credit, federal and state programs that could help us buy a house, how credit cards work and how to establish a checking account and a savings account," said Angelica. "I learned in the classes about how important it is to set goals, get credit and make payments." Angelica’s financial goals include starting a small business, buying a home and having enough money to travel.

Enrique adds, "Angelica has changed the way she manages money. She has started saving money and establishing credit. She's much more confident about her financial future."

Enrique adds, "Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable talking about their finances. They don't believe there's anything to learn. Our classes include information that will be helpful to everyone."

The next Financial Literacy workshops are scheduled at Golden Gate on November 4th to November 18th. Workshops take place from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Dinner is provided at 5:50 p.m. for workshop participants and daycare is provided. All classes are held in Spanish.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PJs and Eggs Returns Across the State

In celebration of “World Egg Day” Hickman’s Family Farms, Arizona’s only commercial egg producer, is asking breakfast restaurants around the state to open for “breakfast for dinner” on one special night to benefit Arizona’s Children Association’s (AzCA) statewide foster care programs.

The second annual Hickman’s Family Farms “PJ’s & Eggs” – A Breakfast for Dinner Event – will take place on Friday, October 8, 2010 (“World Egg Day”) at participating restaurants from 5 p.m. – close (close time determined by individual restaurants). Restaurant customers and employees are encouraged to wear pajamas that night.

Customers having “breakfast for dinner” will be asked to bring a pair of new pajamas to the restaurant to be donated to AzCA’s foster care programs. In return, customers will be entered to win gift certificates from participating restaurants. They will also be given a “Free Dozen Eggs” certificate, courtesy of Hickman’s Eggs, to be redeemed at any grocery store where Hickman’s eggs are sold. Participating restaurants will be supplied with eggs from Hickman’s to ease their food costs for the night.

Participating restaurants will display a pajama collection container beginning the week of Sept. 13, 2010. Customers that donate pajamas any time leading up to the event will also be given a certificate for free eggs.

Participating restaurants will also donate a portion of the proceeds from “PJ’s & Eggs” to AzCA. Volunteers from AzCA and/or members of the Hickman’s family will be present at participating restaurants during the night of the event to assist with collecting pajamas, distributing the free egg certificates and collecting raffle tickets. Visit the event website for a complete list of participating restaurants at

Friday, August 13, 2010

I'm Still Going

Mario was 12 years old when he and his six siblings were abandoned by their drug-addicted mother, the only parent they had left after their father left the family in 2004.

His aunt and uncle, Victoria and Jeff, stepped forward and took physical custody of Mario and his younger sister, while the rest of his siblings were placed in the care of various other extended family members.

Victoria and Jeff came to Arizona’s Children Association to receive help in obtaining legal guardianship of the two children. The KARE Center walked them through the process and paperwork for guardianship as well as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, Arizona’s Medicaid program. In addition, Mario and his sister were provided with much needed counseling services to help them cope with their issues of loss, pain and abandonment. With the support of Arizona’s Children Association and the loving care of his aunt and uncle, Mario got through the difficult adolescent years.

Today, he is 17 and recently graduated from High School with As and Bs. He is proud to be joining the United States Army. When asked what he is most proud of, Mario says with a smile and sparkle in his eyes, “Although I have not yet made it, I’m still going. I have a family, a lot of friends and I’m proud that soon I’ll be serving my country.” To learn more about KARE programs statewide, visit

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In My Shoes Joins Arizona's Children Association Family of Agencies

The boards of directors of Arizona’s Children Association and In My Shoes proudly announce that In My Shoes has joined the Arizona’s Children Association family of agencies. The merger became effective July 1, 2010.

In My Shoes, is a Tucson-based, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that young people experiencing out-of-home care will be supported through their transitional years to develop the competencies to realize their potential as adults. In My Shoes was created by foster care alumni and representatives from the Young Adult Program, Casey Family Programs and the Tucson Foster Care Alumni and the Tucson Helping Our People Excel (H.O.P.E.) Council. In My Shoes offers one on one mentoring, group mentoring, signature events including a sibling picnic, and training and events that create awareness about the issues that face youth in foster care.

