Friday, December 27, 2013

Program Promotes Quality Family Time

‘Parents as Teachers’ Visits Families to Promote Child Learning and Development


PRESCOTT VALLEY (December 3, 2013) - Traci and Pino Lira, parents of 4-year old Penelope and 10-month old Rendon, both work full-time. Despite their hectic schedules, they are committed to fitting in as much quality family time as they can.  

That’s why they enrolled in Parents as Teachers (PAT), a free home visiting program for families with kids ages five and under. In Yavapai County, the program is put on by Arizona’s Children Association with grant funding from First Things First.

Through PAT, the Lira family gets a visit every two weeks from Jodie, their parent educator, who brings simple, fun and inexpensive learning activities that they can do together as a family, assesses the development of the children, provides informational sheets about the children’s’ stages of development, and connects them to any other community resources they may need. The goal of the program is to partner with parents to make sure their young children are healthy, happy, and learning. “It’s great,” said Traci Lira. “Who would turn down a free, educational program for their kids?”


Pino Lira, who works as a Deputy Clerk for the County, knows that strong families are the foundation of a strong society, and has seen first-hand what happens when families do not have the information and resources that they need. “Nowadays, many families have both parents working and struggle to find time together,” said Lira. “For us, visits from Jodie are dedicated family bonding time. Plus, it’s educational for both parents and kids,” he said.


The Lira family enjoys a music activity brought over by
Jodie, their Parents as Teachers Parent Educator.
Pino Lira also said that nowadays, it’s difficult to comb through all the parenting information out there. “If you don’t have a degree in early childhood education, you don’t know everything about children’s development. With so many sources, it’s hard to know what’s best,” he said. Lira recommends Parents as Teachers to any family with a young child because it provides an expert source of parenting tools and knowledge. “If I need legal advice, I get a lawyer. If I need parenting advice, why not seek a parenting expert?” 

Lira said. The family also appreciates the convenience of the program. “Parents as Teachers comes to you and works with your schedule,” he said.

The Liras want the transition from home to kindergarten to be as smooth and easy as possible for Penelope and Rendon. With the tools and information they receive from PAT, Traci and Pino are confident that they are providing their kids with the knowledge and experiences they need to grow, learn, and succeed in school later on.  

Parents as Teachers is a free home visiting program for families with children ages prenatal to five years, available in both Spanish and English. For more information about the program or to enroll, please call Arizona’s Children Association at (928) 443– 1991 X 2021.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A child can't wait.

Kevin’s Story:

"I remember that day when we were first taken out of our house. The case worker told my brothers and me that we wouldn’t be going back home that day. I didn’t know where we were going. I was 10 at the time and had heard horror stories about living in a foster home. I was terrified. As the oldest, I knew that I had to protect my siblings. I held back my tears and tried not to let my brothers see that I was upset. "As long as we have each other everything will be okay," I reminded myself.

Everything wasn’t okay. We didn’t get to stay together. There wasn’t anything that I could do or say that would have made any difference.

I was the last stop. I got out of the car feeling regret—maybe there was something more I could have done to help my parents. I wandered my way up to the door of the house.

I was greeted by two smiling faces that threw their arms around me and graciously invited me in. My foster mom tried to keep things calm and as "normal" as possible. I cried myself to sleep each night only to feel numb and hopeless the next day.

As time progressed, I began to accept my temporary home. After all, they made me feel like I was part of the family. They made sure to remind me every day that none of this was my fault. They promised me that they were going to make sure that I was okay through whatever obstacles we faced.

Well, for the first time in my life, someone kept their promise to me. They took in my brothers so that we could be together again. Things progressed and I knew that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We were safe and happy. We found our "forever family" with them. My brothers and I were adopted. I may not have had control over how my story began, but I can certainly write the ending."
 

A child can’t wait.

Kevin couldn’t wait for the love and attention that he needed, and most importantly, deserved. Kevin’s story demands our attention. Unfortunately there are thousands of children in Arizona just like Kevin. Kevin was one of the lucky ones – finding a forever family that provided the love and safety that he and his brothers deserved.

A child can’t wait for safety. For help. For protection. For unconditional love. Family struggles are all too common in Arizona. Every day a child like Kevin is up against a challenge that is beyond his comprehension and not of his own making.

Arizona’s Children Association steps in when a family needs help. Our goal is to strengthen families and keep children safe. With the resources and support we provided, Kevin’s foster family was able to provide the safe, structured environment he needed to reach his potential and allow the family to strengthen their bond. Our services also educate and support families in an effort to prevent these struggles before they happen. We respond to the needs of children and families in communities, large and small, throughout Arizona.

You believe and so do we - that every child deserves a family that loves and cares for them and encourages their ability to reach their full potential. You can be a hero for a child like Kevin.

There is never a time more critical than now to support Kevin and those like him. Please join our End-of-Year fundraising campaign to keep the programs in place that provide for the many children in need. Our request is simple. Donate today and your gift will be immediately put to work to keep families on track and make our communities the place that we know every child deserves.

Together, we made a difference for Kevin. Let’s keep up the good work. Please mail your donation to 2700 S. 8th Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85713 or donate online at www.ArizonasChildren.org.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A History of Thanksgiving at Arizona's Children Association

In November 1921, the founding members of Arizona Children’s Home Association realized their dream of building a receiving Home for the children of Arizona. One week before Thanksgiving, the agency moved from a modest 14-room rental house into a permanent two-story Home located on the south side of Tucson. This original building remains central to our agency operations and is now called “Angel House.”

The story that follows is an excerpt from the memoir of our most recognizable founding member, Mrs. Minnie Davenport. As she recounts the events of “Moving Day” and “Our First Thanksgiving” it is an opportunity to reflect, in thanksgiving, for all those who have made this agency possible.

Living room of Arizona's Children's Home, c. 1921.

