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From ACEs to Action

Dr. Chris Blodgett presentation now available online!chris-blodgett

Dr. Chris Blodgett spoke on November 3 at the Anchorage Loussac Library to a room of nearly 140 people and 60 more online. His talk, “From ACEs to Action: How Communities Can Improve Well-Being and Resilience,” offered very clear explanation of the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and resilience science and a compelling framing of the issues, but also practical strategies to apply in schools, communities, families, organizations, and more.

You can view the video recording of the webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpvwQa6JOuM

A clean audio file was also made and you can download it from the following Dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qtjl…_Nov3_audio.MP3?dl=0

You can find the Powerpoint slides for his talk here and also in the resources section of the “Alaska ACEs Action” group on www.acesconnection.com.

This event was organized by the Alaska Resilience Initiative, Thread, and All Alaska Pediatric Partnership. It was sponsored by: chris-sponsors-jpeg

Program Offers Safety Net to Families in Crisis

By Charity Carmody, Board President, Beacon Hill

By ensuring parents retain full legal and parental rights, this program allows families to reach out for help without fear.

beacon-hill-pic-stone-familyWe believe a large percentage of child abuse is preventable. There is something we can do. According to both national and state statistics, reports of neglect are far more prevalent than physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Neglect makes up 60 percent or more of all reports of harm. Neglect often occurs when parents are in crisis due to homelessness, unemployment, addiction, and most prevalent – social isolation.

By and large, social isolation is the primary cause of child maltreatment. Most of us have someone to call if we need help or are at a breaking point. Unfortunately, many families do not have that support and will resort to placing their children with people they do not know well, leaving them alone, or simply not tending to their needs the way they should. At Beacon Hill, we propose to prevent child abuse by creating a safety net for families in crisis before abuse begins.

Beacon Hill, a current recipient of an Alaska Children’s Trust community-based child abuse and neglect prevention grant, launched this safety net in the form of Safe Families for Children Alaska in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. Nationally, Safe Families for Children operates in over 75 locations and is in many other countries. Our first volunteers began hosting children in crisis in January of 2016. Since then, Safe Families for Children Alaska has hosted 13 children. These children did not have to go into foster care as a result of being placed with Safe Families.

Safe Families for Children is community-based and volunteer driven. Upon a parent’s call to our helpline the family goes through an intake process to determine if Safe Families is right for their situation. If Safe Families is an appropriate service, the family is matched with a fully trained and certified “host family” in their community.

Prior to being approved to serve, host families undergo all of the state-mandated background checks, training, and receive a home assessment. The decision to place is entirely voluntary on the part of the child’s family.

A trademark of Safe Families is that the parents retain full legal and parental rights throughout the entire placement process. This voluntary nature is key for the success of Safe Families for Children. It first and foremost decreases the likelihood of perpetuated abuse, often seen in the foster care system. Also, by eliminating the parents’ fear of losing their children, it gives the parents a chance to build a trust relationship with the host family, which often grows into a lasting friendship.

As opposed to foster care, Safe Families is intended to prevent abuse or neglect. By dividing a family in crisis, more harm than help can often result. The families supported by the Safe Families program have no current involvement with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS), nor have their problems risen to the level that would require OCS involvement.

Since these families retain full legal parental rights at all times, Safe Families cannot be viewed through the same lens as foster care. At its most basic level, Safe Families creates the type of relationships that naturally exist in families and communities. Safe Families provides these same relationships for individuals and families who lack the strong, stable communities most of us take for granted.

Finally there is a way for families to ask for help and not feel shame. Finally we can give a family a safety net created by their neighbors and not the government. Finally Alaska has a way to prevent child abuse by helping the parents as well as the children. charity-blue-standing

It’s time to change the way we structure our communities and keep our children safe. To get involved, go to www.beaconhillak.com.

Charity Carmody is the president of Beacon Hill. A local business owner, she first became a foster parent in 1997.

