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ACT Announces Six Lifetime Champions for Kids

At the Alaska Children’s Trust 30th anniversary celebration, held September 20 in Anchorage, we honored six individuals as Lifetime Champions for Kids. These individuals have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the work of ACT and have exhibited extraordinary commitment in working toward preventing child abuse and neglect in our state.

The individuals selected are the pioneers of our organization and laid important groundwork for those of us who followed. Their dedication, influence and contributions to the well-being of Alaska’s children have had immeasurable impact on the effort to keep our children safe.

Please help us in congratulating these Lifetime Champions for Kids.

Ramona Barnes

Barnes1Ramona Barnes and her family moved to Alaska in 1972 and she quickly became active in politics with a focus on children. She served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985 and from 1987 to 2001. As a Republican, she continually worked across the aisle – especially when it came to children’s issues. Prior to joining the Alaska Legislature, Ramona served on the Elmendorf Air Force Base School Board.

Ramona was a strong ally for ACT. She recognized that the future of Alaska was directly connected to the future of our children. She understood that finding ways to prevent child abuse and neglect was key to helping children and families thrive. Ramona was instrumental in gaining the support necessary for the trust legislation to pass in 1998.

Later, Ramona partnered with Gov. Tony Knowles, the Children’s Cabinet and other advocates to support the transfer of ACT’s first and only state deposit of $6 million into the endowment.

Ramona passed away in 2003, but her legacy continues on.

Carol Brice

Brice, Carol DSC_1151seCarol Brice moved to Alaska in 1959 and since then, her message has been simple: Every child in Alaska should be raised in safe, healthy families and communities. Her long history of community service in Alaska includes public health nurse, co-founder of RCPC (Resource Center for Parents and Children), co-founder of the Fairbanks Head Start program, associate professor for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Early Childhood Education Program, owner of Family Training Associates, which provides parent education classes, and many more.

Carol recognizes that the societal impacts of child abuse and neglect are lifelong. She knows the lives of our children and the prosperity of our state depend on our recognition that primary prevention is the key to eliminating child abuse and neglect. With this vision, Carol set out to inspire and empower people across the state.

One of her legacies is the Alaska Children’s Trust, which was born in 1988. However, for eight years, it laid dormant and forgotten by all but its most devoted supporters, like Carol.  In the mid-1990s, passionate advocates convinced the new governor to resurrect the trust.  With supporters like Carol, Gov. Knowles was able to restructure the trust so it could start achieving its mission.

One of the first acts of the governor was to appoint Carol to the board of trustees. She sat on the board from 1996 to 2003, serving as chair throughout her tenure. As a founding member, Carol established the infrastructure and guiding principles that still guide and support ACT today.

Deborah Bonito

2432652877_772aefe5c1In 1996, when Gov. Knowles restructured ACT and helped get the trust endowed with its first and only state deposit of $6 million, he recognized the trust could not do this work alone.

Gov. Knowles reached out to a close friend and advisor to help create a non-governmental entity that would further promote and support the work of ACT. That person was Deborah Bonito. Under her leadership, and with the support of other community leaders, Friends of the Alaska Children’s Trust (FACT) was born with the goal to build the ACT endowment and raise awareness about the challenges Alaska’s children and families face every day.

Attracting significant private donations to grow the trust proved nearly impossible during the first few years. But this did not deter Deborah. Through her creative energy, commitment and flair for all that is possible, Deborah and a group of highly motivated activists developed successful community fundraisers over the years, setting the stage for the endowment to grow significantly.

Deborah was instrumental in starting a new movement to improve the lives of Alaska’s children. This movement strengthened the partnership between ACT and FACT, which led to the merger of the two organizations in 2012.

Diane Kaplan

diane-kaplanDiane Kaplan sees children as one of Alaska’s most valuable resources. She understands that how we invest in them today determines who they will be tomorrow. She has committed to ensuring Alaska is a great place for everyone to live, especially those raising children. This is demonstrated in her work as president and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation and her involvement in community organizations like the Alaska Community Foundation and the Foraker Group. She donates countless hours and resources to a variety programs that support children and families.

Deborah Bonito knew she needed fellow leaders to join and share her vision for Friends of the Alaska Children’s Trust to ensure the success of both organizations. It was no surprise that she reached out and recruited Diane.

