Category: Announcement

Children in Arizona and their Well-Being

Read Report - 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book

Children’s Action Alliance works in partnership with people like you every day to improve the well-being of children. Now, the annual data is out to help us know how their well-being has improved - and how it hasn’t.

This year, Arizona ranks 42nd in child well-being according to the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, which is down from last year’s 39th ranking. This means Arizona has sunk back down into the bottom ten states in the country. As we look at the data, there is both discouraging and encouraging news.

  • Economic well-being: Arizona ranks 33rd.
  • Education: Arizona ranks 44th.
  • Health: Arizona ranks 34th.
  • Family and community: Arizona ranks 41st.

Key Findings of the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book and Their Impact:

  • About 40% of children in the U.S. have faced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). In Arizona, this number is slightly higher at 43%.
  • High housing costs remain a challenge for families. In 2022, 29% of children in Arizona lived in households with a high housing cost burden, which is a greater share than the last report. This especially matters to students considering that housing instability has been found to be a predictor of chronic absenteeism.
  • Child care and preschool continue to be out of access to many families. In Arizona, young children (ages 3 and 4) not in school grew to 65% from the previous share of 62%. A recent Arizona survey found that 42% of working parents reduced work hours due to child care issues. Lack of access to affordable childcare increases the risk of parental stress and maternal depression, which is a specific ACEs risk factor for children. When parents can’t afford child care, it impacts parents, children, and the economy.
  • The share of children who lack health insurance has improved from 9% to 8%, which acknowledges policymakers working to protect health coverage for children.
  • One of the hardest hitting findings is that the share of child and teen deaths in Arizona has increased by 5% and is above the national rate.

The data tells us that we must work together to help children in Arizona thrive and, when we do, that collaboration can make a difference. Supporting families and children as they struggle with rising costs such unaffordable housing and child care costs is an urgent issue in need of solutions. Children’s Action Alliance recommends federal, state, and local governments:

  • Advance policies that strengthen household financial security, including accessible child care, affordable housing, temporary financial assistance, and food assistance. ​​ Regarding children, the CDC reports that prevention of ACEs can be supported by policies that increase economic stability, decrease parental stress, and improve parents’ ability to meet children’s basic needs and obtain high-quality child care.
  • Protect health insurance for children, including through the private market, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System Medicaid plans, and KidsCare. A recent expansion of KidsCare is an encouraging bipartisan action that results in thousands more children gaining coverage.
  • Invest in child care now to lower costs and reduce the disruption that will be caused by the looming child care funding cliff.
    • The Arizona Legislature and Governor Katie Hobbs should dedicate state general funds to child care to support Arizona’s children, parents, providers, and economy, as proposed in Governor Hobbs​’​Executive Budget. Investment of significant public funding is an urgent priority for child care accessibility as child care providers already operate on thin margins and childcare workers receive very low wages.
    • The federal government should continue to increase funding for the nation’s child care infrastructure, including child care and Head Start, and take actions to increase affordability, such as their recent proposed regulation.

Supporting students in need of mental health services and trauma-informed support is a critical need that Arizona has begun to address and must continue to do so. Children’s Action Alliance recommends ​that ​policymakers:

  • Invest in public schools and community schools to become trauma-informed and provide wraparound support to kids and families. Investment is needed for schools to better support student learning, attendance, and well-being through trauma-informed school Schools can improve student outcomes with investments in tutoring, mental health support, nutritional assistance, and other services, including multi-cultural and multi-lingual parent engagement.
  • Continue to build pathways for students to access mental health services through school. In 2020, the Arizona Legislature passed Jake’s Law, which created the Children’s Behavioral Health Fund to allow uninsured and underinsured children to receive services through schools and AHCCCS health plans. More actions such as these are needed in sustainable ways, including more school counselors, on-site services provided by AHCCCS health plans, and continued expansion of authority for schools to directly bill AHCCCS for all Medicaid-covered health services.

Read Report - 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book

 

 

Supporting Children and Families in Yuma County

Children’s Action Alliance takes its commitment to advocating alongside children and families from across Arizona seriously. This month, we listened and learned in Yuma County. The way for us to be the most effective advocates is to meet Arizonans where they are and ensure their joys and struggles inform our advocacy.

Thank you to the Regional Center for Border Health, Northern Arizona University, and the Arizona Department of Health Services for inviting us to present on the bright spots and challenges facing children as part of your health equity agenda in San Luis, Arizona. We also thank First Things First for inviting us to be a part of the Child Care Crisis Leadership Forum co-hosted by the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp and the Yuma Chamber of Commerce. We heard employers seeking solutions that increase affordable child care. Finally, the Arizona Center for Economic Progress co-hosted a community gathering with Rural Engagement Arizona to discuss the care economy in the City of Yuma. We appreciate community members sharing their stories and experiences.

Thank you, Yuma County, for allowing us to advocate alongside you.

Join Our New Club!

Are you passionate about your community? Want to influence opinions and create positive change?  Join the club! CAA’s new Letter-To-Editor Club or Let’s Tell ‘Em Club (LTE) offers training to help you use your voice to educate your community and elected officials about issues that impact you, your family, and your community.

Have you ever read your local printed or digital news source and wanted to weigh in on an issue? We’re here to help community members from across Arizona do just this. We’re kicking off our LTE club with two training dates—one at night and one in the morning. Please sign up below. If any of the below are true for you, please join us!

✓ You’re excited about something happening in your community that you want more people to know about (For example, KidsCare health insurance was recently expanded!)

✓ You feel like your community may not know enough about an issue that is making you lose sleep at night (For example, I want to start a new job, but I can’t afford child care!).

✓ You don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to advocacy, but writing one letter to the editor is something you can do with a bit of help from Team CAA (For example, I can’t volunteer at my local food bank, but I can write a letter asking my legislator to support anti-hunger programs).

