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“Resilience” Film Showing and Discussion in Juneau on January 17

A showing of the award-winning film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-10-50-23-amwill take place Tuesday, January 17 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

Trevor Storrs from Alaska Children’s Trust will lead a community café discussion after the film to talk about ways we can build support networks to reduce toxic stress for our children in Juneau and in Alaska.

Appetizers will also be served.

View the event poster for more details, or contact AEYC at 907.789.1235.

Our Voices Will Be Heard

By Vera Starbard

Alaska Children’s Trust was one of the very first financial supporters for Our Voices Will Be Heard. That was no small thing. Because the play was of such a sensitive subject, many img_1421organizations and individuals were reluctant to support the play. But as they saw organizations like Alaska Children’s Trust sign on with their support, they were emboldened to support with donations, large and small. The snowball effect of those first organizations’ support was important to the ultimate bottom line of the production.

But what impact does funding really have? For us, it meant more reach. More people reached, more families reached – more lives impacted. It meant we could tell more people about the play through more market reach, reach them with more resources once they were at the play, and then after the play hold workshops to teach them how they could begin to tell their own story.

One such workshop took place near the end of the Juneau run of the three-community production. A handful of people who had seen my play, Our Voices Will Be Heard, heard about our “Healing Through Storytelling” workshop through advertisement at the play, and through local media. They were moved by the play’s message of telling your story, and wanted to learn how to tell theirs. At the workshop, I used art supplies purchased with grant funds to lead them through how I had used several different art mediums over the years to tell my own story of healing from childhood sexual abuse.

img_1230After the workshop, I was approached by one of the participants. She was a leader at a local residential treatment program. She found value in the workshop, and wondered if I wouldn’t come and lead a workshop for her residents.

Once I did, with a few members of the cast, it was one of the more enlightening workshops we held over the months. The women in this treatment center had all made the decision to seek recovery from substance abuse of some kind. And, without exception, they had each experienced some form of sexual abuse in their childhood. Once I had shown them what I had done with my own story, they opened up. I taught them about metaphor, and they used the teaching to write metaphors about their own story. It was magical.

We heard stories about white ravens who sought love, but were betrayed by evil foxes. We heard stories about little otters who were terribly hurt by sneaky weasels. And we heard about great eagles who got lost in the wind, but found their way back. The stories were beautiful and honest. That night, the leader told me it was the first time one of the women had made any reference at all to her abuse. And it came through a story.

A few months later, I got a message from that same leader, and she said that some of the women were still writing. They had received from that workshop a beginning. The beginning to storytelling, and a beginning to a new kind of healing. While the “snowball effect” continued, with that workshop leading to another and another, eventually culminating in leading workshops at a behavioral health conference with over 90 people attending a single workshop. But that small room with a few women will remain special. It lead not only to hearing beautiful stories, but was a tool for real childhood sexual abuse healing for women who were seeking it.

Tlingit/Dena’ina Athabascan writer Vera Starbard penned the play, Our Voices Will Be Heard, an allegory about the sexual abuse she had experienced, and the journey she and her mother took. 

Pick. Click. Give. to Prevent Child Abuse

Start the New Year off right – by completing your 2017 PFD application and making a Pick. Click. Give. contribution to your favorite nonprofit! pcg-logo-fb-profile

Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) thanks the 93 Alaskans who gave a total of $6,125 to help prevent child abuse and neglect through Pick. Click. Give. in 2016. See a full listing of our donors on the ACT website.

With the support of our donors, ACT and our partners supported afterschool programs taking students from struggling to straight As. Provided certified host families helping families facing a crisis keep their kids out of foster care. Hosted workshops teaching storytelling so victims can safely face and heal from abuse. And connected youth with their culture and community to develop strong future leaders. Read more about our statewide impACT on our website.

We also invite you to continue making a statewide impACT by making a Pick. Click. Give. donation to ACT when you complete your 2017 PFD application. Remember the PFD application period opens January 1!