Halloween Tips and Tricks

Halloween is right around the corner! Trick or treating is one of the most popular ways for children to celebrate the holiday. Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) wants to help make sure Halloween is both fun and safe for your kids with these tips and tricks:

  • Plan out a route in advance and check it during the daylight for obstacles such as broken sidewalks, or no sidewalks, and other things that could trip up trick or treaters. If you’re welcoming trick or treaters to your home, be sure access to your door is safe as well.
  • Remind your trick or treaters to walk, not run, and to use sidewalks rather than cutting across lawns or driveways.
  • Only trick or treat at houses that are lit.
  • Keep track of time and don’t trick or treat after 9 p.m.
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Feed your kids a healthy meal prior to going trick or treating. Your child will be happier, and it will help reduce the temptation of kids wanting to devour candy from the first trick or treat stop.
  • Children of any age should be accompanied by a parent. If your young teen resists this notion, be sure to set firm rules and require a child to carry a cell phone that can be used in the event of an emergency. Older kids should know where they can go, what etiquette they must follow, safety rules, carry a flashlight or a lit device, and have an absolute deadline for returning home.
  • Never allow children to eat candy before it is inspected.
  • Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
  • Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

With these tips and tricks in mind, this spooktacular night will be one that children continue looking forward to year-round. 

Before your family ventures out this weekend, like ACT Facebook page and share a photo of your little ghosts and goblins!

ACT Becomes Home of KIDS COUNT Alaska

ACTlogo2012colorOne of the greatest barriers to achieving our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect is the complexity of the issue. There is no one cause nor any one solution. A key tool to overcome this barrier is data. Data assists in understanding the story behind the issue. It helps eliminate assumptions, stereotypes and removes the societal filters that can prevent us from getting to the root cause of an issue.

Earlier this year, Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) became the home of KIDS COUNT Alaska. KIDS COUNT maintains the best available data and statistics on the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of children. Through this partnership, ACT will have one more tool to support the statewide efforts to ensure all children grow up in safe, stable and nurturing environments.

To ensure this program meets the needs of our state, ACT hired Denali Daniels & Associates, Inc. (DDA) to conduct a review of what is being done in other states, what has been done in Alaska to date, and to identify what opportunities exist for expanding the positive impact of the program. This process included three components:

  • Phase 1: Best Practices Research
  • Phase 2: Stakeholder Advisory Committee Convening
  • Phase 3: Stakeholder Survey

This process identified three core areas for development to ensure KIDS COUNT Alaska continues to be a strong resource to Alaskans:

  1. Establish a statewide advisory committee that will be responsible to clearly define KIDS COUNT Alaska’s priorities, which provide the framework for a manageable set of indicators.
  2. Establish a process that makes Alaska data more easily accessible, specifically utilizing technology.
  3. Build organizational infrastructure to support the work of the program.

Over the next year, it is the goal of ACT to grow our advocacy efforts and KIDS COUNT is just the beginning.

Learn more – read the full report.

 

Child Advocacy Centers Offer Safe, Healing Place to Investigate Abuse

By Pam Karalunas, Chapter Coordinator, Alaska Children’s Alliance

barbara-lavallee-jpegWhat is a Child Advocacy Center (CAC)? It is a child-friendly, culturally responsive and neutral environment to begin an investigation. This is used when there are reports of child sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of a child or when a child has witnessed a homicide or other traumatic crime.

A Child Advocacy Center brings together the different professionals involved in reports of child abuse. This allows them to share important information and arrive at the best and most accurate outcomes for the case. Professionals involved usually include forensic interviewers, law enforcement, advocates, medical and mental health providers, Office of Children’s Services, prosecution and, where applicable, Tribes. Together they make up the multidisciplinary team of a Child Advocacy Center.

The team members receive specialized training in investigating, responding to and prosecuting cases. They receive training in interviewing children of all ages in a way that is neutral, non-leading and keeps in mind child development and the impact of trauma on a child’s growth and development. The medical providers are trained to provide non-invasive, head-to-toe medical exams that children find reassuring. The mental health providers are trained in evidence-based, trauma-focused services designed to meet the unique needs of each child and their supportive caregivers.

