Friday, May 29, 2015

An animal kingdom adventure for Parents As Teachers participants

Child development experts agree that in order to develop critical early literacy skills, frequent exposure to words through conversation and books is extremely important, starting the day a child is born. At a recent Parent As Teachers event, families discovered that a child’s early learning and language skills can also be cultivated during an adventure at the zoo!

Volunteer John Huff explains snakes to a group of captivated families.

Parents as Teachers is a home visiting program for families with children 0-5 years. During bi-weekly visits, parent educators work to strengthen families by sharing tips around parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting, and family well-being. Through monthly group connections, the organization connects parents to local support services and fosters their engagement to schools and other community organizations.

Parents As Teacher’s recent excursion to Prescott’s Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary proved to be a literacy rich encounter as young children were introduced to beautiful beasts, bugs and reptiles. The sanctuary, formerly known as Heritage Park Zoo, is a non-profit wildlife preserve dedicated to the conservation and protection of native and exotic animals. Sanctuary volunteer and snake handler John Huff shared: "Lots of moms and young children come to the Zoo. Exposure helps children see how amazing the world around them is and helps them become better aquatinted with their environment". When asked if exposure to the animals helped to reduce children’s fears, Huff responded, "Sometimes. One benefit, however is that it can help children practice kindness."

Ali and Asher check out "Sash" an American Black Bear.
Because they discover new concepts, sights and sounds, outings such as the Parents As Teachers Zoo visit help young children start to associate objects with words, and those experiences help to shape their understanding of the world around them. "We have been to the zoo before but this is the first time that Ali is actually enjoying the animals!" said Karen, a grandparent in attendance. "When I snapped the photo of Asher and Ali looking at the bear, Ali was continually growling like a bear! Her favorite animal of the day, or at least to name, was the Emu! Both children were able to brush goats, pet a turtle, chase chickens, see a snake up close, climb on a rope spider web, and then we all took a break from the sun and danced in the gazebo to Grandma singing the rumba".

Enthusiastic about their visit, families were also able to practice developing their child’s social and emotional skills: "So much fun to be had that there was a two year old tantrum to work through when leaving!" said one caregiver. Other parents agreed: "I’m glad PAT had a zoo day" said Anne Parmeter, mother to 2 year old Benjamin. "We got in free and got to see all the animals. I took lots of photos that my son will enjoy seeing later".

Parents As Teachers, a program of the Arizona Children's Association , is supported by First Things First. For more information about First Things First, please visit If you are interested in learning more about PAT please contact Rainee Crabtree at (928) 443-1991 x2021

Monday, April 6, 2015

Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) to Transition to CODAC Behavioral Health Services

TUCSON, Ariz.  – The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) has transitioned from being operated under Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) to being operated under CODAC Behavioral Health Services. The transition was effective April 1, 2015.


SACASA is the largest provider of sexual assault services in the state of Arizona and has been a trusted resource for sexual assault survivors since 1973. Through SACASA, thousands of survivors have been provided with a safe place to gain strength, learn coping skills and develop trusting, caring relationships. SACASA operates 24-hour sexual assault crisis lines in English and Spanish; provides 24-hour intervention, advocacy, information and referral services; assists with reporting sexual assault; provides hospital response and medical forensic exams; and offers individual, group and family counseling as well as peer support to help facilitate the transformation from victim to survivor. SACASA has two locations in Tucson and one in Nogales, Arizona.


Services through SACASA will continue without interruption due to funding by state and federal grants, the Pima County Health Department, the TMC Foundation and donations provided by generous individuals and businesses.  Services provided through a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant will continue to be provided by SACASA staff working for AzCA until the grant concludes in September. CODAC will apply to take over administration of that grant starting October 1.


AzCA – a child welfare and behavioral health agency – acquired SACASA in 2006 to ensure that Southern Arizona continued to have services dedicated to survivors of sexual violence. Since then, AzCA has maintained SACASA’s core services while also providing critical fundraising support. Nearly two years ago, however, AzCA identified that SACASA would be better served and sustained under the management of an agency that provides adult services so they began the search for the right organization.


CODAC Behavioral Health Services is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1970. It provides treatment services to youth, adults and families ages 6 and older who are living with trauma, mental health disorders and addiction. CODAC has extensive experience in providing a continuum of professional, trauma-informed care, including psychiatric medical care, therapy, case management and peer support.  These services can further complement the care survivors are already receiving from SACASA’s victims’ advocates, therapists and forensic nurses.


“Every 2.5 minutes someone is the victim of sexual violence. As a community, we simply cannot not have these services available. Too many suffer; too many need our help,” says CODAC President & CEO Dennis Regnier, MA. “CODAC is proud to be able to provide SACASA with the infrastructure it needs to be able to continue its life-saving work for many men and women in southern Arizona. The Boards and leadership of AzCA and CODAC believe this transition will result in growth and sustainability for SACASA so that it may continue its critical role in the community.”

AzCA President & CEO Denise Ensdorff, LCSW adds: "We want to thank all of you who have supported the mission of SACASA over the years and we believe you will not only be pleased with this partnership, but also impressed with the success and improved sustainability of SACASA in future years."