Type: News

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!

ON THURSDAY: How to Support LGBTQIA+ Youth in Arizona's Child Welfare System

To register, click here.

For the full flyer with information, click here.

Join us for a virtual webinar this Thursday, January 18th, 2024 from 12:15pm-1:30pm! 

Engage with and learn from LGBTQIA+ folks with system experience, LGBTQIA+ community members, caregivers, advocates, judges and DCS about how to help LGBTQIA+ youth in Arizona's child welfare system thrive.


Opening – Molly Dunn, Children’s Action Alliance

Welcome – David Lujan, AZ Dept. of Child Safety

Who, What, Why? – Currey Cook, Lambda Legal

DCS Policy and Practice – Melissa Compian, AZ DCS

Panel Presentation – 

Panelists: TJ Fowler, Lived Experience Expert

Jennie Hedges, FosterEd Arizona & foster parent

Jennifer Redmond, Divine Sisters LLC Group Home

Judge Lisa Bibbens, Pima County Juvenile Court

Moderator: Brooke Silverthorn, Casey Family Programs


Certificates of attendance will be made available upon request.


For registration, click here.

For the full flyer with information, click here.

$100M in Gov. Hobbs budget proposal for child care.

Our thanks to Governor Hobbs for prioritizing child care in her budget proposal. On Friday afternoon, the Governor released her budget proposal signifying her priorities for the upcoming legislative session.  Included in that budget was $100M to stave off a looming funding cliff facing child care providers and parents in Arizona.   

During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal child care relief stabilized Arizona’s early care and education system. It helped child care programs keep their doors open and improve wages, benefits, and professional learning for their workforce. However, these funds will sunset in September 2024, resulting in a child care fiscal cliff that could see as many as one-third of Arizona’s child care programs close and nearly 100,000 children and their families could lose the child care they depend on. 

We can’t let that happen for families, providers, or our economy. Yes, the $100,000 million in Governor Hobb’s budget is just as vital for the Arizona economy as Arizona’s families. A recent report by the Century Foundation showed that without sustained childcare funding: 

  • Arizona employers will lose $278 million in employee productivity. 
  • As many as 5,000 child care jobs will be lost. 
  • Arizona parents will lose a combined $257 million as a result of cutting hours or leaving the workforce altogether. 

This proposed funding is a great first step to address this crisis. Now, that Governor Hobbs has prioritized child care, we’ll be working with legislators, partners, and community members like you to get this proposal across the finish line for Arizonans

For more information on the Governor’s Budget Proposal click here.

CAA heard at Legislative Hearing on Department of Child Safety

Yesterday, lawmakers from the Senate and House’s Health and Human Services Committees debated whether and for how long the Department of Child Safety should be allowed to continue, as part of the agency’s sunset review. While authorized to recommend continuation for up to 10 years, the Committee voted yesterday to endorse continuation for just 4 years, with two members voting against the continuing of DCS at all.

Children’s Action Alliance provided public comment in support of continuation, noting the progress the agency has made since its inception 10 years ago in clearing a significant backlog of investigations, increasing supports for kinship foster parents, and strengthening services for young people as they transition from foster care to independence. CAA also acknowledged that there is much work to be done. CAA’s child welfare priorities include:  

Increasing transparency and accountability to improve the Department’s performance of its duties to children and families;

Reducing Arizona’s over-reliance on congregate care placements and prioritizing family based settings for children;

Achieving full financial equity for foster children placed with kinship caregivers and offering supports to informal kinship caregivers who play a vital role in keeping Arizona’s children safe and out of the foster care system; and

Addressing the over-representation of Black and Native American children and families in Arizona’s child welfare system.

The mission of DCS has consequential impacts for children and families in Arizona. The creation of the stand-alone child welfare agency 10 years ago enhanced the state’s ability to safeguard children and prevent abuse and neglect. Continuing the Department of Child Safety as an agency is important, and working with a sense of urgency to do better is critical to advancing the safety and wellbeing of children and families in Arizona.

View our letter to the committee, here.

Fewer Arizona Kids Uninsured Thanks to Fewer Bureaucratic Hoops

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) shows that pandemic-era Medicaid protections led to a significant improvement in the child uninsured rate nationally and in Arizona from 2019-2022. Throughout the national public health emergency, children covered by Medicaid were protected by a 2020 bipartisan change in federal law that gave states extra funding in exchange for keeping people enrolled in Medicaid, known as AHCCCS in Arizona.  This means fewer Arizona children lack health insurance: 8.4 percent in 2022, down from 9.2 percent in 2019. Especially noteworthy is the rate of Arizona Native American children who are uninsured fell from 24.3 percent to 13.6 percent in that same period. However, this policy that made it easier to stay enrolled in AHCCCS expired in April, and since that time nearly 100,000 children have lost their AHCCCS coverage, threatening this progress. The good news is that AHCCCS has taken up federal options to reduce paperwork burdens for certain populations. 

See the updated Arizona report card of children’s health.

Need help finding insurance? Click here.

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.