"The [new] receiving Home faced east on south 8th avenue. The main floor consisted of a large living room, a hall-way leading to a large nursery room, two north rooms for children and a separate room for the nurse and matron. On the south end of the build was the dining room, kitchen, and pantry. In the basement was a laundry, playroom and furnace room. The second fl oor consisted of a girls dormitory, boys dormitory – room for ten single beds [each] – a room for the cook and housekeeper, two bath and toilet rooms, a clothes room with shelves and a small closet for linen and clothing. There were plenty of windows and radiators, so the place was properly ventilated and heated. The walls were tinted in light tan with white ceilings. The wood work was silver grey throughout the building. Two large homemade tables for the dining room were also painted the color of the wood work. The baths were in all white porcelain – tubs and showers.

All was in readiness for the move, as the city water had been piped on the premises. We paid to put in separate electric light and telephone extension, so besides the cost of a [thirty-five] thousand dollar building, funds were raised for all other necessities through friends. A new range was placed in the kitchen and through some grocery store closing out, we had an opportunity to secure a large ice box and Arizona Ice Company said they would supply us, gratis, all the ice we need. On November 14 [1921] we planned to move.

The ladies were placed on committees of three, to assist at ten o’clock. Mrs. N.C. Plumer, Mrs. S.M. Franklyn, Mrs. H.E. Heighton, Mrs. E.G. Spoerleder and Mrs. Geo. Reid, arrived [at the rental home] at 430 West 5th Street, filled their cars with bedding, groceries and linens. Then they placed the babies and children, too young to attend school, in the cars with the nurse and cook and went to the new Home. Mrs. Franklyn, Mrs. Plumer and Mrs. Heighton, were to oversee the placing and arranging of the furniture and all beds were to be put up in the nursery and two dormitories.

Mrs. Albert Steinfeld sent two 9 by 12 rugs, a couch, two rockers, and a wicker living room set, which made the place look homey.... Each furniture store sent complete beds and cribs, small chairs, and dining room chairs. This, with the furniture we had from the old receiving home, made it possible to care for 50 children, but there were only three women on the staff: a nurse, housekeeper and cook. We had advertised for a trained matron whom we hoped to have there to take over, but illness in her family delayed her taking the position for ten days. Mrs. Geo. Reid and Mrs. Spoerleder made many trips to and from the two Homes. The Citizen and Tucson Transfer Companies gave us free service.


Early kitchen stove in use at Arizona's
Children's Home, date unknown.
That day at noon, the children came from school and a picnic lunch consisting of sandwiches, cookies, milk and fruit was given them [at the rental home on 5th Street]. The lunch was furnished by Mrs. Blair, Mrs. Buchanan, Mrs. Spoerleder and Mrs. Davenport. After lunch the children returned to school and the women had about cleared the house of all boxes and furniture, leaving the laundry equipment, wood, coal and playground equipment, to be taken for the last load. After school, Mrs. Reid took the children to the [new] Home…. Things at the Home began to hum, as the first Thanksgiving in the new Home was only a week off…We were in correspondence with Mrs. Williams of El Paso. She had retired as a field matron for the government Indian Service. She wired she would arrive on an early train Thanksgiving morning. She was to come direct to my home. Later she and I went to the Home and found a committee of women busily assisting in the preparation of the dinner, arranging the tables, and dressing the children who were all so good and bubbling over with excitement.


Two big turkeys and all the “trimmings” were brought out for the dinner, supplied by the Ladies of the Tucson Temperance Union. The children said “Yummm, yummm, yummm, it smells good, Mrs. Davenport, and won’t we eat!”…What a feast those children enjoyed. The cook baked a number of pies from the pumpkins the ladies furnished. Many lovely gifts came into the Home during the following weeks, but in spite of all, there were many articles needed."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

50th Anniversary of the Community Mental Health Act


On October 31, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Community Mental Health Act. These actions drastically altered the delivery of mental health services and inspired a new era of optimism in mental healthcare.

For millions of Americans living with a mental illness, this law opened the door to hope and recovery—to a life in the community. This legislation set the stage for an entirely new approach to recovery in the community, one marked by continually evolving care and treatment for Americans with mental illness.

Still, there is often a social stigma associated with mental illness which prevents people from seeking help. Many people are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek the help they need for themselves or their loved ones.

According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 1 in 17 Americans lives with a serious mental illness. One in five children and adolescents in the United States struggles with a mental illness and up to one-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begins by the age of 14, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management.
 
Mental illness usually strikes individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood, and can cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives at home, in school, and with their peers. Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and chronic health issues. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States (NAMI, 2013).
 
With a wide range of services tailored to their needs—that may or may not include medication—most people can significantly reduce the negative impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence.
 
In the wake of the new Mental Health Act in the 1960s, Arizona’s Children Association, along with the Arizona State Department of Health, also began to focus on the mental health needs of our children. Funds from the Federal Mental Health Act made it possible for our agency to hire our first psychiatric social worker assigned to work with the children residing at the original home on 8th Avenue in Tucson.
 
Today, Arizona’s Children Association’s (AzCA) Outpatient Behavioral Health Services continue to serve children, adolescents and young adults transitioning to adult services, and their families. Clients come from a wide variety of referral sources including Regional Behavioral Health Authorities (RBHA), Behavioral Health Networks, the Department of Economic Security, the Juvenile Court, local businesses, hospitals, physicians, schools, self-referrals, and private clients.
 
AzCA behavioral health service facilities are licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services. Services are designed to be a short term intervention that can assist in developing the skills and supports needed to increase independence and resiliency. The Outpatient department works with the family unit if at all possible. When this is not possible, every effort is made to intervene therapeutically in the environment in which the child or adolescent resides.
 
Types of services provided include counseling (family, group & individual), psychosocial rehabilitation, coordinating/case management, training, outreach, volunteer services, psychiatric services, Child & Family Teams (CFT) facilitation, school-based services, respite, and more. Child & Family Teams are a central focus of services, where the issues and needs of families are addressed not only clinically, but from a cultural, strengths based, community, natural resource, extended family, and spiritual approach. Teams are structured and function in a flexible manner to include varying levels of involvement from AzCA staff, other child serving agencies and natural supports. The structure of the team varies depending on the child and family’s strengths, the complexity of needs, and goals identified by the child, the family, and the team.
 
