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Congratulations 2020 Northern/Interior Champions for Kids

Alaska Children’s Trust is pleased to announce our 2020 Northern/Interior Region Champions for Kids, Traci McGarry of Nome and Bernard Gatewood of Fairbanks.

Each year through our Champion for Kids Awards, we recognize individuals who have demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward preventing child abuse and neglect, by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive and nurturing communities.

All are invited to join us in honoring Traci and Bernard at our fundraising reception in Fairbanks on Thursday, March 26. Learn more about the event and RSVP on our Facebook event page.

2020 Northern/Interior Region Champion for Kids: Traci McGarry
Traci has dedicated both her professional and personal life to preventing child abuse and neglect, and advocating for changes that improve the lives of Alaska’s children and families.

Traci McGarry

In her role as Child and Family Services/Child Advocacy Center director at Kawerak in Nome, Traci spends many hours working directly with families, assisting with court appearances, providing a safe and comfortable environment to ensure children are protected, and helping families return to a safe home situation.

Traci is also dedicated to seeking funding to improve and expand services offered to children and families in her community. Through grant applications and awards, Traci has grown her staff to include additional specialists to work with child victims of crime. She is currently seeking funding for a new and larger building to house the Child Advocacy Center, which was recommended for replacement in a recent facility assessment. The new building would help the center serve the growing number of children and families seeking assistance, which has grown from 59 in 2014 to 141 in 2019.

“Through her leadership, the Children and Family Services and Child Advocacy Center has increased staff and has increased services to our children in the region,” said Carol Piscoya, who nominated Traci for the award.

Outside of work, Traci still finds time to be an active advocate and member of the community, volunteering on many local and state committees, boards and commissions that focus on the safety of children and families. She is a volunteer DJ at the local KNOM radio station, a member of the local Rotary Club, secretary of the Alaska Children’s Alliance, and active with the Alaska Tribal Caucus group. She has also volunteered at the local elementary school and homeless shelter, serving as needed until positions could be filled by paid employees.

“Traci’s leadership skills are very strong, supportive and committed to our children,” Carol said.

2020 Northern/Interior Region Champion for Kids: Bernard Gatewood

It is said that one of the best ways to prevent child abuse and neglect is to find ways to address the cyclical nature of abuse. That is exactly what Bernard has focused on during his more than 30 years of working with Alaska’s children and families.

Bernard Gatewood

“Bernard’s 28 years with the Division of Juvenile Justice gave him the unique opportunity to counsel, educate and empower youth in the system,” wrote Taber Rehbaum in her nomination of Bernard for the award. “These youth were often victims of neglect and abuse themselves. Bernard’s efforts to provide them with the resources they needed to grow and develop positive outlets was a critical step towards healing and breaking that cycle.”

During his 15-year tenure as superintendent at Fairbanks Youth Facility, Bernard placed a premium on academic achievement and real-world skills, which could lead to a living-wage-paying job. Through diverse partnerships, Bernard led the development of an in-house culinary program, healthcare classes, automotive repair training, and a robotics program, among others. As a result, some residents became certified in first aid/CPR, others were certified as road crew flaggers and emergency fire fighters, and others earned high school diplomas or GEDs.

Bernard, known for his skills in securing necessary capital for projects, was also tireless in his work to obtain funding for various projects that would positively impact the residents. Examples included construction of a full gymnasium and building of a fence that allowed all residents – regardless of their security status – to work in the garden, growing flowers and vegetables, many of which were donated to the local food bank.

In addition to his career in juvenile justice, Bernard served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Health and Social Services Commission, was elected to the Fairbanks City Council, and was co-founder of the Black Role Model Initiative.

“Bernard has proven himself as a community leader in Fairbanks and across the state,” Taber said.

Champion for Kids Award

Learn more about our Champion for Kids Award, past recipients and nomination process on our website.

