Monday, August 18, 2014

Arizona’s Children Association Recognized for Wellness Efforts

Last month, Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) was recognized as a Healthy Arizona Worksite by the City of Phoenix’s FitPHX program.
FitPHX is a program that encourages Phoenix area residents and businesses to lead healthier lifestyles. The goal of the program is to improve health and wellness in the community and build cFitPHXollaboration among Arizona employers around worksite wellness. The program recognizes participating Arizona employers for their leadership and commitment to the health of their employees and the state's business community.
Julie Peterson, Human Resource Generalist, and Richard Brubaker, Integrated Health and Wellness Director, received the award on Arizona’s Children’s behalf. The award was presented by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela.
“We are looking forward to increasing our wellness activities,” said Jeff Jameson, Vice President of Human Resources at AzCA. “We encourage everyone to continue in maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit!”
This year, Arizona’s Children Association is taking active steps to address what all businesses deal with—chronic stress, burnout, and healthy lifestyles for our employees.
“Arizona’s Children Association is committed not only to our children and families, but to our employees as well,” said Julie. “We know that in order to take care of our families we need to first take care of ourselves.”
Julie and Richard are part of the agency’s Wellness Committee and invite staff across the state to participate. This opportunity is to help both our fellow employees and their families by inviting our peers to come together and address their needs.
“Through meeting, we hope to give employees a voice in addressing stress and healthy lifestyle concerns by being an advocate for health and wellness across the state,” said Julie.
For further information on FitPHX, visit

Friday, August 15, 2014

Color Vibe is near, and you’re about to get tagged!

Get ready Phoenix and Tempe for the most colorful fun-filled day of your life! You’ll have more color on you than your happy levels can handle! So get your friends and family stretched out for this amazing color blast event where you'll get blasted with color while you run/walk the Color Vibe 5K.
Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) is the beneficiary of the Color Vibe 5K Fun Run & Color Dance Party at Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe on February 22, 2015. If you’re not yet familiar with these types of events, you should be! It’s a fun, family-friendly event in which colored powder is ‘blasted’ at the crowd all through the run. You start out in your white shirt and by the end, who knows what your new look will be!
Don’t miss out! A portion of your registration fee benefits our programs and services for children and families, so invite your friends and family to this exciting color fun experience and support a great cause! This year, up to three children ages 12 and under can run for free with each paid adult. Register today and receive $5.00 off when you use the code: ACACOLOR.
We hope to see you there! Arizona Mills Mall is located at 5000 South Arizona Mills Circle, Tempe, AZ 85282. For more details, visit

Monday, August 11, 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.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer Ideal Time to Prepare for Kindergarten Success

For young kids entering kindergarten, summer is the ideal time to instill the skills that will make the transition to school smoother.
Kindergarten has changed a lot since most of us started school. Today’s 5-year-olds are expected to arrive with basic academic and social skills so they are prepared on day one to start learning to read, write and do basic math.

First Things First has a list of simple things parents and caregivers can do this summer to help kindergarteners prepare for their big day. Some tips include:
  • Read to your child at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Talk to your child; make up stories or songs.
  • Play games about colors, numbers and shapes of objects. Point out letters and repeat them.
  • Encourage your child to draw on plain paper with crayons.
  • Make sure that all immunizations are current and have your child visit the dentist.
  • Start talking to your child about the change that is coming when they start school. Be positive.
  • Talk with your child and set an example of sharing and putting things back where they belong.
  • Talk with your child about a typical school day. The more your child knows, the less anxiety he is likely to experience.
  • Do a test-run of the new routine, including laying out clothes the night before, waking up with enough time to get ready and eating breakfast.
  • Give your child a family picture for their pocket or backpack; reassure them about what time you will be back to pick them up.
  • Most importantly, celebrate and enjoy this milestone with your child!
Additional tips can be found at in the Parent Section under Early Education.
Even if you don’t have kindergarteners this year, it’s never too early to start helping kids prepare. Children who have positive early childhood experiences tend to score higher on school readiness assessments and are more likely to do well in school and graduate.
By turning everyday moments into learning moments, we can send our children to school with the skills – and the love of learning – that will help them succeed in kindergarten and beyond!

New Directions Institute, a program of Arizona’s Children Association, provides parents and caregivers with training and tools to help every infant, toddler and preschooler in Arizona develop a healthy brain and enter school ready to learn. Parents, parents-to-be, grandparents, childcare providers, and others who care for infants and toddlers are invited to join New Directions Institute for one of our FREE presentations of the latest research and techniques to "wire up" your child's brain for a successful future.

Workshops include: Wired for Success®, Kinder Prep A & B Pre-literacy Program, Brain Time with Brain Boxes®, S.T.E.P.S.® Plus and Nurturing Parenting. To learn more about New Directions Institute or the free workshops, visit

Summer Programs Help Keep Kids Engaged

This summer, children and teens around the state are participating in a number of skill-building and dynamic activities. In Northern Arizona, a special group of youth are given the chance to take part in a variety of recreational and experimental learning opportunities which are tailored to their individual needs and interests through the Skills Training and Respite Program and Meet Me Where I Am. Programs like these help to stabilize families, give kids the tools needed to succeed, aid in appropriate social interactions, get the children involved in their communities, and help them learn valuable skill sets.
The Skills Training and Respite (STAR) Program offers a variety of behavioral health services to support these youth and their families. Services aim to reduce caregiver stress, and to build skills and resiliency in youth. Respite services engage youth in a variety of recreational activities with their peers.
Skills training groups focus on a variety of age-appropriate skills such as how to manage emotions, communicate effectively, develop friendships, and utilize community resources, and respite services aim to engage youth in recreational activities with their peers. STAR also focuses on individual skills training and support, including providing older youth with support in developing independent living skills such as pre-employment training, money management, or applying for college.
Meet Me Where I AM (MMWIA) is a unique service made available to families in the community who are struggling with very challenging needs. There are a broad range of dynamic and creative services available depending on each family’s unique needs. The main goal of the MMWIA program is to help children develop the skills they need to be successful and to provide their caregivers the support they need to begin parenting anew with fresh ideas. MMWIA is focused on helping families function successfully over the long–term so that when services end, positive changes continue.
Each year, there are a number of activities planned throughout the summer months to keep the children engaged. The summer programs and groups provide opportunities for both programs to participate in daytime, group activities and allows the staff to have more time with the youth. All activities are determined by the passionate and energetic staff with the clients’ input and individualized to meet the needs of the peer groups. Other activities this summer have included: hiking, gardening, games at the park, and various other outdoor teambuilding exercises. One exciting opportunity that the children and youth participated in was learning to cook with foods harvested from their own garden. Activities like these instill life skills and nutritional education.
Parents often work during the summer months and children are left home unsupervised,” said Gretchen Shallcross, program director for behavioral health. “The goal of the program is to keep kids engaged and to allow them the opportunity to experience and learn things that they otherwise wouldn’t. Many children find themselves getting into trouble and lack the financial resources to experience cultural activities and other involvements.”
To learn more about these programs, visit and click on Our Services: Behavioral Health & Trauma/Crisis Response.