“As an agency, we are committed to reducing the stigma of mental illness by providing access to services quickly, in an environment that the family prefers, and by bringing the family, the professionals and community members they chose together at the CFT," said Jessie Gillam, director of operations for behavioral health. "The use of the CFT puts the child and their family in the driver's seat, as they are the experts, and allows the team to come together and work on a common goal.”
 
With a stronger community behavioral health safety net, people in need of services today have greater access to care and an entirely new approach to recovery in the community. We are proud to carry on a 50 year tradition of respectfully providing the care and compassion needed for those in our communities with mental illness.
 
As the stigma surrounding this issue decreases and the community is educated on the need to identify these issues in young people, we will empower vulnerable children and their families to improve their safety, health and well-being and increase their potential to lead productive and healthy lives.
For more information about AzCA’s behavioral health services, visit us online at www.arizonaschildren.org.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Destined to Succeed

In the spring of 2011, we met a young man who had overcome many obstacles in his life. From a very young age, Nathan Delafield knew his life was different from other kids his age. He had almost no relationship with his father, and his mother moved from home to home to homeless shelter during his most influential years. And then, when Nathan was only eight years old, she left.
DelafieldFamily
After being placed in foster care, Nathan was given the opportunity to move in with his Aunt Kate and Uncle Randy.
 
“It was a roller coaster,” said Kate. “We had only been in our house for a few months but Randy and I totally jumped into Nate’s life. He’s always been a great kid, and I knew everything would work out.”
 
Kate and Randy became licensed through through Arizona's Children Association specifically for Nathan and maintained their license until he turned 18.
 
“My first night in the house, when I went into the cupboards to start to make myself dinner, my aunt told me that adults do the cooking here but asked if I wanted to help her,” recalls Nathan. “I knew from that moment on that life was going to be very different from the life I knew up till then.”
 
Nathan grew up to be a successful young man. After graduating high school, Nathan graduated from Arizona State University with an award for most outstanding senior graduate for the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the “Spunky” Award (achieving a college education through adversity with Spunk) through the College of Liberal Arts and Science.
 
But, where is he now? After graduating from ASU, Nathan decided to further his education at the Indiana University School of Medicine. About a month ago, as he began his second year in medical school, Nathan received confirmation that he was awarded an all-inclusive scholarship through the National Health Service Corps to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor without the outstanding indebtedness that many young physicians face. In return, Nathan has committed to enter into a primary-care medical field and he is particularly interested in working in the field of pediatrics. In Nathan’s opinion, working with children, particularly those in the underserved population will bring his “story” and life experiences full-circle.
 
Kate and Randy are thrilled with Nathan’s success and are proud of the man he has become. “My son is an exceptional inspiration and such an amazing man,” explained Kate.
 
“I can’t stress enough how my foster family changed my life,” Nathan says. “Up until I arrived at my Aunt and Uncle's home, I never even had my own bed to sleep in, and my shoes were hand-me-downs from my older brother. I was just a kid trying to survive and get by with the basics. This amazing opportunity changed my life, gave me a chance to thrive, and parents to guide me as I achieved my personal goals.”
 
“If there’s one thing I can remind potential foster families and foster kids, it’s to be patient with each other,” said Nathan. “Most of the kids in the foster program have seen or experienced things in their young lives that most adults will never encounter.”
 
For Kate and Randy, the past years were a learning process about raising a child and the foster care system. "Nate has touched our hearts in so many ways. He is an inspiration to the masses and we have been truly blessed to have him in our life,” said Kate. “I would encourage all families to educate themselves about the system. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have.”
 
We’re happy to say that Kate has been employed with Arizona’s Children Association for three years. She is currently working in our Prescott office in the ICPC program as a Sr. Resource Family Specialist and PSMAPP trainer working with kinship families and licensing. “I have always wanted to work for this agency,” said Kate. “They’ve given us so much help and support throughout the years. I have an amazing opportunity to work with families who face similar situations and use my experience to help guide them through this process.”
 
To learn more about the foster care and adoption programs at Arizona’s Children Association visit www.arizonaschildren.org.
 
*Photo (Left to right): Kate, Nathan and Randy Delafield

Friday, September 27, 2013

Same-Day Access Provides Positive Impact on Behavioral Health Services


Last year, we reported that improved access to care has been proven to reduce no-shows and cancellations and better engage persons in mental health and addictions treatment and recovery. To improve access to care, Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) was one of 56 behavioral health organizations that was chosen to participate in the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare’s 2012 Same Day Access Initiative.

AzCA has been working with expert consultants to help persons seeking public mental health and addiction treatment access services quickly and easily. Over the past 12 months, we assessed and redesigned our intake and assessment processes to reduce client wait times. With extreme wait times for patients reaching nearly 300 days at some organizations, a central goal of the initiative is for patients to get appointments for care with their providers when they want them. Studies have found that the longer patients have to wait to get appointments, the more likely they are to cancel or not show up. While a same-day appointment has a 10 percent chance of not being kept, almost a fourth of patients with next- day appointments do not show up.

The changes were made in order to streamline our intake process in behavioral health services and provide more immediate access to our clients. Our goal was to offer same-day appointments for intake assessment and screening for families requesting such services. These services include a full assessment—developmental history, mental health status exam, interim treatment plan, risk assessment, substance abuse assessment, diagnosis, coordination, and suggestions for ongoing services.
       
Families are now able to contact our office or stop by at their convenience to request services and be seen that same day. In offering services to families the day that they are needed, we can immediately address any safety concerns, develop a treatment plan with the family and provide them with the necessary resources. This process has also allowed us to simplify any paperwork, reduce duplication, and increase consistency across the state. There has also been a fiscal saving of over $10,000 thus far in staff time reduction. AzCA expects that number to continue growing. Because of these changes, staff is now able to be more productive and allot time for meeting other duties and responsibilities.
 