When caregivers and children describe their experience at Child Advocacy Centers they use words such as “calming,” “understanding,” “compassion,” “comfort,” “respect,” “appreciated” and “reassuring.” It is a place to seek the truth of what may or may not be happening in a child’s life. It is a safe place for children and their caregivers to gain information, ideas and an understanding of the impact that adults can have on the life of a child. It is a place to find support and build resiliency. It is a place to be heard. It is a place where child victims and their supportive caregivers can begin healing.

Alaska has five Child Advocacy Centers that have been accredited by the National Children’s Alliance:

Other Child Advocacy Centers are:

Both Barrow and St. Paul Island are developing a CAC response to child abuse. Each Child Advocacy Center is designed to meet the specific needs of their community while focusing on research-supported best practices and improving outcomes for children.

conference-jpegChild Advocacy Centers also serve as a child abuse resource for community members and organizations. Many of them provide or coordinate training and support or lead prevention efforts. Our CACs include stand-alone nonprofits and others under umbrella nonprofit organizations.

In a state that continues to have some of the highest rates of child sexual abuse in the nation, a coordinated, non-duplicative and effective response is critical! Of the 2,026 children seen at Alaska CACs in FY15, 40 percent were 6 years old and younger and 35 percent were boys.

The research supports what CAC staff already intuitively know: that Child Advocacy Centers save money, help child victims heal, increase caregiver satisfaction with the investigation and hold child molesters accountable.

Pam Karalunas, Chapter Coordinator, Alaska Children's AlliancePam Karalunas is the chapter coordinator of the Alaska Children’s Alliance. The Alaska Children’s Alliance is the nonprofit state chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, whose mission is to promote a culturally appropriate response to child maltreatment throughout Alaska. State chapters support the CACs in their state as well as communities interested in developing a multidisciplinary response to child maltreatment. Projects of the Alaska Children’s Alliance include TeleCAM child abuse medical consultation and peer review, coordination of the Outcome Measurement System and a biennial multidisciplinary conference on child maltreatment. This year’s conference, Growing Safe & Healthy Children, will be held November 14 to 16 at the Hilton Anchorage. The Alliance has worked with Alaska Children’s Trust on several projects, including its conference and the Alaska Safe Children’s Act.

World Suicide Prevention Day

act-suicide-prevention-web-slideBy Trevor Storrs, Executive Director, Alaska Children’s Trust

In 1998, the issue of suicide became real to me. A team member for a local Anchorage service provider, who was loved by all, committed suicide and it was my responsibility to notify the team, the children we served, and other community members. It is a day I will never forget. Since that day, three other friends have committed suicide. Suicide has plagued Alaska for too long.

Alaska has one of the highest rates of suicide per capita in the country. In 2013, the rate of suicide in the United States was 12.57 suicides per 100,000 people. Alaska’s rate in 2014 was 22.3 suicides per 100,000 people.

September 10 marks World Suicide Prevention Day. One day is not enough but it can be the first day of many where we take action to ensure our loved ones have the support and help they need to get beyond the idea of suicide.

One of the most at-risk populations are our youth. A recent article by the Population Reference Bureau, “Suicide Replaces Homicide as Second-Leading Cause of Death Among U.S. Teenagers,” showed that suicide attempts from year to year have been relatively stagnant. What’s alarming is the increase in the numbers of suicides that resulted in death over the last 15 years.

Suicide has now become the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. This surpasses homicide deaths and is projected to surpass traffic accident deaths. American Indian and Alaska Native girls had a 60 percent increase in suicide rates, and now represent the highest teenage suicide rates in the nation. The greatest incidence of suicide is in rural areas, likely due to social isolation, prevalence of firearms, economic hardship, and limited access to mental health and emergency health care services.

One of the most concerning findings of the article is the higher suicide completion rate. This presents a significant challenge. In the past, failed suicide attempts gave a person an opportunity to seek professional help. The higher rate of suicide success diminishes these “second chances” significantly. It also increases the likelihood that other at-risk teenagers will mimic the same behavior, as they are exposed to increased suicides within their peer group.