Christa Drake, executive director of In My Shoes, was its first employee in 2003. Christa and program coordinator, Eshawn Peterson, were once raised in the foster care system, as are all of the mentors and club facilitators for the agency. "The In My Shoes community began with a small group of alumni whose shared experiences of foster care allowed them to be a family," said Christa. "Kids in foster care dream of having a bigger family, and this merger with Arizona's Children Association will help us grow our family of brothers and sisters in foster care across the state."

For AzCA CEO Fred Chaffee, the fit for AzCA and In My Shoes is a natural. "The voice of youth in foster care needs to be heard by all of us and now it will," said Fred. "In My Shoes brings powerful voices and programs to support youth in reaching their potential." In My Shoes joins the Arizona’s Children Association family of agencies which includes Child Haven, Golden Gate Community Center, Las Familias, New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development, The Parent Connection and Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Country Music Star Tim McGraw Supports Arizona's Children Association on 2010 Tour

Country music superstar Tim McGraw is supporting nonprofits across the United States during his 2010 Southern Voice tour.

Through a sponsorship with Frito-Lay, McGraw’s charitable fund, Neighbor’s Keeper, has identified worthy nonprofit organizations which serve children and their families in select tour cities. Grants from this sponsorship will be made to local charities in 34 cities via The Neighbor’s Keeper Fund.

On June 3rd, the Southern Voice Tour makes a stop at Cricket Pavilion in Phoenix, where McGraw, Frito-Lay's Fritos brand corn chips, and Neighbor’s Keeper are making a grant to Arizona’s Children Association, an organization addressing the needs of local children and families.

“Faith and I feel it’s incumbent upon us to step in where we see a need,” said McGraw. ”It’s the way we were raised. In our homes, money was tight – my mom was working two and three jobs when I was in junior high - but the supply of goodwill was endless.”

In addition, tour partner Outback Steakhouse will support the Neighbor’s Keeper Fund through in-restaurant promotions and other merchandise sales. Through these corporate partnerships, McGraw’s Southern Voice tour is helping create awareness about the important work of nonprofits within select tour cities.

“We, at Frito-Lay, really value our sponsorship over the years with Tim and Faith and we are proud to be able to help such worthy causes. We know that these days it is important for all of us to be “Givin’ Where We’re Livin’” and are excited to be a part of this effort,” said Ken Partyka, Vice President, Frito-Lay.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Letter to the KARE Center

Dear Mr. Chaffee:

I am writing you this letter to personally thank you and the K.A.R.E Family Center for making such a difference in my life and also my grandsons life.

There is no way I could have made it by myself, but your staff have been so supportive caring and helpful for the last four years.

When I took the responsibility of raising my grandson Emilio, I was completely overwhelmed with his special needs. I couldn't even participate in the first meetings I attended; I just cried. The KARE Family Center helped me to get the proper diagnoses and treatment for Emilio and taught me how to manage our lives with his ADHD.

Nicky Bird was immediately available and strong support for me when I was going through the roughest times. With her help I came to realize that if I was chosen to take on this responsibility it is because I'm the right person for my grandson's life.

Yolanda Sevillano spent so much of her own time helping me deal with courts, meetings with attorneys, arranging medical help and insuring that Emilio got the proper placement in school.

Joseph Aparicio helped me with my own health problems in dealing with stress. He kept me informed of diversionary activities for Emilio and holistic health classes for myself. Most of all, I just appreciate your caseworkers listening to me with compassion when I needed to vent. They had so much patience and time for me.

Time has gone by so quickly. My grandson turned five years old and our lives are organized and financially stable.

I thank God every day for providing me with your help. God knew what was best for both of us.

Lupita G.