"It has been very helpful," said Nadia Vega, who schedules behavioral health intakes in Yuma. "We are really growing fast because of the changes and are getting a lot of new referrals, especially from schools. Families are really surprised at how quick and easy the process is. They assume we are going to schedule them a week or two out."
 
At the beginning of the project, the average number of days wait for the intake was 14 days. The goal was to reduce this to zero by implementing same-day access care. In addition, we have been able to reduce the number of no-show appointments by offering services when the family is in need. Before executing this, no-show rates for intakes were approximately 30 percent. After offering same-day access and allowing consumers to come in when they would like to enroll for services, we reduced our no-show rate to zero for intakes.
 
“There is less frustration from families with the same-day access to care,” said Lorraine Wallace, who works first-hand with the clients and schedules. “Families are still adjusting to the new process; however, we have gotten great feedback.”
      
The Council on Accreditation (COA) recently recognized AzCA with an award of excellence for our most recent Quality Improvement Initiative. According to COA, AzCA received the award:
      
“By demonstrating exceptional improvement initiatives in the management of quality/performance, your organization affirms its ongoing commitment to enhancing organizational effectiveness and excellence for consumers and other stakeholders.”
 
“By changing our process we have put the child and family’s immediate need at the forefront of our work," said Jessie Gillam, director of operations for behavioral health. "This has been a culture shift for our offices, but has been well-worth the efforts.”
       
To learn more about AzCA's behavioral health services, visit us online at www.arizonaschildren.org and click on Our Services.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Creating Connections for Kinship Caregivers

Are you raising a relative’s child?

Kinship care has been a nationally-growing phenomenon for the last decade. Census reports indicate that more than 198,000 children under age 18 live in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives accounting for 12.2% of all children under 18 in the state (U.S. Census, 2010). Research indicates that children in kinship care experience greater stability than those in foster care. However, many kinship families do not receive the support and resources that would help them create more stability for their household.

Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) kinship programs have worked for years to empower the community to embrace and support these very special families and their potential to provide a positive alternative to traditional foster care. We announced our newest kinship program, Arizona Kinship Support Services, nearly a year ago when we received a federal grant “Family Connections Child Welfare/TANF Collaboration in Kinship Navigation Programs” funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, which allows us to continue our work with kinship families and further grow the program.


The Arizona Kinship Support Services program provides support groups, legal services, parenting skills education, foster care licensing and adoption support, as well as connections to food, housing and clothing resources, and much more. The program also provides assistance to caregivers involved with CPS, DES and other government agencies.

Our kinship staff has been hard at work behind the scenes and we are now proud to announce a brand new website designed just for the needs of kinship caregivers! ArizonaKinship.org is designed to help kinship caregivers navigate the various systems that they will encounter when raising their relative’s children and connect them to the resources they need.

“We recognized that in this digital age there was not a local online resource that responded to all of the needs of kinship families,” said Candy Espino, director of operations, child welfare. “In addition to all of our kinship work throughout the last decade, we are now able to take a well-rounded approach by integrating an online resource.”

Each kinship family is unique. ArizonaKinship.org allows kinship caregivers to independently research their local resources or connect directly with an AzCA support staff who will assist them in determining the type of kinship family they are, what their needs are, and the best available resources.

Through the website, our caregivers are also given the opportunity to connect with a support group or meet others in the same situation for emotional support. In addition, the website also invites people to share their personal stories and read about those with parallel stories.

“Our vision for the website is that it will link caregivers to real community supports to meet their current needs,” said Espino. “We relied on the expertise of our kinship caregivers to assist in the creation of this website to ensure that it met their needs and was as user-friendly as possible.”

Visit the Arizona Kinship Support Services at www.arizonakinship.org. Support services can also be obtained by calling the Caregiver Hotline at 1.888.737.7494.




Friday, August 16, 2013

In My Shoes Celebrates 10 Years

In My Shoes, a member of AzCA’s family of agencies, is proud to announce our 10 year anniversary! In 2003, In My Shoes was created by a group of committed individuals composed of alumni of foster care and their closest allies in the child welfare system. The mission of In My Shoes 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. We serve our mission by offering peer-mentoring to youth living in the foster care system, signature events for youth, and trainings for youth, alumni, and professionals. The unique aspect of In My Shoes (IMS) is that all of the staff and mentors are adults who were once raised in the foster care system and are committed to helping youth recognize that they are Strong! Resilient! Amazing! individuals capable of great success!

In 2003, with the help from AVIVA Children’s Services as IMS’ fiscal agent, IMS became an operating program and received our first grant from Every Voice In Action. With an initial grant of just $8,000, we hired our first employee and celebrated our first mentor match! Within a year, we became an official organization and received 501(c)3 not for profit status. Within a few years, IMS secured state and behavioral health contracts and served over 500 youth annually through their various programs and events.

In 2010, In My Shoes joined up with Arizona’s Children Association and became a member of its family of agencies. Today, IMS is working on growing its one-on-one mentoring program statewide. IMS has teamed up with AzCA’s Independent Living Program to offer mentorship to youth transitioning from foster care to independence. Currently IMS has volunteers in the process of becoming mentors in Bisbee, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, and Yuma.

Our one-on-one mentoring program is intended to be a two year match for youth ages 16 – 17 to help guide their transition from foster care to adulthood. Although the youth and the mentor may celebrate the success of their match and formally dissolve their match after two years, their relationship typically lasts much longer.

“Many of our matches become more than just a mentor/mentee relationship. For many of us who have aged out of foster care, our In My Shoes family is one of the strongest connections we have. We become sisters, grandma/granddaughter, uncle/nephew, or whatever makes sense to each individual match,” said Christa Drake, program coordinator and co-founder of In My Shoes.

Tamra Shea and Tamara Hanover were matched in 2009 when Tamara was 16 years-old. Although Tamara moved to California when she turned 18, she still calls home to her In My Shoes family for advice and support.