Happy Holidays from ACT!

happyholidaysFrom all of us at Alaska Children’s Trust, we wish you and your family a happy, healthy and safe holiday season, and a wonderful start to the new year!

ACT Board of Directors
Trevor Storrs, Executive Director
Thomas Azzarella, Alaska Afterschool Network Director
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz, Alaska Resilience Initiative Program Director
Vicki Lewis, Executive Assistant
Rachael McKinney, AmeriCorps VISTA


From Struggling Student to Straight As: An Afterschool Success Story

Dale Austermuhl’s daughter was struggling academically when she started the afterschool program at her Fairbanks elementary in the second grade. Dale did his best to help, but there’s only so much a single dad working full time on a swing shift can do.

“Taking care of her all by myself while working – that’s difficult even for two parents. It’s challenging to handle this alone. You need a community,” Dale says.

Fast-forward four years, and Dale’s daughter is still enrolled in the program – and bringing home straight As. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the positive changes and growth he has seen in his daughter.

“It’s helping my child become more confident with herself,” he says. “With the support of the program, she’s growing into a responsible, sincere, beautiful person. That’s what I’ve seen as a parent.”

And, of course, you can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind the program offers to parents. “Knowing she is safe and that people are there making sure homework is done and helping her learn new things – I’m not sure what we would do without it,” Dale says.

The program Dale’s daughter is enrolled in is a 21st Century Community Learning Center. These grant-funded afterschool programs strive to improve student academics by providing a safe environment for students to explore interests, develop confidence, and celebrate success, while promoting positive connections between schools, families and the community.

“The program is not just about homework – it’s also activities like knitting, cooking and gardening,” Dale explains. “Afterschool programs offer a safe environment where the kids are learning and becoming confident with themselves. The people involved in the afterschool program are helping make sure these kids become successful adults. Positive influences create a better person.”

Dale praises the program teachers and coordinators, as well as elected officials and organizations like Alaska Children’s Trust that support program funding.

“These programs need to be funded,” he says. “These children are our future. They will be taking care of us in the future. I’m very passionate about this.”

“This afterschool program has had a phenomenal impact on our family. It’s indescribable.”

Do You Know a Champion for Kids?

Applications due Friday, December 30, 2016

The Champion for Kids Award looks to recognize select individuals, from throughout Alaska, who have demonstrated a commitment in helping to ensure that children have a safe place to live, learn and grow.

Currently, ACT is accepting applications for a Champion in Southeast Alaska. Applications are due Friday, December 30, 2016.

If you know an individual that should be recognized with the award in this region, please nominate them using Champion for Kids Award application.

For more information regarding past recipients, or the award process, please visit our website.

Amazing Signs of Hope: ACT’s Year in Review

By Trevor Storrs, Executive Director, Alaska Children’s Trust

As we prepare to leap into the New Year, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the past year. 2016 has been an absolutely incredible year for the Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT), thanks to all of our supporters. I’ve shared some highlights below, and invite you to view our 2016 community report for more information.

Alaska has struggled with some of the highest rates (per capita) of child maltreatment in the nation for decades. However, we have seen amazing signs of hope that we are making strides to change this trend. All across the state, more and more conversations are taking place at all levels about the impacts of trauma like child abuse and neglect, as well as strategies for building resilience in our children, families and communities. This past year has been no different.

Nearly four years ago, ACT embarked on a journey to expand our knowledge of the impacts of toxic stress (i.e., adverse childhood experiences or ACEs) on the growth and development of our children. Through a partnership with nonprofit, private, tribal and government organizations, ACT established the Alaska Resilience Initiative. The goal of the Initiative is to educate and advance the dialogue in our state on ACEs, the impact of ACEs on brain development, and how communities can prevent ACEs and build resilience.

This year, with the support of donors and a grant from the Health Federation of Philadelphia, we hosted two key gatherings. The first gathering brought Alaska Native leaders from across the state to discuss the impacts of trauma in their community and explore how we, as a state, can support their healing. A month later, several of these Alaska Native leaders joined a group of local experts from across the state to begin conversations on how to empower and support communities in their own healing process. Through the support of these two gatherings, the Initiative has formed a steering committee that will help guide our work.