KARE Centers across Arizona provide help and support for families caring for children born to others. If you are a family member raising grandchildren, nieces or nephews, cousins or other relatives; an adoptive family or about to become one; raising children of a family member in jail or raising a child under 18 not born to you, the KARE Center can help. Services are provided in both English and Spanish. Visit and click on "permanency."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brain Box in a Bag Now Available

Many of the unique items and activities that are included in a Brain Box are available individually in a "Brain Box in a Bag."

Brain Boxes were designed and patented by Dr. Jill Stamm, director of the New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development to improve a child's ability to learn and succeed in school and in life.

Now, many of the unique items and activities that are included in a Brain Box are available individually.

Called "Brain Box in a Bag," each item has been specially selected from the more than 150 toys, books and activities in the patented 12-box set of Brain Boxes designed for children from birth to age 5 ½. Each item comes with easy to understand instructions that will guide you through its use with a child.

Brain Box in a Bag items are currently available at the Phoenix Children's Museum.

For more information on the work of the New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development or the complete, patented 12-box set of brain boxes, contact 602.371.1366 or visit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stop Shooting, Start Living

Lance Taylor was just 23 years old when he was shot to death in February while confronting a man who was trying to steal beer from a Circle K store in west Phoenix. Earlier this month a peace march and candlelight vigil were held in his memory. At least 100 people gathered outside Golden Gate Community Center where the peace march began.

Members of the Mitchell Golden Gate Neighborhood Association were out in force. Phyllis Habib, director of Golden Gate Community Center calls GGCC a "safe haven.'" "This young man's murder highlights the importance of change in the neighborhood," Phyllis added. "Our community is poised to change in so many ways. We are working to stop the shooting and start living."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fry's Food Stores Grants $35,000 to Promote Breast Health at Golden Gate Community Center

Fry's Food Stores recently granted $35,000 through their “Giving Hope a Hand” campaign to fund breast-health classes and follow-up mammography appointments for the residents of the west Phoenix Golden Gate community. "The Mobile Onsite Mammography (MOM) van visits Golden Gate up to six times a year," said Phyllis Habib, director of Golden Gate Community Center. "This grant will allow under-served women who have an abnormal mammogram to get a follow up diagnosis and treatment."

The Giving Hope a Hand campaign allows Fry’s to give back to the communities it serves. With the help of vendors who share in Fry’s Food Stores commitment to eradicating breast cancer – and providing hope to those who fear it. Fry's has been a long time and generous supporter of breast health initiatives in Arizona – supporting research projects and educational outreach.

“What makes this campaign so special is that all of the funds raised are spent in the communities where our customers and associates live, work and raise their families,” says Pam Giannonatti, Fry’s Consumer/Community Relations Manager, whose mother and mother-in-law are both breast cancer survivors. “Fry’s is proud to continue its partnership with the Golden Gate Community Center, which is located just down the street from our Fry’s Mercado Store located on the northeast corner of 43rd Ave. and McDowell in Phoenix.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Crime Victims

The following guest opinion piece was submitted by the Directors of Las Familias and The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault on behalf of Casa de los Niños, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, Homicide Survivors, Las Familias, MADD Arizona, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center, and Wingspan in response to the Arizona State Legislators who may raid funds earmarked for victim’s of crime.

Balancing the state budget on the back of crime victims may not be criminal, but it should be. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our current legislators are doing. In an effort to balance the broken state budget, our elected officials are taking pots of money that don’t rightfully belong to them. Most recently, they have taken the funds that support crime victims. These funds are set up to assist victims of crime recover from the physical, emotional, financial and psychological injuries that they endure, due to no fault of their own, when they are victimized by criminals.

The revenues in the fund come from fines and fees collected from convicted criminals. Thus, they are not taxpayer monies and the legislators have no business raiding these funds. While we understand the need to balance the budget, it shouldn’t come on the backs of crime victims. Re-victimizing people who have already been significantly traumatized is simply wrong.

The legislature has already swept a significant part of these funds to help offset this year’s deficit and they are planning to take even more for next fiscal year. If we don’t make them stop, then thousands of crime victims will go without support and services they need to help them through one of the most traumatic events anyone can face.