Prevention programs are doing their best, but I believe we need go deeper to get to the root cause of suicide. Early adverse childhood experiences (toxic stress/trauma) like child abuse or being exposed to domestic violence dramatically increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. Prevention needs to begin with reducing the level of toxic stress/trauma children, families and communities are experiencing on a daily basis. We also need to support efforts in the implementation of protective factors and building resilience.

Without addressing early childhood trauma and giving kids adequate coping skills to use as they progress through some of the toughest years of their life, we are simply not going to be able to turn the tides on the rising rate of suicide successes. However, by recognizing the adverse experiences we all face and teaching our children how to react and heal is the ultimate suicide prevention technique.

As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure children and families live in safe, stable and nurturing environments. It is these types environments that promote the protective factors and build resilience to combat trauma and suicide. We begin to build these environments through the promotion and inclusion of culture – all cultures. Children and youth should have two to three adults in their lives, other than their parents, who they feel safe with and trust.

We can also help by knowing the warning signs of suicide, like being preoccupied with death, having no hope for the future or engaging in self-destructive behavior. Also, monitor your children’s social media. Help children and youth build a network of friends. Become part of a community that supports other families. For more ways to prevent suicide go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Helpguide.org or Stop Suicide Alaska.trevor-polo-shirt-small

Together, we can change this trend and ensure all children and youth grow up with the resilience to overcome the traumas of life and be happy, healthy, successful members of our community.

Trevor Storrs is the executive director of Alaska Children’s Trust, an Alaska nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect.

Celebrating a Summer of Learning

By Thomas Azzarella, Alaska Afterschool Network Director

This summer thousands of kids checked out books at libraries, learned to fly fish, built robots, volunteered in their communities, got connected to their culture, and explored Alaska’s wilderness while participating in summer programs across Alaska. Not only did these summer programs give kids a fun and safe summer vacation, they inspired learning, strengthened resiliency, and supported working families.AK Map

Youth programs promoted summer learning by engaging children in a variety of exciting activities in order to prevent the summer learning loss. Summer learning loss occurs when youth do not actively participate in learning opportunities, such as reading, the arts and recreational activities.

Kids who are not engaged in enrichment activities throughout the summer are more likely to start the school year behind their classmates. By offering opportunities for youth to develop new skills, work cooperatively with their peers, and get connected to caring adults in their communities, these programs help build resiliency. In addition, working parents were able to stay focused at work while knowing their kids were in a safe and nurturing environment.

We at the Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, celebrate and commend all that our kids have achieved this summer by taking a look at these six outstanding summer programs from across Alaska.

21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) E.A.S.T.

Fairbanks star.jpegFairbanks, Alaska

21st century.jpegThe 21st CCLC E.A.S.T. offered summer adventures to students by integrating the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). The program was offered free of charge for students attending Denali, Hunter and Joy Elementary 21st CCLC Programs within the Fairbanks North Star Borough School district.

Every morning during the summer program, students worked on inquiry-driven projects in their chosen field of study. Afternoons at the academy featured a variety of choices in shorter STEAM exploration classes, ranging from GPS scavenger hunts and physics experiments, to virtual reality photography and more.

The goal of the academy was to engage students in exciting, hands-on STEAM projects to build literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while also mitigating summer learning loss.

For more information:

www.k12northstar.org/domain/1093

Courtney.havrilek@k12northstar

(907) 590-3782

Echo Ranch Bible Camp

Juneau star.jpegJuneau, Alaska

Echo Ranch Bible Camp offered summer camp programs for kids and youth ages 7 to 18. The programs were nine weeks of camps – weeks full of activities, games, great conversations, and time for kids to think about life and where they’re headed.EchoRanch

Echo Ranch summer camps offer fun, exciting, healthy environments for kids, positive role models, activities specifically designed for their age group, time to hang out with friends, and the opportunity to learn about a God who loves them.

Zip lining, archery and horseback riding are just a few of the positive activities that the youth engage in during the summer. Many kids find their week at Echo Ranch to be a positive experience they look back on for years to come.