In addition, thousands of individuals have learned about trauma and resiliency through our resilience speakers’ bureau and community showings of the documentary, “Paper Tigers”.

One of our key strategies in preventing child abuse and neglect is the building of protective factors within children and families. Afterschool programs are an essential partner in building these protective factors. Through the support of the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Alaska Afterschool Network received another three-year grant to continue supporting activities before and after the bell.

With Alaska’s economic growth being dependent on resource development, the Afterschool Network has launched a statewide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) committee. The committee will help develop and expand STEM programs across the state to promote the skills our children need to enter the Alaska workforce as adults.

The Network has also hosted various trainings for their 165 members that strengthen their skill sets and promote the protective factors. And the Network is partnering with the Association of Alaska School Boards to build resiliency, social and emotional skills, protective factors, and reduce risk of high-need students in six rural districts.

With the support of our donors, ACT invested nearly $360,000 in child- and family-focused programs and organizations this year, surpassing the $5 million mark for total investments. In 2016, over 54 organizations across the state received support for a wide variety of programs focused on preventing child abuse and neglect, teen suicide prevention, and training. For example:

Find more stories about how our partners are making a positive statewide impact in our 2016 community report.

In 2015, with the advocacy of ACT, the State of Alaska passed the Safe Children’s Act (otherwise known as Erin’s and Bree’s law). A taskforce was assembled to provide recommendations to the Department of Education and Early Development regarding model curricula for use by school districts to meet the new law. As a member and chair of the taskforce for the past year, ACT helped develop a report that promotes the empowerment of children, parents and teachers to be actively engaged in preventing trauma like child sexual abuse and promoting resilience.

With an investment from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ACT welcomed our newest program, Kids Count of Alaska. The addition of this program will support our expansion of our advocacy role. Kids Count is a premier source for data on children and family wellbeing. ACT will utilize this data to empower individuals, organizations and communities to become a voice for our children and youth, who rarely given the opportunity to voice their needs and concerns.

Our vision for 2017 is simple – continue what we started. Children are our most precious resource. Their development is the foundation for growth and strength in our community. Children have unlimited potential, if they grow up in safe, supportive and nurturing environments. However, this potential can greatly diminish when a child experiences trauma like child abuse and neglect. ACT is committed to investing in sustainable and meaningful primary prevention. We will continue to focus on four key areas:

  1. Programs focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
  2. Collection of quality and reliable data
  3. Building community capacity and advocacy.
  4. Ensuring the values held by Alaskans promote safe, stable and nurturing environments for our children.

Together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

On behalf of the ACT board of directors and staff, thank you for your support over the past year. We wish you a festive holiday season and a very happy New Year.

Dr. Matt Hirschfeld Honored with Ray Helfer Award

By Trevor Storrs, Executive Director, Alaska Children’s Trust

rasmuson-event9917In 1980, the first children’s trust was created in Kansas pioneered by an internationally renowned pediatrician – Dr. Ray Helfer. Dr. Helfer saw trust funds used to care for our nation’s highways and wildlife and thought, “Why not our nation’s children. Our most precious resource.” Dr. Helfer is considered the “father” of children’s trusts and prevention funds because of this vision. His idea has been the catalyst for the development of a nationwide network of community-based programs focused on the health and well-being of our children. Today, there are 48 states with a children’s trust.

In 1993, the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds and the American Academy of Pediatrics partnered to create the Ray Helfer Award. This distinguished award is given to a pediatrician who has made a demonstrated contribution to the health and well-being of our children and families, primarily through their work with their state children’s trust.

rasmuson-event9930It is with great honor to see one of our own local champions, Dr. Matt Hirschfeld, receive this award. Dr. Hirschfeld is more than your standard pediatrician. He is an advocate, care provider, convener, leader, catalyst, mentor, and uncle.