ACT welcomes two new board members

Alaska Children’s Trust is pleased to welcome two new members to our board of directors: Mary Peltola of Bethel and Crystal Mitchell of Anchorage. 

Mary Sattler Peltola, Akalleq, is Yupik Eskimo and was raised on the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum and Bethel. Mary’s mother, Picigaq or Elizabeth (Andrew) Williams is from the village of Kwethluk and worked for Medical Records in Bethel and Anchorage. Mary’s father was a teacher/principal, commercial pilot and flight instructor, trapper, commercial fisherman and recreational dog musher, and raised his family doing all those activities. Since 2017, Mary has served as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, a consortium of 33 federally recognized tribes based in Bethel. Previously, Mary was a state lobbyist, and worked for the Donlin Gold project as an outreach and community development manager. Mary served five terms (1999 – 2009) in the Alaska State House of Representatives serving the Bethel area (and Bristol Bay/Nushagak villages from 1999 – 2003). Mary is married to Gene Peltola, Jr. and together they have seven children, aged 22 – 12. Her hobbies include fishing, hunting and traveling.

Crystal Manning Mitchell was born in Louisiana of Choctaw Tribal Affiliation and moved to Alaska in early 2016 with her husband and daughter. “I fell in love with Alaska and all that it has to offer as well as the rich cultural milieu that made me and my family feel at home,” she said. Currently, Crystal is the director of the emergency department at Alaska Native Medical Center and serves on many committees that directly involve family and children. She has worked in rural Alaska and understands the complexities and challenges that every Alaskan faces daily and she hopes to contribute to improved outcomes. “I have always had a passion for children through advocacy and even more so we recently became a foster family for a child that will forever have a place in our hearts,” she said. “I truly believe that by serving on the board of directors with the Alaska Children’s Trust, we can change the future for positive outcomes for our children and families across our wonderful state.”

Crystal Mitchell
Mary Peltola

Congratulations 2020 Southeast Champions for Kids

Alaska Children's Trust honored our 2020 Southeast Champions for Kids, Kevin Ritchie and Kyle Worl, at an awards reception in Juneau on January 29. Each year, we recognize individuals that have demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward preventing child abuse and neglect, by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive and nurturing communities.

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What Gives Me Hope: Looking Back on 20 Years on the Alaska Children’s Trust Board

By Tlisa Northcutt Alaska Children’s Trust, Board Chair

As I thought about writing this post, I realized: I have spent the majority of my adult life advocating for children to be children – growing up in safe, nurturing environments, enjoying happy, healthy childhoods, free from the trauma of child abuse and neglect.

I became involved with Alaska Children’s Trust right out of college, as an account coordinator for a local advertising agency. A couple of years later, I was asked to join the board of Friends of Alaska Children’s Trust (FACT), the fundraising arm of the trust at the time. Twenty years later, I am deeply honored to serve as the chair of the Alaska Children’s Trust board.

To give you some perspective: I have been involved with this organization since before my career was established. Before I was married. Before I had my two beautiful daughters. You could say my family has grown up right along with Alaska Children’s Trust.

I have been asked why I have dedicated so much of my life to this organization and this cause. It’s simple: My heart breaks every time I think of children growing up without the love, without the support, without the opportunities, that I had. I know there is a solution. It might not be an easy one, and it might not be a quick one, but there is a solution.

I am fortunate to have found an organization and an issue I feel so passionate about early in my life. And when you feel so strongly about something, it’s only natural to want to be involved, and to give your time and treasure to make a difference, to move it forward.

And what an evolution it has been. I have seen firsthand how Alaska Children’s Trust evolved from a state entity to a private, nonprofit organization. I have witnessed the grantmaking process evolve and strong partnerships formed with direct service providers serving children and families across the state. I have watched Alaska Children’s Trust grow from a one-person staff to a flourishing, multi-faceted organization.