For more information:

www.EchoRanch.org

www.facebook.com/echoranchbiblecamp/?fref=nf

(907) 789-3777

Bristol Bay Borough Parks and Recreation Department

BB star.jpegNaknek, Alaska

The Bristol Bay Borough Parks and Recreation Department’s summer program engaged kids with art project days, team-building sessions and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities.Bristol Bay Park and Rec

The program included various outdoor enrichment activities to help keep the youth active. One of their most memorable outdoor adventures was during a beach walk, when they spotted more than a dozen beluga whales.

For their big field trip, the group was able to fly out to Brooks Camps in Katmai National Park for a day of adventure. This was the first time that many of them had been out to the falls.

In addition, the group volunteered their time and picked up trash around the community, visited the elders’ home, sent letters and goodies to deployed soldiers, and even visited their local fire and EMS department. All of the activities that the youth engaged in were geared to improve their summer learning.

For more information:

www.bristolbayboroughak.us/adminstration/park_and_recreation/index.html

dwood@bbbak.us

(907) 246-7665

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula

kenai star.jpegKenai, Alaska

Club members had an exciting summer at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula summer programs. On any given day, nearly 300 youth walked through the Club doors during the summer months.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion

Five of the Clubs in the Kenai area operated through the summer months. Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski served youth Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m, and the teen programs operated during the afternoon and evening hours.

These programs fed kids through the state of Alaska summer federal meals programs, which ensured healthy meals were available to all kids under 18 who live in Kenai Peninsula communities.

Clubs provided high yield activities and targeted programs, which actively encouraged young people to attend more frequently, and also employed Five Key Elements for Positive Youth Development. These elements include a safe, positive environment; fun; supportive relationships; opportunities and expectations; and recognition.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula summer program is vital to the Kenai Peninsula community, providing youth access to high-quality summer learning experiences.

Through all of their programs, it was their goal to  ensure that every youth who walked through their doors was on track to graduate from high school on time with a plan for their future demonstrating good character and citizenship and living a healthy lifestyle.

For more information:

www.bgckp.com

www.facebook.com/bgckp/

info@positiveplaceforkids.com

(907) 283-2682

Northeast Muldoon Boys & Girls Club

muldoon star.jpegAnchorage, Alaska

The Northeast Muldoon Boys and Girls Club kept their participants active throughout the entire summer with educational activities. B&G Club NE Muldoon 1.jpgTo promote such activity, the club went on field trips four out of five days of the week. On the non-field trip day, the club focused on academics to deter summer learning loss. The field trips ranged from visiting the park to fishing on the Kenai River.

The Boys and Girls Club enjoyed partnering with other organizations in order to optimize summer learning. Most recent partners included U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Soul River Inc.

Katrina Mueller from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced and educated youth about fishing in hopes to get them excited about fish and wildlife. By getting youth enthusiastic about fishing, the service strived to inspire conservation of fish and wildlife, along with the lands and waters that support them.

NE Muldoon Fish.jpegIn addition, Soul River Inc. focused on the youth and fishing. The program connected inner city youth and U.S. military veterans to the outdoors through stimulating outdoor educational experiences such as fishing. These youth ultimately became leaders through the mentoring provided by the U.S. veterans. By having the Soul River youth work with the Boys and Girls Club members, they were able to reflect the mentoring that they received from the veterans and to develop as individuals.

Through all of these experiences, the Northeast Muldoon Boys and Girls Club promoted summer learning and provided opportunities for both the youth and community to benefit from.

For more information:

www.bgcalaska.org

www.facebook.com/Northeast-Muldoon-Boys-Girls-Club-126628350752324/

(907) 333-2582

The PEAK Program

sitka star.jpegSitka, Alaska

This summer, The PEAK Program (Playing. Enrichment. Art. Kids.) utilized project-based learning opportunities to help teach children how to use science, technology, engineering art and mathematics (STEAM) in real life.PEAK

This summer the youth who attended The PEAK Program had a variety of STEAM-focused activities to choose from. Programs included Outdoor Club, Star Wars Club, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter Magic Week, and Investigations and Spy Week. During the investigations week, youth engaged in investigating a staged crime scene that they were in charge of solving.

In addition to the weekly learning units, the students participated in different activities such as sewing, origami, obstacle courses, cooking, tool use, games and other various activities throughout Sitka. Through the instructive activities, The Peak Program was able to help children develop thinking skills, while also building friendships as well as a sense of community.

