At the core of quality child care is a trusting, respectful relationship between the early childhood educator, child and family.
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 Children’s 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 Children’s 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.
Alaska has long focused on resource development to ensure our families, our communities, and our great state thrive. There is no more important natural resource than Alaska’s children. Unfortunately, Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget threatens our state’s long commitment to Alaska’s children and families by weakening access to appropriate healthcare and early childhood services.
Children are our most valuable resource; they are the future of our state. But today, Alaska’s children are hurting, and families are suffering. The 2018 Kids Count report, a joint project of Annie E. Casey Foundation and Alaska Children’s Trust, ranks Alaska 46th out of 50, near the very bottom for child well-being. Four years ago, we were ranked 27th. As proposed, the Governor’s budget could result in Alaska becoming the lowest ranked state in the nation for child well-being.
A few of the many examples of how the Governor’s budget will negatively impact our children and families are:
Eliminating Early Childhood Education – One of the key methods of reducing costs and maintaining a sustainable budget is to invest in prevention versus intervening once an issue arises. Return on investment for prevention, like early childhood education, is more fiscally prudent than waiting until children grow without supports. Children without supports are more likely to drive up health and social costs in the future. Approximately 80% of a child’s brain development occurs during the first three years of life, making support during those early years critical. The proposed budget eliminates all early childhood education and learning opportunities.
Reduced Access to Medicaid
- Reduced Access to Substance Abuse Treatment – The vast majority of cases of substantiated child abuse and neglect involve substance use. Alaska already has limited access to treatment and services. The budget proposes to cut rates for behavioral health care, which would limit access to substance abuse treatment.
- Increased use of Emergency Departments for Routine Care – The proposed budget would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicaid, causing many to lose healthcare. History has shown that reduced Medicaid funding may result in more low-income families using emergency department care for routine medical care, which will ultimately increase Medicaid spending.
- Increase Children’s Uninsured Rate – Alaska’s rate of uninsured children is currently 10 percent – twice the national average. When parents lose health insurance or don’t have access to care, so do their children.
Increase in Childhood Poverty – 36% of Alaskan children live in families with wages below the federal poverty level. Economists at the University of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research have estimated that the proposed budget cuts could result in the loss of 13,000 to 17,000 jobs. When a parent is unemployed or paid low wages, their ability to provide food, stable housing, and other basic needs for their children is greatly hindered, adding stress to family’s lives and putting children in danger.
As advocates for children growing up in safe, stable, and nurturing communities, we ask you to please take a few minutes to reach out to Governor Dunleavy and your state legislators today. Go to www.alaskachildrenstrust.org/legislative. Express your opinion on what’s most important for Alaska’s future. Children are our most precious resource. Help us ensure that their opportunity to thrive continues.
Together, we can create an Alaska where all our children grow up happy, healthy, and successful.
Alaska Children’s Trust
Trevor J. Storrs
President & CEO
Alaska Children’s Trust
To learn more about the proposed budget, go to:
Alaska Children’s Trust is proud to announce the first grant under our Tier 2, Innovation grants program. Juneau Community Foundation was awarded $20,000/year for the next two years to support the Trauma Informed School Pilot Project.
The project is a collaboration between Juneau School District, State of Alaska, Juneau Community Foundation, local funders and many service providers to pilot a trauma-informed school project. The project will utilize the CLEAR (Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resilience) program that partners with education systems to create and sustain trauma-informed models of practice through staff development, consultation and support. It is steeped in the ARC Framework developed at the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute with assistance from the Alaska Child Trauma Center. The CLEAR model uses existing community resources to build a solution for each school, an important component for Alaska’s unique communities.
The pilot project started in three Juneau schools in the fall of 2017. The pilot will inform a statewide trauma informed school framework development effort being led by the Department of Education and Early Development and the Association of Alaska School Boards and including other key partners. The broader outcome of this project is to inform the development of a framework for Alaska schools and school districts, rather than each school inventing it themselves, and allow schools to become trauma informed, resulting in more resilient children, families and communities.
Inspiration, knowledge, networking, awards … even an earthquake at 2018 Alaska Afterschool Conference
The Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, hosted the very successful 2018 Alaska Afterschool Conference in Anchorage on November 28-30, 2018. More than 150 afterschool educators, representing more than 40 Alaska communities, attended the conference themed “Unlocking Potential, Transforming Lives.” Additionally, 63 individuals participated in the preconference institute focused on Trauma Responsive Afterschool Programs.
Professional development workshops, a welcome reception, VIP supporter tours and an awards luncheon topped the agenda on Thursday. The awards luncheon included the opportunity to honor Senator Cathy Giessel and Representative Matt Claman as 2018 Afterschool Champions for their legislative work securing marijuana sales tax revenue to support Alaska afterschool programs. Currently, 25,000 Alaska children are enrolled in afterschool programs, and another 45,000 children would benefit from a program but can’t due to barriers in program capacity, costs and availability in their community.