“Tamra and In My Shoes is always there whenever I have questions, need to talk, or want someone to celebrate good news with,” said Tamara Hanover.

In My Shoes provides mentorship to teens in foster care, but they also offer support and family bonding for the alumni who have either been in the program or serve as mentors.

“The connection I have with my In My Shoes family is different than any other connection I have ever had with an organization. When I became involved with In My Shoes, I had already raised my son, was a successful career woman, and had a strong connection in the community. But, I never talked about my foster care experience to anyone, even my closest friends. In My Shoes has helped me open up about my own experiences. I am now proud of everything I have overcome and know that it was those experiences that made me the strong woman I am today. I not only talk about my own experiences to my friends, but I use my experiences to advocate for better services and support for children and youth still enduring the foster care system,” said Tamra Shea.

The unique model of IMS is supported by research which shows that peer support services are associated with improved self-esteem, decision making skills, and social functioning. Arizona’s Children Association is the only agency in the nation that offers peer mentoring services where all of the IMS program staff and mentors are foster alumni.

We need more mentors for foster youth! If you were once raised in the foster care system and would like to become a mentor, please contact Christa Drake at (520) 747-1533 or via e-mail at cdrake@arizonaschildren.org or click here to fill out a volunteer form. To donate to In My Shoes, donate online at www.arizonaschildren.org or please contact Becky Holton at (602) 253-1620 ext. 2302 or bwilson@arizonaschildren.org.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Helping Young Children Cope with Loss and Tragedy In the Wake of the Yarnell Fire

For natural disasters like the Yarnell fire and unforeseen tragedies like the Boston bombings and Sandy Hook shooting, the question is, how do we explain these to our children?

When it comes to worldwide disasters or community crisis, it’s easy to think that children are naive about what’s happening in the world around them. The truth is—they are more aware than we believe.

According to Debbie Heaton, author, parent educator and a master’s level therapist currently employed with AzCA, children are very sensitive to how their parents feel.

“They are very tuned in to the expressions on their parents’ faces and the tone of their voices,” said Heaton. “Children are capable of sensing when parents are worried, whether they’re watching the news or discussing situations with others. No matter what children know about a ‘crisis,’ it’s especially frightening for children to realize that their parents are bothered as well.”

In response to the Yarnell fire tragedy that has impacted the Prescott community, Arizona’s Children Association is sponsoring a group later this month at the Prescott Public Library. The class will be presented by AzCA’s Parents as Teachers program for parents to learn how to help their toddlers and preschoolers cope with loss and tragedy.

As stated by Heaton, the news of a tragedy is often presented in such a way that it is confusing for young children. Children are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is fictitious.

“Children often become anxious because they don’t comprehend the process of videotape replays, camera angles and close-ups. Any televised tragedy seems close to home to them because the horrific scenes are taking place on the TV set in their own family room.”

When tragedies occur, children need to be reassured that their parents are doing everything they can to ensure their safety.

“It’s harder than usual if we’re struggling with our own emotions about what has happened,” said Heaton. “Adults are often surprised that their own reactions to current tragedies are so powerful, but great loss and devastation in the news often reawaken our own earlier losses and fears, even some we might have discarded or forgotten.”

Gradually, as we become more self-assured, so will our children. The class will offer ways for parents to gain confidence in speaking with their children about loss and tragedy. Parents will learn the tools needed to help their children cope with the grief and make them feel secure.

“Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents are their children’s first teachers and the most influential person in their lives. This gives parents the opportunity to shape the future by guiding them wisely through the coping process. As parents, take care of yourselves and your emotions, and then follow the useful tips provided to assist your children to better deal with the current situation.”

If you are interested in attending the group in Prescott on July 30th or would like more information, contact Rainee Crabtree at 928.533.5417.

Due to the loss of the firefighters, as well as, the many families who have lost their homes, AzCA’s staff has also organized a hygiene drive and has planned a day of service to help with recovery efforts. Hygiene products can be dropped off at the local AzCA office (440 N. Washington Avenue) or the Walgreens on Sheldon (178 E. Sheldon Street), as well as, Red Arrow Real Estate (1107 E. Gurley Street). For those in other parts of the state who wish to contribute, please donate online or note that your donation is for the Prescott Hygiene Drive.


For more information on AzCA or Parents As Teachers, please visit www.arizonaschildren.org. If you are interested in reading Debbie Heaton’s article on explaining tragic events to young children, click here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stay Kool 4 Kids

Stop by any of these participating businesses to show your support for Arizona’s Children throughout July. A donation of $1 or more adds to the placard display to support children and families in the local community. Donate money to help the children and families we serve and show your generosity on a colorful display throughout these locations.

Samurai Comics


At all three Samurai Comics locations for the month of July, on-site customers making a donation to Arizona’s Children Association will be able to choose a FREE comic from a special selection.

1051 E. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, 85014
602.265.8886

10720 W. Indian School Rd. #61
Phoenix, 85037
623.872.8886

1120 S. Country Club Drive #107
Mesa, 85210
480.962.1123

On Saturday, July 27th Samurai Comics Camelback location is donating 10% of their sales to Arizona’s Children Association. Come to the store and enjoy a local sketch artist, see demos of popular games, and more!

Uptown Alley


13525 N. Litchfield Road
Surprise, 85379
623.975.PLAY(7529)


To see what else is happening around the state, follow the links below or vist StayKool4Kids.org.

Prescott Locations                                                        
Yuma Locations

Friday, June 21, 2013

Volunteers needed for Grandparent’s Day Dance

In Arizona, there are more than 114,000 households headed by grandparents or other relatives who are currently caring for one or more children. Many of these caregivers are unable to enjoy a night amongst peers or time away from the children. The Grandparent’s Day Dance is an opportunity for our dedicated and caring grandparents to have a night of fun, laughter, and support.