For more information:

www.seerschoolsitka.org/peak.html

www.facebook.com/The-PEAK-Program-in-Sitka-Alaska-931480073581910/home

peakprogramsitka@gmail.com

(907) 747-6224

Thomas Azzarella is the director of the Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust. The network is the only statewide organization dedicated to increasing afterschool and expanded learning opportunities for school-age children, youth, and families in Alaska.

 

 

 

From Foster Care to a Forever Home

By Amanda Metivier, Executive Director of Facing Foster Care in Alaska

There are currently more than 2,800 children in foster care throughout Alaska. A record number only expected to increase. Being in foster care is overwhelming, exhausting, and comes with a lot of challenges. Even with all of the chaos, it still offers a sense of security and relief to those who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Jamie ACT Blog Pic

Jamie and her little buddy, Hannah. Jamie taught Hannah how to ski in 2013, and they have been friends since then. Both of these girls love to be up at Eaglecrest skiing/riding together!

18-year-old Jamie Yaletchko is the definition of resilient! Jamie recently aged-out of foster care in Juneau, Alaska. Jamie spent three years in the system, moved seven times, and had nine caseworkers, and nine counselors.

When asked to describe her time in the system, Jamie says, “It was difficult … when I first went into foster care I was separated from my three siblings, and removed from my best friend’s house. I was placed with two of my teachers, with a long-term goal of adoption. In the end it didn’t work out the way we had planned. Just after I turned 16, I went in to an ‘emergency placement,’ at the home of one of my siblings. I was excited to be close to my sister, even if for only a short time. I lived in the emergency placement for nearly a year. Then I was moved to Juneau’s Transitional Living Program (TLP).”

For many youth in foster care, as they get older, plans for adoption or a permanent family become less of a priority. Foster youth are expected to start acquiring life skills at age 16, to help them transition in to self-sufficient adults.

Jamie quickly learned she would need to start taking care of herself. She remained at TLP while attending Thunder Mountain High School, and worked three jobs. “My OCS (Office of Children’s Services) goal was no longer permanency, and I was just working hard to graduate and receive my diploma. TLP became a little bumpy for me with the rules, so I was moved to Cornerstone Emergency Shelter. I was in Cornerstone for two months. One day, I just refused to go back, so I was considered a ‘runaway.’”

Many foster youth end up being placed in emergency shelter care or residential programs when foster homes aren’t available. These programs can be challenging for teenagers as they are required to follow strict rules to meet child care licensing regulations and have limited access to family, friends, and the community.

“I was finally placed with my boss, who became a foster parent just for me! I lived with her and her husband for six months. Next, I moved in with my boyfriend until I aged-out of the system at 18.”

Jamie experienced a lot of transitions in just three short years, but never gave up on herself and her dream of being adopted. “Today, I am working hard on school, work, life, and I am currently in the process of being adopted by the Kasler family! They are also adopting my brother, who they are currently fostering. My brother, Joey, is 19. My little siblings, Jayelene and Jesse, live in Washington with our oldest sister, who is currently fostering them, but trying to adopt as well. In the end, we all ended with permanency. The way I see it, all of us have a forever home and a place to go; Joey and I of course can also always go to our sister’s house. My siblings and I have all had lots of different experiences between foster homes, families, and our experience/life in OCS.”

Alaska has just over 1,400 licensed foster homes, oftentimes making it difficult to keep large sibling groups intact. Jamie was separated from her siblings as they all moved between different foster homes. Throughout her journey in the system, Jamie advocated to maintain close relationships with her siblings and even graduated high school early. Today, Jamie continues to stay busy working as a clerk at the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Juneau (NCADDJ), a barista for Heritage Coffee Co, and a ski instructor at EagleCrest. She’s also the Southeast regional representative for Facing Foster Care in Alaska, working to share her story and empowering others to do the same.