The conference schedule was interrupted Friday due to the 7.0 earthquake that occurred in the Anchorage area. The afterschool professionals, already champions in the role they play in children’s lives, worked together seamlessly to ensure all participants were safe, cared for, and able to reach homes and families. Parents helping kids process their thoughts and emotions from the earthquake are invited to view this resource from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Alaska Afterschool Network thanks everyone who attended the conference and extends a special thanks to our workshop presenters, sponsors, vendors, and the hard-working conference planning committee: Thomas, Jessica, Courtney, Shanette, Karen, Eric, Carrie, Lindsey and Marilyn. Their tireless commitment and efforts made all the difference.
Did you know you can support Alaska Children’s Trust simply by shopping at Amazon, swiping your Fred Meyer Rewards card, or by purchasing ACT merchandise? It’s quick, simple – and can make a big difference! Here’s how:
- Start your shopping at AmazonSmile. Through AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know – same products, same prices, same service. All you have to do is start your shopping at AmazonSmile!
- Scan your rewards card at Fred Meyer. You can support ACT just by shopping at Fred Meyer with your rewards card! Fred Meyer donates $2.6 million each year to the local schools, community organizations and nonprofits of your choice. All you have to do is link your rewards card to ACT and scan it every time you shop at Fred Meyer. Learn more and link your reward card to ACT on the Fred Meyer community rewards webpage.
- Show off your ACT swag. You can show your support of Alaska Children’s Trust – and of Alaska’s kids – by purchasing heirloom birth certificates, marriage certificates and license plates. All proceeds benefit our mission to prevent child abuse and neglect. Explore the options on our website.
Be part of the movement to strengthen Alaska’s families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Support Alaska Children’s Trust through AmazonSmile and the Fred Meyer Rewards program, by ordering a personalized license plate, or by purchasing an heirloom birth or marriage certificate for yourself or as a gift. And, of course, you can always make an online gift to support Alaska’s children.
However you choose to show your support, remember that together we can prevent child abuse and neglect!
Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) recently awarded 15 grants totaling $149,952 to organizations across the state. The funds will support a number of programs from United Way’s 211 support line, to parenting classes in Nome, to the teen homeless shelter, Covenant House. Other grantees include:
- Old Harbor: to host activities and support conversations focused on Strengthening Families protective factors
- Arctic Slope Native Association: for parent project parenting classes
- Keys to Life: to expand their statewide Lullaby project to fathers who are incarcerated
- Center for Community in Sitka: to implement Circle of Security, a support for children and parents
- thread: to support Strengthening Families framework and pyramid model training
“These investments empower communities at the local level to reduce trauma and build resiliency for the child, family and community,” said Trevor Storrs, ACT’s president and CEO. “These 15 organizations are helping to create safe, stable and nurturing communities for Alaskan children and families.”
ACT provides funding to organizations across the state in four core focus areas related to child abuse prevention: primary prevention programs, collection and dissemination of quality data, advocacy and community building, and positive social norming.
For a complete list of grant awards, please visit the ACT website.
By Andrew Cutting, Program Fellow at Alaska Children’s Trust
Children are an essential part of all of our lives and our communities. They are our future. And in four months, Alaskans will be asked to make one of the most important decisions that will have the greatest impact on our children and families.
On November 6, the election polls will open and we will decide who will represent us as governor, and in the Alaska State Legislature and the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. The individuals elected into office will have the opportunity to make and influence decisions that will determine if our children and families prosper or fail.
Today, Alaska families from Ketchikan to Hooper Bay, Unalaska to Valdez, Gambell to Fort Yukon and everywhere in between are struggling. They are struggling to ensure the next meal is on the table, tanks are filled with heating fuel, next month’s rent is paid, or ensuring their children are safe as they work multiple jobs. The most recent National Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Alaska ranks 46 out of 50 for child well-being. Last year we ranked 38th and 27th four years ago.
Alaskans stand together – we all strive to ensure children and families don’t struggle. Children are our most valuable resource. The more our families struggle, the greater the cost to our state. As we move into the 2018 campaign season you will hear lots of candidates, some old and familiar, some new and unfamiliar, share their vision and plans for our state. We will have the opportunity and responsibility to confirm that the candidates’ primary focus is to ensure children and families prosper, no matter who the candidate is, which party they identify with, no matter their gender, age or where they live.
Voices for Alaska’s Children, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, is launching a statewide campaign to amplify the voice of children and families – Vote for Kids. Vote for Kids is a statewide campaign that looks to elevate child and family issues to the forefront of the political conversation and encourage people to actively engage candidates to explore how they will ensure Alaska children and families thrive.
While an improved national economy has resulted in more positive trends in other parts of the country, that’s not yet true in Alaska. The lived experiences of children and families in our state are not improving and the statistics bear this truth out in detail. Fourteen percent of Alaska’s children live below the poverty line and 28 percent live in homes with a high housing cost burden. Test scores showed only 28 percent of fourth-graders are proficient readers and 29 percent of eighth-graders are completing math proficiently. According to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, only 30 percent of kindergarteners were ready to start school when they arrived.
These grim numbers point us toward action. The 2018 elections present a critical opportunity to engage and educate candidates on issues that affect children across Alaska. But children can’t vote, they don’t have unions, they don’t have lobbyists, and they don’t buy advertising on their interests and priorities. However, they do have YOU.
