Type: News

Just six years ago, our country grieved alongside parents and children who were forcibly separated at the border, with a full two-thirds of Americans across political parties opposed to the barbaric actions. HCR2060 opens the door to repeating this shameful chapter.” -January Contreras, Children’s Action Alliance.

Children’s Action Alliance puts brain and heart power to work every day to realize the vision of an Arizona where all children and families thrive. HCR2060, an immigration bill expected to be heard this week in the Arizona Legislature, is incompatible with this vision.

Our CEO, January Contreras, recently shared some of the reasons that HCR2060 is bad for Arizona’s children. We share this editorial with you as supporters who also value the potential of every child in our state. Children’s Action Alliance remains in opposition to HCR2060, and we urge members of the legislature to vote against it.

Guest Opinion as Printed in the Arizona Daily Star on May 17, 2024

HCR2060 is not the answer

While many look to the Arizona State Legislature to tackle state priorities such as transportation, public safety, affordable housing, and education, members are also currently working to take on the federal responsibility of immigration enforcement in ways that are likely unlawful, certainly unfunded, and deeply harmful for our state.

House Concurrent Resolution 2060 (HCR2060) is a resolution that attempts to create state law and deploy local authorities for immigration enforcement. Parts of the resolution duplicate what is already in law when it comes to public benefits, but it charts new territory in criminal enforcement of unlawful presence without safeguards that exist in federal immigration policy such as barring enforcement on school campuses and in churches. HCR2060 can still be defeated by the legislature, but if passed, it will open the door to chaos that makes Arizona less safe than today.

I speak as a former prosecutor and former attorney for victims of crime. Without question, it is my experience that victims of abuse, human trafficking, and other crimes will not call local law enforcement for help when they fear that call will lead to deportation. This is backed up by cities that saw declines in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes in Latino communities when anti-immigrant rhetoric and targeting was at its most extreme. The crimes were happening, victims were just too afraid to call 9-1-1. HCR2060 will decrease public safety and allow perpetrators of violence to escape being held accountable for their crimes.

I speak as a former Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Just six years ago, our country grieved alongside parents and children who were forcibly separated at the border, with a full two-thirds of Americans across political parties opposed to the barbaric actions. Today, my former HHS colleagues still serve on a Reunification Task Force dedicated to leaving no stone unturned to reunite families. The “zero tolerance” policy that unleashed this trauma continues to claim more than 1,000 children who have been deprived of the parents they were separated from. HCR2060 opens the door to repeating this shameful chapter.

Most importantly, I write this as a mother and an advocate for children. As I sat in church this week sharing in a blessing for moms, I could not help but pray for the parents and children whose lives will be torn apart if elected officials once again sanction actions that terrorize immigrant families. HCR2060 will do just that.

We must look to the right authorities for solutions to problems. Here, federal officials must reform and enforce federal immigration laws in ways that do not leave humanity and public safety behind. HCR2060 is not the answer.

January Contreras is the CEO of Children’s Action Alliance, advocating statewide for the health, safety, education, and economic well-being of children in Arizona.

Click here to access the opinion piece at the Arizona Daily Star.

Arizona Releases First-Ever Report on Adolescent Health

Children’s Action Alliance (CAA), in collaboration with Affirm and the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health, is excited to release the inaugural State of Adolescent Health in Arizona report. Recognizing that adolescence is a critical phase of growth and development for establishing a foundation for a healthy life, the report identifies the obstacles faced by youth in Arizona:

  • Approximately one in six Arizona adolescents experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, ranking as the 9th highest rate in the nation.
  • However, when it comes to receiving treatment for these episodes, Arizona is positioned at 47th in the nation.
  • Only 52% of adolescents requiring mental health services had insurance coverage that adequately met their needs.

CAA remains dedicated, alongside the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health, to ensuring that youth receive the necessary care for a healthy and fulfilling life.  This commitment underscores the urgency and importance of addressing the mental health needs of adolescents in the state.

Click here for the full report.

Nearly 103,000 Arizona kids lost AHCCCS, but KidsCare expansion brings hope.

Since the end of the public health emergency a year ago, 103,000 fewer Arizona children are enrolled in AHCCCS coverage with the return to regular renewal requirements, according to a new report from Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. AHCCCS and its companion KidsCare provide child-specific health insurance for nearly 900,000 children, including routine preventive care, developmental screenings and treatment, vaccinations, behavioral health, and vision and dental services.

While some of these children may have gained other coverage, through a parent’s employer or the Health Insurance Marketplace, more Arizona children likely have become uninsured in the past year.

But there is good news. On April 1, the income limit for KidsCare increased by nearly $10,000 a year for a family of four, meaning 10,000 additional Arizona children will become eligible. Also, at the beginning of this year, new federal requirements took effect providing 12 full months of continuous coverage for children in AHCCCS and KidsCare, meaning fewer administrative requirements for families to maintain their healthcare coverage.