The Grandparent’s Day Dance is on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at Duet: Partners in Health & Aging from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. We are looking for volunteers who are willing and eager to help us with the set up and break down of the event, serving, and childcare. Volunteers who serve and help with the setting up and tearing down must be at least 18 years old. Those who wish to help provide childcare at the event must be at least 21 years old, provide fingerprint clearance and negative TB test results.

Come out and enjoy a fun-filled evening with us and show your support for these grand families!

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Lauren Watson at 602.253.1620 x 2111 or at LWatson@arizonaschildren.org.

Duet: Partners in Health & Aging is located at 555 W. Glendale Avenue, Phoenix, 85021.

Follow us on Facebook to learn about other great volunteer opportunities!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reay's Ranch Hosts Change for Children Drive




From June 26 - July 9, Reay’s Ranch Investors’ locations are raising money for Arizona’s children!Stop into your local Reay’s Minit Market, Super Stop, Subway or other participating store and donate $1 or more to help kids and help Reay’s reach their goal of $1,000,000!

Benson
Super Stop, 104 East 4th Street

Bisbee
Minit Market, 94 Bisbee Rd
Super Stop, 906 West Hwy 92

Chandler
Minit Market, 10356 E. Riggs Rd

Coolidge
Super Stop, 780 North Arizona Blvd

Douglas
Super Stop, 101 16th Street
Super Stop, 1060 18th Street

DudleyVille
Minit Market, 6466 Hwy 77

Florence
Minit Market, 520 N. Pinal Pkwy

Globe
Super Stop, 1690 East Ash Street

Hereford
Super Stop, 5620 S. Hwy 92

Kearny
Gordon’s Market, 345 Alden Road

Marana
Minit Market, 12505 N. Trico Rd
Super Stop, 15841 W. El Tiro Road

Pearce
Minit Market, 251 Frontage Road

Pima
Minit Market, 325 E. Hwy 70

Safford
Minit Market, 105 E. Hwy 70
Minit Market, 780 8th Avenue
Subway, 750 8th Avenue
Super Stop, 1780 W. Hwy 70

Sahuarita
Super Stop, 795 W. Via Rancho Sahuarita

San Manuel
Minit Market, 400 Avenue A
Subway, 400 Avenue A

Sierra Vista
Super Stop, 5217 South Hwy 92
Super Stop, 1497 East Fry Blvd.

Thatcher
Super Stop, 3775 W. Main Street

Tucson
Minit Market, 63715 E. Saddlebrooke
Minit Market, 6777 N. Sandario Rd
Reay’s Ranch Investors, 2100 N. Kolb Road
Rincon County Store, 12660 E. Old Spanish Trail
Shell Food Mart, 2402 N. 1st Avenue
Subway, 6777 N. Sandario Rd
Super Stop, 6225 W. Ajo Hwy
Super Stop, 3902 E. Speedway
Super Stop, 6280 E. Broadway
Super Stop, 3050 E. Ft. Lowell Rd
Super Stop, 6890 N. Sandario Rd.
Super Stop, 4301 E. Broadway
The Range Market, 11200 S. Sierrita Mountain Rd.

WinkelmanMinit Market, 105 W. 2nd St.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Boemer Golf Tournament returns for the 16th year

On Saturday, May 11th, the John Boemer Golf Tournament returned to Yuma for the 16th year. The event was held at the Yuma Golf and Country Club where 29 teams tried their luck at a hole in one.

Over the past 16 years, this tournament has raised over $470,000! This year we raised a total of $34,000! All of these funds are used locally and spent on children and families in need of our assistance.
  
The generous donations from the event have gone towards:
  • Purchasing clothing and school supplies for children coming into foster care
  • Bill assistance to help families in need
  • Paid for specialized camps and trainings for children with special needs
  • Purchased food, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies and general necessities for families in need
  • Purchased beds to keep siblings together in one foster home
  • Paid registration fees for youth to play various sports
  • Assistance with vehicle repairs so that a grandmother, raising her grandchildren, can have transportation

A big thank you goes out to the committee members for their hard work and dedication. The committee includes: Allen Hook, Cory Crouse, Dave Sellers, Heather Boemer, Jack Meerchaum, Jay McMullen, Jeff Sellers, Jeron Boemer, Ross Farley, Stephanie Watson, and Steve Schulte.
Our appreciation also goes out to our committed staff that helped make the event a success. Thank you to Ricardo Becerra, Cori Rico, Esther Heureque, Esmeralda Murphy, Ava Lillard, Lizet Diaz, Cynthia Prieto, Krystal Castillo, Connie Villegas, Jeanette Leon-Buelna, Diego Lomeli, Claudia Rubio, Raul Solorzano, Chatana Campbell, Andrea Mendez, and Jessica Kelly. And to our volunteers: Susie Tyndall; and board members, Cindy Landin and Renee Dinwiddie!
Photo: Left to right-- Jay McMullen, Tony Sellers, Mike Covey and Jeron Boemer

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sorority Supports Those Raising Relative Kin

Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority Beta Chapter recently presented a $500 check to the Kinship & Adoption, Resource & Education (KARE) Center program.

Alpha Delta Kappa is an international honorary organization of women educators who are dedicated to educational excellence, altruism and world understanding. The Beta Chapter, located in Tucson, is the oldest chapter in Arizona. The Sorority meets monthly and reaches out to the community through a number of altruistic projects including raising money for various organizations and providing scholarships to high school students.

A couple of years ago, the Sorority was entertained by the KARE children who were a part of the Baile Folklorico, a “folkloric dance" comprised of traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture. They had a desire to support Baile Folklorico and although the program is no longer in existence, the Sorority decided they would show their support of KARE.

“They were just adorable!” said Francine Bourland, a member of Alpha Delta Kappa. “I feel very good that we were able to give a little something to a group that does such great things.”

Kinship care has been a nationally-growing phenomenon for the last decade. In Arizona, there are more than 114,000 households headed by grandparents or other relatives who are currently caring for one or more relative child.