During the training, our CEO, January Contreras, and team members will explain what makes an outstanding letter to the editor and how we can help you get your letter published and promoted. We will gather monthly to discuss our achievements and obstacles and learn from each other.

You can make a significant impact with small actions!

Sign up for our virtual training here:

Tuesday, June 4, 6:00 PM and Friday, June 7, 9:30 AM

We hope to see you soon!

Celebrating Karen McLaughlin's Dedication to Arizona's Well-being!

We are grateful to Karen McLaughlin as she retires after dedicating her career to public service and the well-being of Arizonans. Karen began her career at Children’s Action Alliance (CAA) working on state budget and fiscal issues in July 2005 after having worked for the state of Arizona for 31 years. She worked for several state agencies including the Governor’s Office for Strategic Planning and Budgeting, Department of Health Services, Department of Revenue, and Arizona State University. Prior to retirement from State service, she was the Financial Services Administrator at the Department of Economic Security, overseeing the agency’s budget and fiscal work.

Karen was one of the original staff in the Arizona Center for Economic Progress when it was created in 2016. She helped create what is now Budget 101, an explanation of how Arizona state government is funded, how the funds are spent, and the implications of tax policy on everyday Arizonans. We invite you to share her Budget 101 with concerned citizens in her honor.

We will have a formal send-off for Karen coming up, but on her last official day we give her our great thanks for all that she has contributed to the people and State of Arizona.

Most Sincerely,

January Contreras

CEO and President

We're hiring!

The Arizona Center for Economic Progress (AZCenter) is looking for a strategic and visionary leader to serve as its next Executive Director.

Launched in 2017, the AZCenter is an affiliate of Children’s Action Alliance(CAA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization in Arizona. The AZCenter is a leader in advancing change that creates a fairer tax code and economic policies that build thriving communities and better economic opportunities for all Arizonans.

If you are a proven leader ready to work with advocates, policymakers, and communities to reduce inequities in our economy and to advance solutions that create a fair and socially just Arizona, learn more about this meaningful opportunity!

Children’s Action Alliance Selects January Contreras as New CEO

Children’s Action Alliance has named January Contreras to lead the organization as its new Chief Executive Officer. Contreras, a national and Arizona leader who has dedicated her career to strengthening the well-being and safety of children and families, will step into the role on December 11.

"The board is excited about the next chapter of the Children’s Action Alliance with January Contreras at the helm," said Ayensa Millan, Chair, Board of Directors. "January has built a record of leadership across the country and Arizona that is focused squarely on thriving children and families. She is uniquely qualified to lead the organization successfully into the future."

"I have seen the power of community advocacy drive policy that truly makes a difference for children and families, and I can’t wait to lead these efforts here in my home state with the Children’s Action Alliance,” said Contreras.

January Contreras most recently served as the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, appointed by the President, and confirmed with bi-partisan support in the U.S. Senate. As the Assistant Secretary, she worked to strengthen child care accessibility; child welfare prevention and safety; and economic stability supports in cities, towns, and tribal communities across the country that support the ability of families to not just safely survive, but to thrive.

January is a former non-profit executive who led an Arizona legal aid center. Prior to that, January worked for the Honorable Janet Napolitano as a cabinet member and an advisor. Her public service history includes serving as assistant director at the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS). Contreras earned her undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Arizona.

January’s heart for service, experience influencing policy, and record of leading change for the well-being of children and families will undoubtedly lead Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress to new heights.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Nov. 1 - Through the Eyes of a Child

We can’t wait to gather as a community of champions for children at next week’s 35 YEARS: Through the Eyes of the Child. We want to share a special announcement with you as we prepare for this annual gathering.

Children’s Action Alliance is pleased to announce January Contreras as our new President & CEO. January comes to us from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she was the Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families.

Her heart for service, experience influencing policy, and record of leading change for the well-being of children and families will undoubtedly lead Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress to new heights.

 

Join us on November 1 at The Children’s Museum of Phoenix to officially welcome January, hear from her, and to honor the Governor of Arizona, The Honorable Katie Hobbs. We can’t wait to join them and you to celebrate 35 years of wins for Arizona children and families!

 

 

Register for our 35 Years: Through the Eyes of the Child here.

 

Leadership Academies applications now open!

CAA and Arizona Early Childhood Alliance (AZECA) Leadership Academies are now accepting applications! 

Both leadership academies are designed to bring community leaders together to amplify their voices in a unique way to influence policymakers on children and health issues.  

CAA's Lived Experience Leadership Academy will focus on health care policies, and AZECA's Leadership Academy will prioritize early childhood issues that affect workforce development and the economy.  

Participants will receive training and tools to advocate for policy changes and solutions.  

*Please note that only current AZECA members are eligible to apply
for AZECA'S Leadership Academy. 

For more information, click below to check out our applications!

CAA's Application.

AZECA'S Application.

Thank you for 35 years and counting....

Our annual gathering, Through the Eyes of a Child celebration, was a big success. More than 120 supporters gathered to celebrate CAA’s 35 years of improving the well-being of children, and the people who have worked to make it possible.  We appreciate all our sponsors, and champions for children, including Governor Katie Hobbs, for her leadership and for officially proclaiming November 1st as Children's Action Alliance Day!

Your continued support is crucial in creating an Arizona where children and families thrive.

 

 

Incoming CEO January Contreras (left), and CAA Board of Directors Chair, Ayensa Millan (right) joined Governor Hobbs for presentation

(in center from left to right) Rep. Schwiebert, Rep. Pawlik, and Sen. Epstein joined CAA staff for the celebration.

CAA STAFF WITH GOVERNOR KATIE HOBBS (CENTER).