Amanda MetivierAmanda Metivier is a founding member and the executive director of Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA). Amanda spent three years in Alaska’s foster care system before aging out. She is a foster parent, holds a bachelor’s and master’s in social work, and has been a longtime advocate for foster care reform. Amanda has worked for nearly 13 years to amplify the voices of foster care youth and alumni to promote systems change and create a community of support for current and former foster youth throughout the state. 

Economic Benefits of Early Care and Learning

By Stephanie Berglund

Like many of us who support early childhood, thread understands that early care and learning is a critical part of Alaska’s infrastructure, supporting families and allowing them the choice of maintaining employment while raising a family.

jim calvin presenting report (2)

Jim Calvin presenting the 2015 Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Report.

Now, a new report released in October 2015, 2015 Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Report by the McDowell Group, reveals that the early care and learning sector has an even greater impact on Alaska’s economy than we suspected — to the tune of half a billion dollars.

According to the report, the early care and learning sector accounts for $512 million in economic activity statewide. This economic activity boasts benefits for working families and employers now, and for our state’s young children exponentially for many years to come.

The report, prepared for the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council (AECCC) of which thread is a member, highlights some eye-opening data that exposes the crucial role early care and learning plays in Alaska’s economy. For instance:

  • Nearly one in six workers — or 15 percent of Alaska’s workforce — depend on early care and learning services in order to go to work each day.
  • Wages attributed to these workers are estimated to be over $2 billion.

Many Alaskans are familiar with the need to find affordable and quality child care, yet most are unaware that licensed/regulated care is in short supply. Across the state there are only enough spaces for half of the children who need care. This number is much higher in some communities and, across the state, the demand continues to grow. In a parent survey conducted as part of the report, 46 percent of parents with children under 6 years of age report difficulty finding care.

On top of the shortage in access to quality early care and learning, tuition is expensive for families and they are fronting the majority of the cost. The report finds that families are contributing $223 million, or 65 percent, of all funding spent on early care and education ($343 million) in Alaska.

Early care and learning services are often the family’s highest monthly expense – in some cases even higher than mortgage/rent. While families are paying a premium for early care and learning services, the programs are struggling to pay livable wages for early childhood teachers. Most of the early childhood workforce is employed in state-licensed child care and their annual wages are only 40 percent of the overall statewide average. For example, a child care teacher makes an average annual salary of $20,676 compared to a public sector employee earning $54,528+. Wages in this sector are too low to attract and sustain a high quality workforce. Higher quality early care and learning programs come at a cost, yet we know families are unable to afford more. The report brochure highlights the difference in the cost for higher quality care.

In addition to the economic impact of the early care and learning sector on today’s workforce and economy, the report reviews and highlights the benefits of investing in early care and learning. Not only does the sector play an important role in Alaska’s economy, the report highlights research suggesting that investments in early care and learning boost productivity in the workforce over the next several decades.

Quality early care and learning is a smart long-term investment for government. Research highlighted in the study shows early childhood education can reduce negative and costly outcomes for government and society. This includes savings associated with reduction in crime, delinquency, reliance on welfare, and health care costs coupled with improvement in educational achievement. Investments in early care and learning will have an increased economic impact in Alaska.

thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, is committed to strengthening access to affordable and high-quality early care and learning. We invite you to share the 2015 Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Report with others, talk with your lawmakers about the importance of early care and learning for Alaska, and join Alaska Children’s Trust and other early childhood supporters in strengthening our families and young children.

SB pictureStephanie Berglund is the chief executive officer of thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network. She oversees statewide network services aimed at advancing early care and learning, specifically to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of child care in Alaska. Stephanie lives in Anchorage with her husband and 10-year-old daughter. She is deeply committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in Alaska.

Teens Making a Difference Across Y-K Region

By Eileen Arnold

Teens Acting Against Violence (TAAV) is a youth-led violence prevention program that was created in 1996. A group of teens wanting to speak out against the bullying they saw in their school and community worked with the Tundra Women’s Coalition (TWC) to create TAAV with the intention of putting out public service announcements and giving presentations to their peers about healthy relationships.