We simply cannot keep going down the same path. As we look to our future, we know that we want the best for children. We know that families are what makes Alaska a wonderful place to live. Now is the time to pull together as neighbors and as communities and have meaningful conversation about our future to ensure every child has the chance to succeed.
The successful candidates in the upcoming elections will be in a unique position to make public policies that impact the future well-being and success of Alaska’s children and families. As advocates for children, we must make sure their voices are heard. It is up to us to make sure candidates are informed on the issues that impact the well-being of children and our future, and that our friends and families are informed too.
As candidates talk about what they see for our future, it’s helpful to direct the conversation to issues related to children and families. Attend local candidate forums and ask questions related to key issues causing children and families to struggle. Directly reach out to candidates and ask them for their perspective on the key issues children and families face each day. Together, we can ensure the 2018 election is focused on developing and investing in the future of our state – our children.
We challenge you to engage with Vote for Kids! Sign up for more information and be the voice for children and families.
Julia Martinez, Vice President of Philanthropy & External Affairs
Julia Martinez will join Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) this July as Vice President of Philanthropy and External Relations. ACT is excited to add Julia to our team. She brings more than 20 years of development, nonprofit management, communications and public relations experience and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).
She returns to her home state of Alaska after serving as the Director of Advancement for the American School of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for the past six years. As their first-ever Director, she launched comprehensive programs in strategic communications and marketing, fundraising/development, community relations and alumni relations.
Previously, Julia was at the University of Alaska Anchorage, most recently serving as Senior Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. A CFRE since 2008, Julia earned her Masters of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University Purdue University Indiana (IUPUI), holds a MBA from the University of Denver, a BSBA degree in marketing from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, and teaching credential from the University of Houston, Texas.
Julia has proudly called Alaska home since 2000 and is excited to be returning to her state. Her passions include spending quality time with her four grown children and two young grandchildren, hiking, reading, cooking, travel and volunteering on nonprofit boards. She believes Alaska’s children are our greatest treasure and future, and looks forward to contributing to the work of ACT to build stronger and safer communities.
By Dr. Theresa Dulski and Cara Durr
When the academic year ends, more than 18 million children across the country, including more than 58,000 children here in Alaska, lose access to free and reduced-price school meals they depend on for nourishment. Many kids can’t wait for summer vacation, but for some, summer can be a time of hunger and worry.
Buying and accessing healthy food can be difficult for many families. A recent study from Feeding America found that food insecurity rates among households with children are substantially higher than those found in the general population. With already overextended budgets, many low-income families must choose between paying for food and paying for other needs such as medical care and housing.
Adequate nutrition is a vital component to the health and well-being of children, but approximately 20 percent of Alaskan children live in food-insecure households.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who face food insecurity are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly, and be hospitalized more frequently. Without access to adequate meals, children in low-income families often turn to cheap, calorie-dense foods with little nutritious value. As a result, many of these children struggle with obesity. Access to proper nutrition for children not only helps improve their current health, but also sets the stage for healthy eating habits as adults.
Food insecurity can impact more than physical health. A lack of adequate nourishment can also affect a child’s development, behavior and school performance. Children with increased food insecurity over the summer may also experience a loss of learning opportunities. Research from Dr. Karl Alexander and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University showed that this can lead to the “summer slide,” with children from lower income families returning to school further behind in academics.
A critical resource for many families is the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals and snacks to children at approved community sites while school is out of session. Free summer meals can help families save money and stretch their summer food budgets, while giving their kids a chance to eat a nutritious meal in a safe and engaging environment.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is another critical resource during the summer, serving about 38,000 children in Alaska last year. SNAP doesn’t just make sure that thousands of children in Alaska and across the country have enough to eat year-round; the program has lifelong benefits. Children who have access to SNAP in their early years are less likely to be obese or develop conditions like heart disease later in life.
Summer meal programs and SNAP help Alaskan children and families fill the summer meal gap when school is out.
Hunger and food insecurity affect a large number of children in Alaska, particularly during the summer months. Assuring access to healthy nutrition year-round is one important way to help promote the health and well-being of children in our community. Together we can create a future where no child is hungry – whether they are in school or out – by ensuring they have access to programs like SNAP and the Summer Food Service Program to fill their bellies during the summer.
Need help this summer?
- Parents can find summer meal programs in their community by calling 1-866-3-HUNGRY, by dialing 2-1-1, by texting ‘FOOD’ to 877-877, or by visiting fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.
- Food Bank of Alaska’s Outreach team can help families apply for SNAP. Visit alaskasnap.com for more information, or call 1-844-222-3119 or email firstname.lastname@example.org application assistance.
- For a current Anchorage food pantry and meal program calendar, visit Food Bank of Alaska’s website. The calendar is updated monthly, and can always be found at foodbankofalaska.org → Find Help → Find a Pantry. To find a food pantry or meal program in other areas of the state, call 2-1-1.
Dr. Theresa Dulski is a pediatrician, and a member of American Academy of Pediatrics. Cara Durr is the director of public engagement for Food Bank of Alaska. A version of this blog post was originally printed in the Alaska Dispatch News’ opinion section.