Q&A: One-on-one with the Arizona Children’s Association

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The Scottsdale Independent newspaper reached out to Arizona’s Children Association Director of Family Education and Support Services Paula Joseph to better understand the pursuit of the legacy nonprofit.

Since the turn of the 20th Century, the AzCA has been in the dedicated quest of improving the lives of all Arizona children. This is what she had to say:

•Can you tell me about the inception of the Arizona Children’s Association?

Arizona’s Children Association was originally founded as an orphanage in Tucson in 1912. Formerly known as Arizona Children’s Home, we cared for homeless, neglected and dependent children. However, time has taught us that children thrive in family settings, with individualized structure and support. To meet the changing needs of the children, we began to develop services that extended beyond the residential program in Tucson, and well-beyond Tucson itself. Today, AzCA is one of the oldest and largest child welfare and behavioral health non-profit agencies in Arizona. Located in all 15 Arizona counties, AzCA provides more than a dozen programs and services to meet the needs of more than 40,000 children, youth and families each year.

What problem is the Association seeking to solve?

It is our mission to protect children, empower youth and strengthen families. Our vision is that every Arizona family has the resources and support needed to be safe, strong and resilient. Our professionally trained, caring and dedicated staff provide a broad spectrum of services that help create and sustain a healthy family environment.

Each of our programs are tailored to meet the needs of the particular child, individual or family. Our team members are able to expertly navigate between our behavioral health and child welfare programs to provide a continuum of services and additional supports and programs to clients.

Our program areas include:

  • Foster Care & Adoption, Kinship Support Services;
  • Behavioral Health & Trauma/Crisis Response;
  • Young Adult Services; and
  • Family Education & Support and Family Preservation & Reunification.

These services promote safe environments for kids, promote healing from trauma and abuse, support caregivers and their families, guide at-risk youth and young adults, and ultimately build a stronger, more resilient community. Our programs target the type of future we all want to see: a future where every child has a safe and loving home and families are supported through difficult and trying circumstances.

•Why is it important for organizations such as this one to exist?

AzCA is an invaluable resource for protecting children, preserving families and promoting safe communities throughout Arizona. We support prevention efforts, early intervention and innovative programs to give children and families the tools, confidence and support they need to reach their full potential. We adjust to the needs of the local community; providing non-biased, family focused, strength-based, culturally sensitive and outcome driven care to all children and families.

AzCA serves parents and caregivers of all types --- first-time parents, teen parents, childcare providers, foster and adoptive parents, at-risk families or those who may have had their children removed, as well as experienced parents that just want to learn some additional skills to be the best parent they can be. These services are vital because there is no better time to address concerns within families than at the earliest ages and stages of development. Addressing potential long-term concerns early on, such as neglect, can ultimately lead to better lives and significant savings at the state level in the future.

We assist families in crisis to promote safety, health and overall well-being in order to strengthen families and reduce trauma and out-of-home removals. Preserving these families is important, as we aim to be a part of the solution on the front end, before little issues become big problems, and before the safety of the children becomes a concern. We collaborate with the community, schools and other partners to do what is in the best interest of the child, while also addressing the family structure and ensuring they have the support and education needed for their unique circumstances.

•Can you tell me of any emerging trends our audience should be aware?

The number of kinship families --- families who are raising their relatives’ children --- are increasing rapidly here in Arizona. These families have unique challenges and need a variety of supports to stabilize their families and ensure the safety of the children in their care. Relative care is almost always the best alternative for a child who is unable to remain with their parents. The level of support our program provides for these caregivers is not provided by any other organization in the state.

We provide a full assessment of needs for each caregiver and we are acutely aware of the supports and education needed to support each unique situation.

Our strength-based services assist individuals and families in heightening social-emotional well-being and guiding those impacted by trauma and abuse through the healing process. Services like these offer the tools needed to provide a safe place to gain strength, learn coping skills and develop productive relationships.

•Are their programs established for young adults? What about the foster care system?

AzCA’s Young Adult Services and mentor program aid foster care youth who have or will be transitioning out of foster care. Youth living in foster care face significant challenges, increasing the likelihood of negative life outcomes such as dropping out of school or becoming homeless or incarcerated. We provide skills and support to these young adults in their transition into independence by assisting them in becoming self-sufficient, as well as help them develop and maintain stable living situations.

We also offer one-on-one support services to parents between the ages of 12-24, who are or were involved in foster care or the juvenile court system, and their children with parenting skills and training, financial independence, health care, employment, education, counseling and community resources. Our goal is to help these young adults break the cycle reverse some of the negative outcomes for which foster youth have experienced or are at-risk of experiencing as adults.

Our outcomes and client assessments show statistically significant improvement in the lives impacted by our programs. It is our credibility and commitment to providing a specifically tailored continuum of services to children and families in need that has allowed us to remain strong and stable for more than 107 years.

•Can you tell me a little bit about the focus on reading within the Arizona Children’s Association?

Arizona’s Children Association’s Family Education and Support Services is dedicated to healthy early brain development and school readiness for Arizona’s children. We want all children to receive the support they need to succeed in school. Raising a Reader is an evidenced-based program with a strong history of success in developing early literacy skills in young children, an important contributor to later success in reading. We have been implementing Raising a Reader in communities in the Valley and have received positive results.

Go to arizonaschildren.org.

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