TAAV members at 2015 Lead On

TAAV members at the 2015 Lead On! summit

Almost 20 years later TAAV is still thriving and has grown in many ways. TAAV is open to any middle or high school student in Bethel and meets Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays after school. Most meetings focus on teen issues like teen dating violence, STDs, alcohol awareness, body image, self-esteem, and suicide prevention.

This philosophy for youth in the TAAV program is that they are an integral part of the work that TWC is doing, and their outreach is the biggest arm of prevention that TWC has. TAAV activities are structured around leadership development, cultural relevance, work experience, outdoor education, skill building, presentations, healthy activities, and the crisis and family work that is the mission of TWC.

TAAV members travel all over the Yukon-Kuskokwim region to teach their Healthy Relationships presentation with their teaching video that they wrote and created with Delta’s radio station, KYUK, in 2005.

TAAV youth teach the presentations with the understanding that peers learn best from their peers and that the skills TAAV members gain from doing these presentations are a great boost to their knowledge, their confidence, and their public speaking skills.

In 2015, TAAV traveled to Mekoryuk, Kwethluk, Napakiak, Nunam Iqua, and Alakanuk to give presentations as well as in the Bethel Regional High School and the Kuskokwim Learning Academy in Bethel. They were also featured presenters at the Lead On! youth summit and at the Council of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault’s prevention conference.

TAAV is well known in the Bethel community and partners with many prevention groups and volunteers for many community events. TAAV is always part of TWC’s awareness events like Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At large, well-known TWC events like the annual Yukegtaaq Celebration and the Children’s Fair, TAAV members are critical volunteers that contribute to the success of these events. TAAV members also partner with Bethel’s Diabetes Prevention, Nicotine Prevention, and Suicide Prevention coalitions by volunteering at events and showing up for awareness raising activities.

In 2011 TAAV members designed and implemented a youth leadership camp styled off of the Lead On! summit for Alaska youth that is hosted by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault every year. TAAV members always attend this event and wanted to create their own camp focused more on subsistence and cultural activities of the region and make it available to more youth from this region. Teens Lead Ahead is still going strong five years later and consistently has youth representing the Y-K Delta with elders and speakers from the region speaking to youth and leading them through subsistence activities in the summer.

In partnership with KYUK, TAAV is in the process of creating another Healthy Relationships video. The first one was created in 2005 and focused on warning signs of unhealthy relationships. This new video focuses on modeling healthy relationships and how to keep your support network when youth begin engaging in dating relationships.

TWC and TAAV have also invested in the financial future of TAAV by starting an endowed fund with the Bethel Community Services Foundation with generous donations from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the Rasmuson Foundation. TAAV members fundraise all year long to do a downstates Outward Bound trip (for many it’s their first time out of Alaska) and while fundraising is a great thing for youth to be engaged in, it began to take up too much of the youth and the coordinators’ time. By creating an endowed fund it will hopefully free up time for TAAV members to carry out their mission and do less fundraising in the future.

The most exciting update for TAAV recently is that the University of Anchorage Justice Center published a quantitative study of 96 former TAAV members. “Overwhelmingly, TAAV members reported satisfaction with the TAAV experience. Specifically, TAAV participants reported that they felt accepted and supported in the program. Additionally, respondents reported that they had made friends in the program and learned new skills to help build a healthier life.” The study concluded that “TAAV is poised to remain a model for prevention, intervention, and education of middle and high school students in Alaska, if not the country.” The full results of the UAA Justice Center TAAV survey can be found at: http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/research/2010/1203.taav/1203.01.taav-program-evaluation.html

TAAV has been with TWC for almost 20 years. There are five former TAAV members working at TWC currently and one former TAAV member on TWC’s board of directors. TAAV’s influence on TWC’s work and TWC itself has been immeasurable and will hopefully continue to impact TWC, Bethel, and the Y-K Delta region for another 20 years.Eileen Arnold.JPG

To keep track of TAAV happenings you can “like” them on their Facebook page: Teens Acting Against Violence.

Eileen Arnold is the executive director at the Tundra Women’s Coalition (TWC). Before becoming the director, she was the youth services coordinator at TWC for five years and supervised the Children’s Program, the Engaging Men and Boys Program, and the Teens Acting Against Violence Program.