Along with our network of partners and supporters, we have become a resounding, collective voice for Alaska’s children and families. A statewide leader in the conversation about child abuse and neglect – both the root causes and the possible solutions. A catalyst that has everyone, from individual Alaskans to influential policymakers considering the impact of their decisions on our state’s children. Last year’s legislation directing a portion of Alaska’s marijuana sales tax to support afterschool programs is a prime example of the prioritization of Alaska’s children by our state.

I have also been asked how I continue to have hope about an issue that seems so hopeless. What gives me the most hope is that people are starting to understand and talk about the issue. Child abuse and neglect is coming out of the shadows, and becoming part of the mainstream conversation. Words and concepts like resiliency, trauma-informed care, and adverse childhood experiences (ACES) are no longer limited to the professionals involved in this important work. We as a community are beginning to understand that what happens early in a child’s life has lifelong implications. We’re grasping that adverse childhood experiences aren’t just physical abuse – it is also not having enough to eat, not having somewhere safe to go afterschool, or not having a trusted adult to talk to and count on.

We’re also starting to understand the power of resilience and the importance of trauma-informed care. We know now that a child who has endured trauma is likely acting out because of their experiences, and with the right support, they can develop the skills they need to overcome their trauma and come out stronger on the other side. There is a growing awareness that while kids might start out with the cards stacked against them, if we can help them break the pattern at some point, they can still come out with a winning hand.

Finally, what gives me hope is that we are beginning to comprehend that we can all play a role in the health, safety and success of the children in our communities. You don’t have to be a teacher, a doctor or a judge to make a difference in the life of a child. As a parent, I know that I can only do so much to keep my children safe. At some point, they are going to venture beyond the protection I can offer, and it takes each of us, as a community, working together, to create a society where children are valued and protected.

Because, at the end of the day, it’s in all of our best interests. It’s been said many times before because it’s true: Today’s children are our future. We must protect them, care for them, value them and give them opportunities to ensure a strong, healthy future for us all.   

I am deeply grateful that the founders of Alaska Children’s Trust understood this and had the foresight more than three decades ago to create this organization. I am proud that other children’s trusts across the country are looking to us as an example for operations, advocacy and partnership. And I am truly thankful to have the opportunity to be part of this organization over the past 20+ years.

My dream is that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment, where they can dream about their futures as they grow up happy, healthy and thriving. As one of the many voices that makes up Alaska Children’s Trust and our network of partners and supporters, I know I am not alone in this dream. And I know that together we can – we will – prevent child abuse and neglect.

Tlisa Northcutt is the senior director of donor relations at the University of Alaska Foundation. She has served on the Alaska Children’s Trust board for the past 20 years, and currently serves as board chair. She was raised in Alaska and is proud to be raising her own family here.

The Glue that Gives Strength and Makes a Difference

Holidays mean different things to different people. I remember a time, as a child, it was about inconsequential things like a day to sleep in, the food and presents. As the years progressed, holidays became all about relationships – strengthening those that have been built over years, mending the ones that were damaged, and creating new ones. It is through these relationships I find the strength to grow as an individual, the perseverance to face challenges, and the comfort to be true to myself.

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Kids in 33 Alaska Communities Benefit from $1.25 Million in New Afterschool Funding

This fall, 33 communities across Alaska are seeing new or expanded afterschool programs for local children, thanks to $1.25 million in funding from the new Positive Youth Development Afterschool Grant Program

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thread and ACT: Strengthening Relationships in Early Education

At the core of quality child care is a trusting, respectful relationship between the early childhood educator, child and family.

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2-1-1 Help Line Offers the Right Help at the Right Time

211 homepage editedBy Sue Brogan, Chief Operating Officer, United Way of Anchorage  

Sue Brogan-photo for blog and e-news

Sue Brogan, United Way

 The Alaska 2-1-1 Help Line helps families quickly find     and connect with important services to meet their     needs. The phone and online service run by United Way   of Anchorage has no equal in the state. Since 2007,   specialists have answered calls from more than 244,000   Alaskans, made 330,000 referrals to more than 1,000   health and human service agencies, and logged more   than 517,000 online database searches.