“They considered that any one of them could be in that situation where they have to step in,” said Julie Treinen, KARE Family Center program director. “They decided to let us be one of the recipients of their fundraising efforts.” Special thank you to Alpha Delta Kappa!


To learn more about KARE, visit www.arizonaschildren.org/karecenter.



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Heard Museum comes to Golden Gate

In April, our Golden Gate Community Center's Head Start program brought the Heard Museum to the children and families in the west Phoenix community. Many families in the area are unable to take their children on outings, like museums, due to transportation or financial restraints.


The Heard Museum offers a variety of specialized learning experiences for school groups, families and adult learners both at the museum and off-site. Head Start teamed up with the Heard Museum and were able to borrow educational kits that were set up in the cafeteria as stations for learning while the teachers and management team transformed the space into a museum. Teachers developed educational activities with the kits. One of the stations highlighted a portrait of George Washington. The teacher focused on his wooden teeth to teach the children and families about hygiene and oral health.


Families were also encouraged to bring siblings and other family members to the event, adding to the excitement and energy at the impromptu museum. More than 60 families attended the museum for an approximate total of 200 attendees—what a success!


“It was an event that some of our families would not have been able to experience on their own,” said Sarah Gonzalez, director of Golden Gate Community Center. “It exposed them to a learning opportunity and an outing for the entire family.”

 
“I am so very proud of our teachers and management team,” added Sarah. “They are passionate about education and what they do in their program.” Special thank you to the Heart Museum for accommodating our programs with off-site educational materials!

 
To learn more about Golden Gate Community Center, visit www.goldengatecenter.org.



Pictured above: Top: Teacher Kimberly Margevich with TA Rosa Saenz, Bottom: TA Nidia Martinez



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bridging the Gaps in the System:


Federal dollars helped AzCA address needs of older children in foster care


In 2012, Arizona’s Children Association won the bid to receive a federal grant intended to help find homes for older, hard-to-place children in foster care. The five-year Fostering Readiness and Permanency (FRP) grant intended to get kids out of foster care and into permanent placements more quickly, particularly those who have spent years in care and are at risk of “aging out” of the system.

More than 30,000 U.S. teens each year reach adulthood and leave state custody without a permanent home, including about 700 in Arizona (AZ Republic). Children who are eventually emancipated from the child welfare system lack a vital safety net for helping to ensure a successful life. It is likely that the longer a child is in care, the more homes they are placed in and the fewer personal attachments they have, which can often lead to relationship insecurities and trust issues. Research shows that children who “age out” of foster care when they turn 18 are more likely than their peers to be unemployed, homeless, convicted of a crime, drug dependent, become a teen parent, and are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

There are many barriers to permanent placements. Per DES, national data shows that the older a foster child is, the less likely they will be placed with a permanent family. Why? There are many misconceptions related to older youths when it comes to adoption. These misconceptions include: older youths do not want to be adopted, placements of older youths are unsuccessful, older youths have more behavioral problems, and placements are no longer attempted due to their age. Other obstacles include a shortage of families for placements, lack of readiness for permanency, and limited resources due to state budget reductions.

The FRP Project targeted two populations: The legacy population of youth from ages 13-17 ½ who have been in out-of-home care for two or more years. The prevention population from ages 5-17 ½ who are in care for more than one year, but less than two years, and are at risk of remaining in care for over two years.

The FRP Project creates a Child Advocate Recruitment Expert (CARE) team that consists of a Care Coordinator, Youth Advocate, and the child’s assigned Child Protective Services (CPS) Specialist. The grant funded two programs to be used by the CARE team: the 3-5-7 Model and Family Finding. The 3-5-7 Model prepares children for life with a new family, and is aimed at reducing the chance that they’ll be returned to CPS by providing frequent therapy sessions to help them work through the grief and loss surrounding their biological family. The Family Finding program uses search tools to locate extended family members. Both programs have been successful in other states.

AzCA has worked with 59 kids since it began in August of last year.

Among the successes, 6-year-old Kevin* was reunited with his father and his father’s family. Esther, 55, who is Kevin’s maternal great aunt, has been caring for Kevin off and on for much of his life and plans on adopting him.

Kevin never really knew his dad. He’d see him when he would go to visit his mom or would catch a glimpse of him at a local gas station with a “Hey buddy!” remark. Kevin didn’t really remember his dad and the family members on his paternal side.

“I knew the dad, but I didn’t really know him. I knew of him, but heard [negative things about him] that made me not want to get to know him. I felt like his grandparents weren’t making an effort but that’s because they didn’t know how to get ahold of us. It was really just miscommunication and I am just so happy that Kevin has met his family.”

“They have already severed Dad’s parental rights and he is okay with that,” said Esther. “He just wants to be able to have a relationship with Kevin but he knew that he could not care for him the way that we can.”

According to Esther, it is hard for Kevin to get attached to others and to get close to them. The program has helped Kevin to establish meaningful bonds with his family and he has also grown close to the staff on his team. “It has all been a positive thing for us,” commented Esther. “Dad has been really trying to give him attention and show him that he loves him.”

Esther mentioned that it has been challenging to raise a school-aged child with a lot of emotional problems; however, she is glad his father and the rest of the family are now involved in Kevin’s life. She credits the FRP team for making this possible for Kevin and reuniting the rest of the family.

“This is just a great program,” added Esther. “Kevin has really opened up.”

Tracy Fish, a Care Coordinator for AzCA shared a story of another youth she encountered. “The thing that stands out most to me was when I noticed one of the children looking through the photos of his father as a young man and he grabbed his head and said, ‘my hair grows the same way as my dad’s does!’” said Tracy. “It was so neat to witness his excitement in discovering where he got a lot of his traits from.”

The project aimed to improve permanency outcomes for youth who are most likely to remain in out-of-home care by increasing their readiness for permanency, growing their number of support networks and connections, improving placement stability by enhancing the number of potential homes, and to advance their decision making.