In 1996, Diane began a 20-year journey with ACT. First, she was a founding board member of FACT. In partnership with Deborah and other community leaders, they built an organization that helped strengthen ACT’s corpus and increase community awareness of the impacts of child abuse and neglect in Alaska. By 2004, Gov. Murkowski appointed her as a trustee to ACT’s board.

With an understanding of both organizations and the challenges they face, Diane was a key contributor to ACT’s next evolution – the merger between FACT and ACT. As chair of ACT’s board, she teamed up with Carley Lawrence, FACT board chair, to merge the two organizations. By having ACT become an independent nonprofit organization, and securing the endowment at the Alaska Community Foundation, it opened new opportunities and fortified current services that made ACT better equipped to respond to a very complex and ever-changing issue. By 2012, the merger was completed, and Diane remained on the board for another three years.

Governor Tony Knowles

thThe trust entered state statute in 1988, approved by Alaska lawmakers after a fight over how to fund it. The original bill gave Alaska residents who received an annual PFD the option of donating part of that money to ACT. Realizing a vote on the trust would not be allowed as long as it contained the dividend check-off, its sponsors removed it and the legislation passed with little opposition. The trust went into statue but was not activated.  Advocates from across the state tried several times with different ideas to get funding for the trust, with little to no success.

By 1994, Gov. Knowles became Alaska’s seventh governor and, soon after, he made children a key focus of his administration. In spring 1995, he appointed five state commissioners, the attorney general and the lt. governor to serve on his cabinet for children. Their mission: In partnership with families, ensure children have opportunities for happy, healthy and productive lives.

With leadership from the Children’s Cabinet, Gov. Knowles’ chief of staff, Jim Ayers, and legislators like Ramona Barnes worked together to breathe new life into the trust. Under the leadership of Gov. Knowles, his administration rewrote the Alaska Children’s Trust statute using an executive order that streamlined the structure and made it part of the governor’s office. They appointed the first board of trustees and transferred $6 million to the trust from the surplus in an unrelated account.

By the first year, ACT distributed nearly $300,000 in grants to support statewide efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. Today, the trust has over $12 million and has invested over $5 million dollars in prevention efforts.

Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer

fran-ulmerThe partnership between Fran Ulmer and Gov. Knowles, combined with their shared commitment to children, made them the dynamic duo. Prior to becoming lt. governor, Fran made children a key legislative issue when she was in the Alaska Legislature. As a member of the Women’s Commission, she supported, assisted in the creation of, and was an original member of the Interim Children’s Commission. The number one recommendation of this commission was the creation of the children’s trust. With the support of a key staff member, Karla Timpone, and other members of the Children’s Commission, they drafted legislation modeled after the most recent formation of the Texas’ Children’s Trust. As a legislator, Fran assisted in developing the relationships needed to get the legislation passed in 1988.

In 1991, Fran co-sponsored the first legislation to fund the trust. The House of Representatives approved the legislation, but it died in the Senate. But this setback did not sway Fran from continuing to support children and give life to the children’s trust. As lt. governor, she was a member of the Children’s Cabinet that breathed new life into the children’s trust. In partnership with Gov. Knowles, legislators like Romana Barnes, and advocates like Carol Brice, Fran played an important role in the restructuring of the children’s trust.

Celebrating our 2018 Interior Champion for Kids: Taber Rehbaum

Taber Rehbaum was honored as the Alaska Children’s Trust 2018 Interior Champion for Kids during our annual reception in Fairbanks on March 29. The award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward eliminating child abuse and neglect by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive and nurturing communities.Champ for Kids

For 22 years, Taber led the amazing work of Big Brothers Big Sisters. She was hired as the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters – Greater Fairbanks Area in 1995. Between then and 2007, she grew the Fairbanks agency from less than 30 children served per year to approximately 600.

During this time, the agency implemented a number of new initiatives, including school-based mentoring, programs serving Interior villages, and many partnerships intended to reach Alaska Native people, address the mental health needs of Alaska children, and help incarcerated youth avoid recidivism when released. The Fairbanks agency was recognized nationally for its program expansion.

In 2007, Taber helped plan and execute the merger of the three Alaska Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies into Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. From 2009 to 2017, Taber served as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, helping develop a more effective organizational structure. Under her leadership, the statewide agency continued to be recognized nationally for its work with Native populations and the juvenile justice system. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska was also a leader in developing systems and practices to partner with parents to prevent child abuse and to identify and respond to indicators of abuse.