Supporting crime victims is neither a liberal nor a conservative agenda. It is simply the fair and just thing to do. For those who claim the government should have no role, we remind them that the Crime Victims Fund was established under President Reagan’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, which led to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). President Reagan understood that when innocent people are victimized, society has an obligation to help them on their road to recovery.

The organizations in jeopardy of losing funding, if the legislature has its way; include Casa de los Niños, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, Homicide Survivors, Las Familias, MADD Arizona, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center, and Wingspan. The leaders of these organizations and programs that provide critical services to crime victims urge you to call and write your state legislators. The legislature must hear that what they are doing to crime victims is morally and ethically wrong and borders on criminal. If we don’t speak up now for those who have been victimized through no fault of their own, we will have no right to complain when there is no one to help us if, God forbid, this injustice befalls us.

Dr. Elizabeth Wong, Division Director, Las Familias
Michele Roland-Schwartz, Division Director, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An evening with Grammy® nominated artist R. Carlos Nakai

Save the Date. On March 27, 2010, the Tucson KARE (Kinship Adoption Resource and Education) Family Center Ambassadors are hosting an evening with world renowned Grammy® nominated flutist R. Carlos Nakai at the Desert Diamond Hotel and Casino in Tucson. This is one of Mr. Nakai’s very rare concert appearances in Tucson and proceeds will benefit the KARE program!

Also performing will be KARE’s own “La Familia KARE” Mexican Folklore Troupe (children aged 6-12) and Tucson-based youth mariachi group, Los Changuitos Feos. Special guests include Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and Congressman Raul Grijalva. Miguel Ortega emcees the evening.

Since 2002, KARE has served thousands of grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings raising their relatives' children in Pima County. KARE’s goal is to keep children safe and stable with members of their own family, and keep them out of the foster care system. And they’ve been successful, keeping close to 8000 children out of foster care since 2002. Recent research has shown that the KARE Center’s services keep 1,400 children out of foster care each year at a potential savings to Arizona taxpayers of $4.2 million a year. The KARE Ambassadors are a group of Center grandparents who represent the needs of kinship caregivers in Pima County.

For ticket purchases or sponsorship information, visit

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mission Possible: Reay's Ranch Stores raise more than $141,000 to Benefit AzCA

In January 2009 the employees of Reay’s Ranch Investors’ Super Stop and Minit Market convenience stores and Gordon’s IGA Markets in Southern Arizona challenged themselves to a Mission Impossible. Their goal, should they choose to accept, was to raise $100,000 to benefit vulnerable children and families served by Arizona's Children Association in Southern Arizona. The team went into action.

First, they sold $1.00 placards at their stores, which raised $53,217. Next was the first annual Reay's Ranch Golf Tournament at The Preserve Golf Club at SaddleBrooke, which raised $37,000.

With only $10,000 to go to their goal, the Reay's Ranch Investors team placed canisters in their Super Stop, Minit Market and Gordon’s IGA stores for three weekends, and asked customers to donate their change. The stores raised $33,742.

Amazingly, having topped their $100,000 goal by more than $23,000, the team took on a new mission. Employees made weekly donations through a new payroll deduction program. More than 72% of the employees signed up and raised $17,674.

At the completion of the mission, Reay's Ranch employees had raised more than $141,000 to benefit Arizona's Children Association.

"Reay's Ranch employees are very special people who work hard and achieve what they set out to do," said Rich Couch, COO and general manager of Reay's Ranch Investors. "We were blown away with the generosity of our customers, vendors and employees who took on a difficult mission and made it look easy. We never forget who these activities will benefit and how important Arizona's Children Association services are in the communities where we operate stores."

Reay's Ranch Investors owns and operates 46 stores including convenience stores, 2 IGA markets, A&W Restaurants and Subway stores in central and Southern Arizona. The company offers full management services to investor owned convenience stores including 24/7/365 responsibility and accounting services.