“The individualized attention with the youth to process their experiences of grief and loss was important to address in order to strengthen these children to move forward in their lives,” said Candy Espino, Director of Operations for AzCA’s child welfare programs. “Our staff had what is often an unusual opportunity in this field to really begin to understand these youth and their families. We were able to connect many youth to family members that our kids did not previously know and may otherwise have never met.”

Widely publicized earlier this year, the Department of Economic Security has unfortunately cancelled the grant program. According to The Arizona Republic, the Department of Economic Security has stated that it could not comply with rigorous federal requirements to receive the grant money and adequately serve the growing number of Arizona children in foster care. This cancellation was especially unfortunate given all the positive feedback about the program. “It is a wonderful project, a wonderful model, and it was working,” said Jackie Smollar, who was part of the Quality Assurance staff at LeCroy & Milligan.

“The cancellation of the grant was entirely based on the state’s response to federal requirements for the dollars and was in no way a reflection on the work and dedication of our staff,” stated Espino. “Our staff continue to be incredibly passionate about this project and the opportunities it provides for improving lives of youth in care.”

“We owe it to these kids in care to help them build strong foundations for themselves when their birth parents are unable,” added Espino, “Although the funding through this particular grant is no longer available, we have found other ways to continue to provide these services because we believe in this work due to the outcomes that we have seen. We look forward to continuing to work with youth and families with these two models.”

*As a child currently in the foster care system, Kevin’s name has been changed to protect his confidentiality.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is Your Child Ready to Read?

by Debbie Heaton

Teaching your child to read early has multiple benefits and is the key to your child's academic future.  Why? Because reading is at the heart of all formal education; other advantages include neurological, educational, psychological, social, and linguistic characteristics.

Reading helps to develop a young child’s brain.  In the first six years, children learn at a faster pace than at any other time in their lives.  Necessary connections in the brain are made very early in life.  At birth, a healthy baby is born with approximately 200 billion active brain cells.  Given the right kind of stimulation, each of these brain cells is capable of multiplying and ensuring connections between them which store additional information.  Through these connections and early experiences, the basis of all future learning and intellectual ability form.

As parents talk, sing and read to their children, existing links among brain cells are strengthened and new links are formed.  At a younger age, learning is faster than it will be as the child grows older.  When a child is taught to read, the process of learning has a profound influence on the entire functioning and development of the brain.  Parents can play a critical early role by implanting not only reading skills and ability but more importantly, instilling a lifelong love of reading.

Reading opens the door to your child’s academic success and imparts a love of learning that leads to higher grades in every subject.  Strong language skills are the basis for literacy development.  When children learn to read at an early age, they have greater general knowledge, expand their vocabulary and become more fluent readers.  They also have improved attention spans and better concentration.  Early readers can recognize a larger number of words by sight, which enables them to learn more from and about their environment.

A child who learns to read joyfully at home, at an early age, with a loving parent or caregiver, grows in self-confidence and independence.  Reading promotes greater maturity, increases discipline and lays the basis for moral literacy.  It sparks curiosity about people, places and things and also satisfies the child’s curiosity by providing explanations of how things work.  It also exposes the child to a range of problem-solving techniques while igniting the child’s creativity and imagination.

Even at a young age, children have social awareness.  They know who is more popular.  They can tell who can do what.  If there are a few children in kindergarten who know how to read, they may receive awards and certificates, be called upon to choose books or are encouraged to write, illustrate and read aloud their own stories.  In some schools, they may even be asked to help other children, who may still be struggling with basic letter recognition.

Early readers have the opportunity to relate to their peers on a more confident, more competent level as they are already being recognized for their superior accomplishments.  Such experiences increase the child’s social status among peers as well as his or her self-image and self-confidence.

Children who can read independently and early have more opportunities to encounter the written word.  The sooner children learn how to read, the more books, knowledge, and ideas they will be exposed to.  The result is improved linguistic skills in the form of a richer vocabulary, correct grammar, improved writing, better spelling and more articulate oral communication.

Graham County’s very own “Story Lady,” Giane Powell, earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and has worked at the Safford Library for 23 years providing Storytime, Summer Reading and Early Literacy programs.  Giane provides the following information to parents in short presentation formats:

Help Your Child Get Ready to Read

From the time they are infants, children learn language and other important skills that will help them learn to read.  As parents and/or caregivers, you have been your child’s teacher from the day he or she was born.  You know more about your child than anyone else.  You are in the best position to help your child get ready to read because:
 
  • Young children have short attention spans.  You can do activities for short bits of time throughout the day.
  • You can help your children learn in ways and at times that are best for them.
  • Parents are tremendous role models—if your children see that you think reading is important and enjoy it, they will follow your lead.
  • Children learn best by doing—and they love doing things with YOU!
  • To become successful readers, children need to understand the meaning of what they read.  Making sense of written language—comprehension—is at the heart of what it means to be a good reader.
  • Vocabulary and comprehension skills start to develop from the time a child is an infant.  A baby listens to what parents and other caregivers say and they learn the meaning of words.
  • The more language experiences children have the more words they learn and the better they become at understanding the meaning of what is being said.  This will help children understand the meaning of written words as they learn to read.

The best way to help your child get ready to read is to spend time with them.  Talk, sing, read, write, and play.  Just have fun!!!

You can visit Giane Powell at the Safford Library and check out her Toddler Storytime on Tuesdays from 10:30 to 11:15; Pajama Time on Tuesdays from 6:30pm to 7:30pm; Preschool Storytime on Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11:30 and Thursdays from 11:00 to 12:00; and Open Play Time on Wednesdays from 2:00 to 4:00pm.

It’s never too early to begin reading to your child.  Even the youngest babies will gradually come to associate books with the warmth of being held by you and the soothing sound of your voice.  By establishing reading time as an enjoyable time, you’re helping to jump-start a lifetime of reading and learning—a benefit that lasts throughout childhood and beyond.

Debbie A. Heaton is an author, parent educator, and a master’s level therapist currently employed with The Parent Connection, a member of Arizona’s Children Association Family of Agencies.  The Parent Connection utilizes the Adlerian approach to parenting.