But as of fall 2018, the Alaska 2-1-1 website hadn’t had an overhaul in 10 years. Ten years equals multiple generations online, so 2-1-1 was long overdue for an upgrade.

Thanks in part to a $10,000 grant from the Alaska Children’s Trust, that work got underway during fall 2018. In early spring 2019, Alaska 2-1-1 launched a modernized site that looks better, uses familiar icons to guide searchers to help, and provides a comprehensive complement to the call specialists who staff the 2-1-1 phone line five days a week.

By phone, 2-1-1 staffers provide a human touch. They listen, then respond with care and professional expertise. And while there’s no substitute for a sympathetic ear and a friendly voice, the Alaska 2-1-1 website aims for a warm online presence in trying to make the site more appealing and easier to navigate. We know that people looking for help don’t need hurdles.

Even though all calls are confidential, some Alaskans prefer to search for help online. The revised website meets them where they are 24/7. The first question on the main page is “What can we help you find?”. The second question is “Unsure of what you’re looking for? Let us help.”

Beginning on a page of descriptive icons, with a few keystrokes, searchers can define and narrow the field to find the help they need, by location and agency. The Alaska 2-1-1 database runs wide and deep; more than 9,300 services are included, and many entries feature detailed descriptions about what they offer, from child care to family counseling to housing assistance – as well as how to utilize those resources.

We redesigned the website with detailed provider information to streamline the search for help. Even so, we understand that the array of choices can still be confusing – which services, for example, will best meet my particular needs? That’s why the online search is sometimes the best prep for a call to 2-1-1, where specialists can guide callers to the provider who can best assist with the caller’s circumstances or use their knowledge to help brainstorm solutions if answers are not obvious. The website can be a helpful start, introducing people to the options available before contact with a specialist.

The importance of the partnership between Alaska Children’s Trust and Alaska 2-1-1 is clear. So many of the service providers in the 2-1-1 network involve the welfare of families and children – day care, health care, housing and nutrition. The mission of Alaska Children’s Trust is to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to ensure all Alaska children grow up in a family and community that provides them with the means to make their dreams come true. The right help at the right time is vital to that mission, and that’s the connection that Alaska 2-1-1 offers every day, by click or call.

We are grateful to the Alaska Children’s Trust for their support and partnership, and we are glad to contribute to their mission.

Alaska Childrens Trust awards grants to organizations in Alaska that work toward the prevention of child abuse and neglect.  With the generous support of its donors, Alaska Childrens Trust has invested more than $5 million in Alaska children and families to date. To learn more about available grants and eligibility, or to view current recipients and their projects, visit https://www.alaskachildrenstrust.org/grants-overview.

Families Laying Down New Tracks

A project of the Old Harbor Alliance, supported by Alaska Children’s Trust

By Amy Peterson, Program Manager

The Old Harbor Alliance was established by community leaders of Old Harbor, Alaska, to seek funding for educational programs and projects that will bring our people together to build a healthy community with strong leaders for all generations.

Over the past year, Old Harbor Alliance, with grant support from Alaska Children’s Trust, hosted a series of events for families through a program called Families Laying Down New Tracks. These events provided culturally relevant family and community gatherings that incorporated positive parenting and highlighted the negative impacts of child maltreatment.

The first event, “Who Makes the Rules?”, took place last fall. The purpose of the activity was to create commonly accepted boundaries for when we are together in a gathering-type setting.

IMG_6190“Who Makes the Rules?” This question was asked to our participants, whose answers ranged from: parents, teachers, ourselves, grandparents, the police, The Father (Three Saints Orthodox Church), and the President of the United States. The group discussed that if someone tells you they have a rule that makes you uncomfortable, you should follow your instincts, leave, and talk with a trusted adult about the situation.