Children’s Action Alliance continues working with our community partners and AHCCCS to increase children’s access to coverage. If you or someone you know needs health insurance, visit Cover AZ’s website to find a local community-based organization to help.

Click here for the full report.

SB 1458: Because Children Thrive in Families, Not Institutions

Arizona places young foster children in group homes and institutions at a higher rate than any other state in the nation. We must change that - and we can with SB1458.

Congregate care placements have detrimental effects on the healthy development of children, especially young children. Experts agree that children do best with families and that congregate care (group homes, shelters, and other institutional settings) should only be used when there is no less restrictive setting that can meet a child’s short-term need for therapeutic services.

Senate Bill 1458, sponsored by Senator Bennett, is a collaboration between Fostering Advocates Arizona, a group of young people with lived experience in foster care, and Children’s Action Alliance.

The bill, which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, will now be considered by the House of Representatives. The legislation aims to reduce the placement of young foster children in congregate care settings by requiring the Department of Child Safety Director's Approval before such a placement can be made for a young child.

At close to 11%, Arizona’s rate of congregate care placement of children under age 12 is the highest in the nation and much higher than the national average of 3%. ¹ Arizona children deserve better.

Requiring Director Approval is a nationally recognized best practice included in Ending the Need for Group Placements, a collective effort of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and community partners nationwide that identified actions to reduce the use of congregate care.

Our first priority at CAA is to support families so they can safely thrive together. When that isn’t possible, and a child must enter the child welfare system, it is imperative that each and every placement of a child attempts to reduce trauma and strengthen safety. SB1458 is an important step in doing better for Arizona kids.

Watch this short video to hear how the City of Philadelphia’s Congregate Care Approval process helped reduce its congregate care population from nearly 1,000 to just 255.

Learn more about the campaign to End the Need for Group Care and check out the full video.


¹ https://cwoutcomes.acf.hhs.gov/cwodatasite/sevenOne/index

English language learners deserve equitable education opportunities

Children’s Action Alliance joined other partners of UnidosUS, a leading organization dedicated to uplifting the Latino community and fostering equitable educational opportunities, to urge Superintendent Horne not to restrict dual language instruction for English Language Learners (ELLs).  In the support letter to members of the Arizona State Board of Education, partners outlined their concerns that Superintendent Horne’s approach to bilingual education and ELL support does not reflect the inclusivity, research, respect for diversity, or commitment to educational equity that should drive our state's educational system.

Every organization listed is committed to working alongside the board and other stakeholders to advocate for and implement policy changes that better serve the needs of ELLs and all students in Arizona.

To share the letter, please click here.

Oral Health Day at the Capitol 2024

This month, CAA joined the Arizona Oral Health Coalition at the Capitol with the message to lawmakers that children and families cannot be healthy without good oral health. We asked legislators to prioritize comprehensive dental care for adults in AHCCCS in the budget they will be negotiating with the Governor.

Our Representatives and Senators were supportive, but our bill SB1037 has not been heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee, and this week is the last week for bills to be heard in the opposite chamber from where they were introduced. Thanks to all who came and got to see their legislature in action. Thanks also to our Representatives and Senators for learning about oral health. We will keep making our voices heard.


Support SB 1458 to ensure young foster children are placed with families, not group homes.

Children thrive in families, not institutions. This is especially true for foster children who have experienced trauma. Research provides "strong and conclusive causal evidence that children exposed to early deprivation benefit from high-quality family-based care, and, more broadly, that the nature of the early caregiving environment has an extensive and lasting impact on development."¹ Conversely, research also shows that that congregate care facilities have inherently detrimental effects on the healthy development of children.² While foster children of all ages do best with families, it is especially important for young children.

Yet, Arizona places more young foster children in congregate care than any other state. Nearly 11% of Arizona’s foster children under 12 are placed in a congregate care setting. The national average is 3%. Arizona’s over reliance on group home placements drives the high rate of congregate care placements for young children.

Fostering Advocates Arizona (FAAZ), a group of young policy advocates who have experienced foster care, and Children’s Action Alliance are teaming up on legislation to curtail the placement of young foster children in group homes and institutions. Senate Bill 1458, sponsored by Senator Bennett, would limit the use of congregate care for foster children under the age of 12 by requiring Director approval prior to placement, an independent assessment of the child’s placement needs, and ongoing court approval and oversight. FAAZ board members understand the lasting impacts of foster care and know that placement with a family rather than in a group home can make all the difference.

SB 1458 will be considered by the Senate Committee on Transportation, Technology and Missing Children on Monday, February 12th.

Please show your support for SB 1458 by asking your Senator for their YES vote!

Download factsheet here.

¹ King, L. S., et al. (2023) A Comprehensive Multilevel Analysis of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project: Causal Effects on Recovery From Early Severe Deprivation. American Journal of Psychiatry. 
² Consensus Statement on Group Care for Children and Adolescents: A Statement of Policy of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry © 2014 American Orthopsychiatric Association. 2014, Vol. 84, No. 3, 219–225 

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!