In addition to leading the agency, Taber was also matched with two Little Sisters, both of whom she is still in contact with. Taber’s first Little Sister now lives in Houston, where she and her husband are expecting their first child. Taber’s second Little Sister will graduate from high school this spring.

Taber says she is grateful to have her Little Sisters as well as many mentors in her life – and Alaska Children’s Trust is grateful for Taber and the years of dedication she has shown to Alaska’s children and families.

 

ACT is Coming to Juneau

We are looking forward to the Alaska Children’s Trust fundraising reception coming up next week in Juneau! The reception, hosted by First Lady Donna Walker and Ms. Toni Mallott, takes place Tuesday, February 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Governor’s House. During the event, we will recognize Dr. George Brown, our 2018 Southeast Champion for Kids. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to vlewis@alaskachildrenstrust.org or 907.248.7374 by this Friday, February 9. We hope to see you there!

ACT First Lady invite for email

Addressing Children’s Environmental Health in Alaska

By Pamela K. Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Children in Alaska and the Circumpolar North experience disproportionate exposures to toxic chemicals that may have long-term negative health consequences, such as neurodevelopmental effects, cancer, birth defects, metabolic disorders, and compromised immune systems. In order to address these health disparities, Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) organized the 2016 Children’s Environmental Health Summit – the first of its kind in Alaska.

The summit took place on October 5 and 6, 2016, at Alaska Pacific University. Participants included students, health care professionals, Alaska Native leaders, scientists, teachers, policymakers, and children’s health advocates. Fifteen Alaska communities were represented, and the sponsorship program made it possible to provide scholarships to 13 participants from eight different communities (Gambell, Savoonga, Nome, Kivalina, Elim, Diomede, Atqasuk and Brevig Mission).

Kathy Sanchez

Kathy Sanchez MA, Tewa Women United, presents about the impacts of historical trauma.

The first day of the summit consisted of plenary sessions addressing case studies from communities around Alaska, as well as the state of the science on certain health disparities, such as birth defects and childhood cancer. Presentations focusing on critical children’s environmental health concerns from Alaska-based community leaders and health care providers created a balance of on-the-ground perspectives and traditional knowledge and wisdom.

The summit was intended to be a springboard for action rather than an end in itself. So, much of the second day of the summit was devoted to work group discussions in the areas of policy, research, health care, education and outreach, and environment. The work groups resulted in a series of recommendations and actions that will be carried forward following the summit, with the help of the Children’s Environmental Health Task Force.

These are some of the highlights and common themes from each of the work groups:

Health care:

  • Emphasis on ideas to educate and more fully engage health care professionals
  • Change the system of health care to be more responsive to environmental health concerns

Education and outreach:

  • Identified the need to develop educational materials to reduce harmful exposures
  • Prepared a summary of important audiences to reach, key messengers for those particular audiences, existing resources, and new opportunities for outreach – parents, health care providers, students, policy makers, community leaders, media and store managers.
Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee, Citizens for Clean Air, presents some of the working group recommendations.

Environment:

  • Identified the primary areas of concern for children’s exposures, including indoor and school environments, as well as contaminated sites in and around the communities, such as military and industrial sites, solid waste and incineration facilities. Climate warming is a major concern because it is mobilizing contaminants with increasing storm surges and melting of ice.
  • Recommended solutions include community education and trainings, youth activities, and working with local stores to offer healthier alternatives.

Policy:

  • Offered ideas about policy priorities at the local, school board, and state level – including support for the Toxic-Free Children’s Act (HB 53).
  • Emphasized importance of implementing the recommendations of Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks).
  • Need to strengthen partnerships with health care professionals to be an effective force for change.
  • Recommendations for market shifts toward healthy products, focusing on retail stores that serve rural Alaska.
  • Importance of strong implementation of the new Lautenberg Act, which amends the Toxic Substances Control Act – enforcing the language to protect vulnerable populations.

Research:

  • Develop “rapid response” tool kit for communities to investigate potentially harmful exposures from industrial or military facilities.
  • Longer term: Cultivate support for community-based participatory research – education and engagement of potential research partners.
  • Ways to address health disparities and develop effective interventions.
  • Establish children’s cohort in Alaska to address key health concerns.
  • Investigate connection between climate change and increasing levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the Arctic; chemical mixtures.
Summit participants

Summit participants and task force members

At the end of the conference, 12 participants offered to serve on a task force to implement the recommendations developed by the working groups. This task force consists of a diverse group – from traditional healers and environmental coordinators, to parents, health care professionals and academics – representing the wide base of advocates that is needed to address the complex challenges facing children’s environmental health in Alaska and the Circumpolar North.