Once the group finished talking about the rule makers, we discussed making rules and expectations that fit everyone. To facilitate the discussion, we introduced six categories and then invited the students to come up with rules or expectations for each category that would work for a group of people of all ages. Participants had a great time running up with their sticky notes or shouting out their ideas.

  1. Ideas are never right or wrong; they are a beginning. Rules or expectations for this category included listening, participating, respecting opinions and thoughts, trying new things that aren’t your idea, encouraging others to speak up, and never saying someone’s idea is stupid.
  2. Humor. Rules or expectations for this category ranged from laughing, smiling, having fun and being friendly, to saying “no” to bullying and never making fun of someone.
  3. One person speaks at a time. In this category, participants said to ask questions, pay attention, not to interrupt, take turns, talk to someone new, and include everyone.
  4. Respect: give it to get it. Students had a lot to say about this category, offering rules like telling the truth, saying please and thank you, sharing, and being kind, grateful, positive, safe and responsible. Things to avoid included fighting, stealing, hitting, shouting, and laughing at others.
  5. Working together. Sharing, listening, teamwork, being helpful, and picking up after yourself were popular rules in this category. Participants also offered suggestions like “everyone is important,” “if you disagree, work it out,” “encourage and compliment each other,” “acknowledge each other’s feelings,” “use positive words and a positive tone,” and “check on your elders to see if they need anything.”
  6. Listening. This category also inspired many ideas, like “give your full attention,” “be still while someone is talking,” “be quiet so everyone can hear,” “wait for a good time to ask a question,” “encourage others politely to be quiet and still,” “respect your elders” and remember that “everyone’s time is important.”

When the group was finished sharing their thoughts and ideas, the participants had snacks and made posters to be shared around the village. Since this first event, participants have been seen sharing these ideas with others during gatherings.

This was a great beginning to our program, Families Laying Down New Tracks. We thank Alaska Children’s Trust for their support of healthy and positive gatherings! Quyanaa!

Alaska Children’s Trust awards grants to Alaska organizations like the Old Harbor Alliance, which are working to prevent child abuse and neglect. With the generous support of our donors, we have invested more than $5 million in Alaska children and families. Learn more about our grant program, grant recipients and upcoming opportunities on our website.

Summer – your opportunity to strengthen your family

It’s summer vacation! While summertime schedules can pose challenges, summer also provides lots of wonderful opportunities for families to focus on building stronger connections.

Strengthening Alaska’s families is what Alaska Children’s Trust is all about, so we’re pleased to share these national and local resources that can help your family not just survive, but thrive, this summer!

Keep learning. Did you know that children can lose up to two months of essential math and reading skills during the summer months? Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can support learning during summer vacation. Mark your calendar for National Summer Learning Week, July 8 – 13. This week is all about keeping kids learning, safe and healthy during the summer, ensuring they return to school in the fall ready to succeed. Check out the family toolkit for tips and resources, like:

Go to camp. From math and sports to gardening and entrepreneurship, there is a summer camp for nearly every age and interest! Explore the possibilities with your child in the Alaska Parent Summer Camps and Programs Resource Guide and the Anchorage Daily News Summer Camp Guide.

Eat healthy. According to The Children’s Lunchbox, a program of Bean’s Café, there are approximately 21,000 children in the Anchorage area who don’t have enough healthy food to eat. This problem becomes even more severe in the summer for children who rely on school lunch programs. Families who need help can connect with numerous programs that offer free meals to children during the summer, including:

Find quality child care. thread is Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, offering services to families, early childhood educators, early childhood education programs, and communities statewide. If you need help finding or choosing quality child care, or are looking for child care financial assistance, thread is a great place to start.

Get some fresh ideas. Best Beginnings is a public-private partnership that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaska children begin school ready to succeed. Their website has great resources on growing readers, building strong families and engaging community around the importance of a child’s early years.

 Have resources to add? Please share with us on Facebook or Twitter