Category: Announcement

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).

 

 

 

 

New Hires

Welcome our newest hires to Children's Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress.

Sarah Bentley is the Communications Engagement Coordinator for both CAA and the AZCenter.  She leads both state and federal advocacy outreach for issues like the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) school spending cap, and Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). Prior to joining the team, she worked as a Public Affairs Executive at Rose Allyn Public Relations where she specialized in crisis control, event management, and investor relations. During the pandemic, Sarah served as a Policy Intern for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego where she handled constituent concerns and community outreach. Sarah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Service and Public Policy as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainability from Arizona State University. She is excited to use her experience in community engagement to advance the mission and policy agenda of CAA and the AZCenter.

 

Matt Jewett returned to the role of CAA's Director of Health Policy in March 2023, having previously worked in that role and as CAA’s Research Associate from 2004 to 2013. He has led outreach campaigns that increased AHCCCS and KidsCare health insurance enrollment. Overseeing grants for Mountain Park Health Center from 2013 to 2023, Matt managed up to $35 million a year in grant funds, including for the construction of a new clinic. Matt was a member of the Creighton Elementary School District Governing Board in Phoenix for six years. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona, has studied graduate-level public health at A.T. Still University, and enjoys a good cup of tea, growing his vinyl collection, and exploring his home state of Arizona…and the world.

 

As an Economic Policy Analyst for the AZCenter, Connor Leavy Murphy performs data analysis, research, and advocacy to advance policy solutions at both the state and federal level addressing poverty, economic well-being, and a fairer tax code. Most recently Connor was a Policy Analyst with the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico in the City Attorney’s Office and the Office of Legislation and Policy Innovation. Previously, Connor worked as a Field Organizer with the Arizona Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign, Mission for Arizona. In May 2020, Connor graduated from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University with a Master of Legal Studies. Prior to earning his MLS, Connor worked as a Donald W. Reynolds Fellow with the Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative, where he received the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the college category as a member of News21.

 

JoAnna Mendoza is the Executive Director of the AZCenter and a retired US Marine Veteran.  After retiring from the Marine Corps, JoAnna worked for a foster licensing agency contracted by the State of Arizona to find homes for children in foster care and developmental homes for children and adults with special needs. A few years later, JoAnna transitioned to working with vulnerable veterans and found her way to serving in government again, as a Veteran Service Representative and the Deputy District Director for a Member of Congress from the Arizona Congressional Delegation. JoAnna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Intelligence Studies, a Master’s of Science in Leadership with an emphasis on disaster preparedness, a Public Leadership Credential from Executive Education at Harvard Kennedy School, a Brand Management Certificate from Cornell, and a Professional Certificate in Social Media Management from Georgetown.

 

Franklin Zyriek is an Economic Policy Analyst for the AZCenter and joins the team after serving as a legislative correspondent in Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s Office. In that role, he worked on energy, environmental, public lands, and Tribal issues and supported Senator Sinema’s actions on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Franklin grew up in Tempe and is a proud product of Arizona’s public K-12 schools. He earned his Master’s in Public Policy degree from American University as well as a B.A. in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government and a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies from AU. Other previous roles include serving as a deputy field organizer for the Biden presidential campaign in Iowa and graduate legislative intern in Salt River Project’s federal affairs office in D.C.

 

Meet the CAA and AZCenter teams

SAVE THE DATE:  March 8 - Support oral health for the whole family at the Capitol

Research has shown that oral health is a core part of overall health, shaping well-being at every age. Dental disease can harm heart, and lungs, complicate diabetes, and even impact cognitive abilities as everyone gets older. Good oral health is also important in ensuring healthy pregnancies and thriving children.  Untreated dental disease may lead to complications such as preeclampsia—a potentially fatal blood pressure condition, preterm delivery, and lower birth weight babies. Additionally, children are much more likely to have cavities if their birth parent has untreated cavities or tooth loss, and they are much more likely to miss school due to pain in the mouth.

In Arizona, over two million adults, over the age of 21 who participate in AHCCCS, do not have a dental benefit for preventative services. Oral health benefits in Arizona are reserved for emergencies and capped at $1,000, with very few exceptions. This leaves many Arizonans with costly visits to emergency departments as their only treatment option, and often it leads to the removal of teeth for preventable dental conditions. Recent research shows that offering a comprehensive dental benefit could reduce emergency department utilization in Arizona, and save the state millions of dollars each year, while improving the overall health of individuals and families.

Dental disease is a problem we can solve. Join Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Oral Health Coalition on March 8th for our Oral Health Day at the Capitol to tell lawmakers to make oral health a priority during this legislative session.

Register today!

Visit the AZOHC website to learn more and take action!

Please Turn In Your Signature Petitions NOW!

In three weeks, Save Our Schools Arizona turns in signatures to stop yet another universal voucher scheme — they need them back ASAP! 

This year’s ill advised, universal voucher expansion already has 6500+ applicants, the vast majority of which have NEVER stepped foot in a public school. Vouchers have never been about “choice”: it’s about subsidizing private education while defunding public schools. This number will expand dramatically over the next few months if we do not turn in 118,823 valid signatures by Sept. 23 — stripping hundreds of millions from our public school classrooms, teachers, and children.  

 We have got to get this job done and stop this horrific bill in its tracks. That means we need every signature and every petition back ASAP. We’ve got this, but only if everyone does their part.  

 Save Our Schools has events all over the state where you can notarize & return signatures: teamsosarizona.com/signature-slam/ 

 Find a notary here: teamsosarizona.com/notary/ 

 Public schools are on the line. Find detailed directions HERE for turn-in.