Another outcome of the Summit is a report entitled “State of the Science: Children’s Environmental Health in Alaska and the Circumpolar North.” This report summarizes the scientific evidence linking environmental exposures and adverse health outcomes for children in the Arctic, including neurodevelopmental disorders, birth defects, childhood cancers, respiratory conditions, metabolic disorders, and compromised immune systems.

Pamela_K_Miller

The task force currently meets via monthly teleconferences, and is working to prioritize the recommendations and put them into practice. If you are interested in learning more about the task force or joining the team, please email Sama Seguinot-Medina at samrys@akaction.org.

Pamela K. Miller is the executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

Save the Date: Birth Parent National Network Virtual Convening

BPNN virtual convention

Time for a Serious Conversation on Early Care and Learning

Join thread on October 5: A Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning

SBeglundBy Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread

You are invited to join thread, Alaska’s child care resource and referral network, for a conversation about how the early care and learning industry strengthens Alaska’s workforce, both today and in the future. Stop by for breakfast or lunch only, or stay all day and hear from national speakers during Investing in Alaska’s Workforce: A Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 5, at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown.

How does early care and learning strengthen our workforce? Businesses and organizations rely on child care to meet the needs of their employees each day in order to maintain a quality workforce. At the same time, it lays the human capital foundation for tomorrow’s workforce. And, having a strong workforce is critical to having a strong economy.

Plus, early care and learning invest­ments are a major component of overall education reform and, as economists will tell you, yield a high rate of return. Having a high-quality early learning program instills a strong founda­tion of cognitive and social skills in children, making them more likely to graduate high school, refrain from criminal activities, attend col­lege, contribute to the workforce, and achieve higher earnings.

During breakfast at the summit, you’ll hear from Kyle E. Yasuda, MD, FAAP. Dr. Yasuda is the medical officer for children and families at Public Health Seattle King County and provides pediatric consultation for the county’s initiative, Best Starts for Kids, a prevention and early intervention initiative for children and youth 0 – 24 years of age. He is a clinical professor in general pediatrics at the University of Washington and is serving his second term on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) board of directors and is the chairperson of District VIII, a region consisting of 12 western states – including Alaska – and two provinces. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report named him as a top doctor. Dr. Yasuda has been able to utilize his experiences in primary care practice, academics, government, health policy, advocacy, and nonprofit organizations to actively advocate for the needs of children and families.

The luncheon keynote features Randy Laszewski, an audit partner in KPMG’s National Professional Practice Group in New York. KPMG supports youth and education and sustaining communities through workforce readiness. Through their corporate citizenship programs, KPMG is focused on serving children at every stage of their academic career starting at prekindergarten. Mr. Laszewski, an outspoken early childhood advocate, started his career in Atlanta, Georgia in 1981. For more than 35 years he has provided a full range of audit services to a variety of clients, primarily in the banking industry. Mr. Laszewski currently serves on KPMG’s regional and community banking practice national leadership team.

You will also hear from Nancy Fishman, the deputy director of ReadyNation, an international business membership organization that leverages the experience, influence, and expertise of more than 1,800 business executives to promote public policies and programs that build a stronger workforce and economy. Since 2006, ReadyNation members have made a bottom-line case for effective, bipartisan investments in children as the future workforce that will drive success in the global marketplace. Prior to joining ReadyNation, Ms. Fishman was the state director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission. The Commission, comprised of 75 senior-level business executives across the commonwealth, supports public investment in high-quality early care and education as a workforce and economic development strategy. Previously, Ms. Fishman was the director of Success By 6, the early childhood initiative of the United Way of Carlisle and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

She will be presenting the findings of the ReadyNation Report: Social-Emotional Skills in Early Childhood Support Workforce Success. In this national report, they examine how character skills formed in early childhood contribute to building a strong workforce with the necessary social-emotional skills for the 21st century economy.

You will also hear from business and government leaders in Alaska on how they are investing in early childhood locally. Plus, the day will be filled with group activities and open discussion.

