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Health Policy Director Position Open at CAA

canstockphoto21347993For nearly three years, Joe Fu has worked for Arizona children by advocating for public policy that benefits kids’ health. Joe has been a tremendous asset to Children’s Action Alliance and our mission.

Joe is leaving his position at CAA, taking a job at First Things First, where he will focus on children’s early development issues. We wish him the best and look forward to working side by side with Joe in his next venture.

Director of health policy continues to be a critical role at Children’s Action Alliance, and we are looking for an extraordinary successor. If you or someone you know would be a good fit, please read the announcement, submit a cover letter and resume or forward this along to your contacts and encourage them to apply.

Thank you.

Sponsorship Opportunities Available for TEOC Event in October

It may only be June, but we at Children’s Action Alliance are working hard to prepare for our annual flagship fundraising event, Through the Eyes of a Child luncheon. If you have not yet done so, mark your calendars for Friday, October 21, 2016 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

This year’s theme will emphasize Justice: Through the Eyes of a Child, and honor community-based diversion programs that are showing success and positive outcomes for young people.

Honorees are Nicole Stanton, winner of the Horace Steele Child Advocacy Award, for her tireless efforts to prevent bullying and improve conditions for children; and the AZ Courts for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), winner of the Jacque Steiner Public Leadership Award.

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The annual luncheon, which draws in more than 500 people each year, is an excellent opportunity to support child advocacy efforts and reach a large network of community-minded and civicly engaged Arizonans. We are currently accepting sponsorships at all levels, which are detailed in this packet.

Contact Damita Curry to reserve your sponsorship today.

Individual tickets are available for sale now. 

New KIDS COUNT Data Ranks Arizona 45th in Nation

2016 KidsCount photoThe Annie E. Casey Foundation is out with its annual KIDS COUNT® Data Book, ranking Arizona 45th overall, up from 46th in 2015. The analysis ranks states on 16 data markers, including education, health, poverty and family situation, as well as community factors.

While Arizona is still in the bottom ten states, improvements in math proficiency were the most notable area of progress, propelling the state from 35th in 2015 to 18th in 2016. Arizona eighth graders performed better than the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with 65% in our state not meeting proficiency, while nationally, that statistic is 68%.  Better scores can be attributed to an aggressive effort by public K-12 schools to adopt and meet more rigorous math standards.

Children growing up in Arizona continue to face big challenges, according to the report, with the state ranking in the bottom 10 for fourth grade reading, high school graduation and preschool participation. Additionally, one in four kids lives in a high poverty area, a factor that can have a dramatic impact on educational and future success.

The full KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available online. 

Conditions for Arizona Kids Improve Slightly; Concerns with Poverty, Education Remain

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PHOENIX – The ranking for conditions for Arizona children is slowly improving, moving from 46th in 2015 to 45th place this year, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT® Data Book. The yearly analysis evaluates data in 16 indicators, including education, health, poverty and family and community factors. Although Arizona remains among the lowest ten states, improvement in math proficiency nudged the state incrementally higher in the rankings.

Arizona’s eighth grade students demonstrated great improvement in math proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), jumping from a ranking of 35th last year to 18th in this year’s report. Thanks to an early emphasis on adopting rigorous math standards and preparing teachers and students to reach the standards, Arizona outperformed the nation on the 2015 test scores (68 percent of students scored below proficient nationally, compared with 65 percent in Arizona).

The report shows that many Arizona students continue to face huge challenges. Arizona ranks in the bottom 10 for both fourth grade reading and high school graduation. The educational gaps start even before kindergarten. Only one in three children participates in preschool, ranking Arizona 48th. That means many children start school already behind.

“K-12 public schools are trying to help kids do better with far fewer resources than they had before the recession,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance. “This election season is going to be critical for the future of Arizona schools. It is a prime opportunity for legislative candidates to share commitments with voters to invest in extraordinary teachers, updated textbooks and technology, and school building maintenance and repair to give children safe and functional places to learn.”

Achievement gaps loom especially large for children of color and those growing up poor. Since children of color disproportionately live in low-income neighborhoods, the schools they attend are more likely to be underfunded and they miss out on the community support and learning opportunities that other children have before and after school. It’s not surprising then that in eighth grade math, for example, 51 percent of white (non-Latino) students scored at or above proficient compared to 23 percent of Latino students, 19 percent of black students, and 15 percent of American Indian students. Clearly, Arizona has a long way to go to help students succeed no matter what their zip code.

The high rate of childhood poverty contributes dramatically to Arizona’s educational challenges. One out of four children in Arizona lives in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 30 percent or higher. This lack of economic opportunity can affect childhood in many ways, including barriers to transportation, scarcity of healthy food and health care, a lack of quality child care and after-school activities, neighborhoods that are unsafe and parents who are struggling to provide a stable family life.

Districts such as Cartwright Elementary, which has a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, see a large number of students who come to school without meals and struggle to understand their homework.

“Hunger is a real problem, so we serve them a well-balanced breakfast in the classroom, which saves time and helps them concentrate,” said John Gomez, vice-president of the Cartwright School District Governing Board. “We also see a lot of parents who are not educated and don’t know how to help their kids with school lessons at home. We have implemented a program that helps these parents learn the basics of being their child’s first teacher and build skills they can use to help their kids learn.”

The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book rankings are attached.

The 2016 Data Book will be available June 20 at 9:01 p.m. Arizona time at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#AZ, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.

Children’s Action Alliance is an independent voice for Arizona children at the state capitol and in the community. CAA works to improve children’s health, education, and security through information and action.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.

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Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding? Our Annual Legislative Update for 2016

To put it mildly, it has been a rollercoaster legislative session for kids this year, and we have compiled a list of our priority bills and tracked voting records of every Arizona state senator and representative.

We are enclosing a link to our 2016 Annual Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding? legislative wrap-up, which you can access and print from our web site. In it, you’ll find an easy to read table so you can see how your legislators voted on our priority pieces of legislation.  If you need to find out what district you live in and who your legislators are, click here.

Thank you for all your support this session, contacting your legislators and sharing information important to our state’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. 

Dept. of Child Safety Data Show Stress on Families and the Agency

little girl with bear croppedThe number of children in Arizona’s foster care system has reached an all-time high while the number of staff available to work with them continues to drop.

As of February 2016, the number of children in foster care reached 19,044. Of these, 2,753 children were living in congregate care (primarily shelters and group homes) due to the lack of family foster homes.

The Department of Child Safety (DCS) made some progress in reducing growth in the number of children in foster care in November and December 2015. But in January, the number of children entering foster care once again exceeded the number exiting. In February, 1,048 children entered foster care compared to 759 exiting, the greatest difference in the last 14 months.There is a bright spot, however; the Department is responding faster to cases than before, more than 80% getting an initial response within the required time frame (data from July 2015 – Dec. 2015), compared with 63% from the same period the prior year.

Because of turnover, DCS has the fewest number of case-carrying staff since January 2014. The number of case carrying staff peaked in April 2015 at 1,096 but has declined to 923.

See this link for charts and graphs showing trends in the Department of Child Safety.