Dr. Hirschfeld is a second-generation pediatrician. He followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated from the University of Utah as a pediatrician. After graduation in 2005, he moved to Alaska and began working at the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC). His roles have included medical director of the NICU and director of the department of pediatric hospital medicine. He is currently the medical director of the maternal child health services. In addition, he holds a faculty position with the University of Alaska and University of Washington, allowing him to further inspire the up-and-coming pediatricians.

Academically, he has authored several papers on the topic of child maltreatment and has shared his knowledge and perspectives as a guest speaker at conferences across the nation.

As a professional, he works hard to ensure children and families have the support and access to resources to be successful. In the exam room, Dr. Hirschfeld goes beyond just the physical well-being of the child. He recognizes the relationship between child and parent(s) and how if one is not healthy, the other will suffer as well. In addition, he ensures the family has the support and resources to address their needs at home, like access to food, housing, financial support, and much more.

As ANMC’s director of maternal child health services, Dr. Hirschfeld has been one of the leaders to create the first Ronald McDonald Houses in Alaska. Within the structure, they included housing for expecting mothers who come in early from rural Alaska (known as “the Bush”). It provides an opportunity for Dr. Hirschfeld’s team to connect with these women before they become mothers. Currently, he is working with Southcentral Foundation and ANMC to build Alaska’s first child development assessment unit.


However, his professional roles are just the tip of the iceberg of his contribution to our community in our fight to prevent child abuse and neglect. Alaska has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect, per capita, in the nation. Dr. Hirschfeld has dedicated most of his non-clinical professional and personal time to going as far up stream as possible to prevent child abuse and neglect.

One of Alaska Children’s Trust’s (ACT) key partners is the All Alaska Pediatric Partnership (A2P2). Dr. Hirschfeld has been a member of the A2P2 board for several years, and has held board chair for the past three years. He has led their journey to focus their attention of integrating Strengthening Families into pediatrician offices across the state and for A2P2 to be actively engaged in the conversations of how Alaska can reduce trauma and build resilience in the child, family and community.

In addition, Dr. Hirschfeld has been instrumental in making adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) a key topic addressed at the annual Peds Symposium for the past four years. He assisted with the creation of A2PS’s “First 1,000 Days Campaign.” Plus, he has assisted with the implementation of a pilot project of Triple P in rural Alaska.

In addition to being a member of the board for A2P2, Dr. Hirschfeld has been or is currently a member of various pediatrician or medical associations in Alaska and nationally. He is a board member of the largest family foundation in Alaska – Rasmuson Foundation. He is a member of various statewide committees that focus on early childhood development. He is a member of the child death review committee. In all of these roles, he has promoted the importance of investing early in our children and families to ensure their success.

As a partner of ACT, he is a member of our Alaska Resilience Initiative. The Alaska Resilience Initiative is a partnership of nonprofit, private, tribal and government organizations that promotes community empowerment to support and respond to the needs of individual families and children. Our goal is to advance the dialogue in our state on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), toxic stress in childhood and how communities can prevent ACEs and build resilience. Another partnership with ACT is the exploration of bringing Help Me Grow to Alaska.

Dr. Hirschfeld’s work does not stop in Alaska. He is also actively involved in the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN). COINN is an organization that represents nurses who specialize in the care of newborn infants and their families or have a special interest in this area of nursing. It is an important part of the growing international community of nurses that represent a resource for nurses who want to form a national or local organization, create guidelines for care or professional standards, or just want advice on neonatal nursing issues. As recognized global leaders in neonatal nursing care, COINN is committed to fostering excellence and promoting the development of neonatal nursing globally.

Dr. Hirschfeld not only followed in his father’s footsteps but is also following in Dr. Helfer’s footsteps. Like Dr. Helfer, Dr. Hirschfeld has made it his life mission to ensuring our children and families live long and healthy lives. Together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

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:

A clean audio file was also made and you can download it from the following Dropbox link:…_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

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