Because of what’s at stake for both Alaska children and our society at large, it is time to have a serious conversation about where Alaska is compared to the rest of the country and where it’s going when it comes to investing in early care and learning. Register today to join the conversation on October 5.

Learn more and register for the summit on the thread website or by calling 907.265.3100.

Support provided by:

Gathering Together to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

Reception Raises Funds, Honors Champion for Kids

At the Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) fundraising reception in Anchorage Wednesday night, approximately 75 people gathered together in the spirit of a common goal – preventing child abuse and neglect. View our event photos on Facebook.

The event was particularly special as it recognized an individual who has shown extraordinary dedication to preventing child abuse and neglect. During the reception, we honored Heather Harris with our 2017 Southcentral Champion for Kids award. The award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward eliminating child abuse and neglect by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive and nurturing communities.

“It is nearly impossible to talk to Heather for more than a few moments without hearing her clear commitment to children and teens – especially those who are at greater risk of experiencing trauma in their lives. The more complex the human experience, the more she is ready to engage,” reads part of Heather’s award nomination. “Uniquely, however, Heather isn’t just interested in a quick fix, but rather her strategy is first to listen and understand and then to seek collaborative solutions that don’t make life better for just one person but for a system of people.”

Currently the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Heather has dedicated two decades to our most vulnerable children and youth, engaging with Alaska Youth Advocates, Standing Together Against Rape, Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association, Anchorage Youth Development Coalition and Alaska CARES, among others. She has worked with homeless youth, been an advocate for children who have experienced sexual abuse, and has promoted positive youth development through her leadership on various boards.

This dedication and passion does not stop at the office. “At home, Heather and her husband Josh create safe space in their extended family and in their neighborhood. That space engages the neighborhood kids who instinctively know that Heather and Josh are there for them,” her nomination explains. “Neighborhood kids, children in foster care or incarcerated or abused and neglected are all welcomed by Heather and Josh – there is truly enough love and support to go around.”

“There are few people that I know who can handle seeing so much adversity in the lives of children and still feel hope and optimism about the world,” Heather’s nominator concludes.

Following the award presentation, we had the pleasure of hearing from Zookeeper and Push, members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) Alaska, who spoke about how the role of protecting our children is the responsibility of everyone – even unlikely people like bikers. A big thank you to Zookeeper and Push for their time and insights!

We would also like to thank Wells Fargo, a long-standing partner of ACT and supporter of the children of Alaska. Wells Fargo provided a challenge grant of $10,000 – which was matched in full thanks to the generosity of our guests!

Finally, thank you to CIRI for hosting the reception at their lovely headquarters, as well as to our event co-hosts, and all of those in attendance. You can see photos from the event on Facebook.

Together we can prevent child abuse and neglect!

Heather Harris to be Honored at September 13 Reception

If you care about Alaska’s kids and want to work together to prevent child abuse and Heatherneglect, please join us at the Alaska Children’s Trust fundraising reception on Wednesday, September 13 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at CIRI at 725 E. Fireweed Lane in Anchorage. Please RSVP by September 8 to vlewis@alaskachildrenstrust.org or 907.248.7374.

During the reception, we will honor Heather Harris with our 2017 Southcentral Champion for Kids award. Most recently, Heather became the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Prior to this new role, she dedicated two decades to our most vulnerable children and youth. Heather has worked with homeless youth, been an advocate for children who have experienced sexual abuse, and has promoted positive youth development through her leadership on various boards. Please join Alaska Children’s Trust on September 13 to thank Heather for her commitment to Alaska’s children and youth.

The suggested donation is $250 for individuals, and $1,000 for corporations, with a challenge grant generously provided by Wells Fargo. Please RSVP by September 8 to vlewis@alaskachildrenstrust.org or 907.248.7374. We hope to see you there!ACT 2017 Anchroage e-invite

Free Screening of “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope”

Alaska has one of the top five rates of child abuse in the United States. Without treatment, sexual and physical abuse and witnessing domestic violence or neglect can cause serious health and social problems that last into adulthood.

Join Providence Alaska Foundation, Alaska CARES and Alaska Children’s Trust for a free screening of “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope,” a documentary that chronicles the movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities, who are using cutting-edge neuroscience to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease.

The free screening will take place Thursday, August 10 at 49th State Brewery Heritage Theatre at 717 W. 3rd Ave. in Anchorage. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the screening begins at 6 p.m. A panel discussion will follow.

Please RSVP to 907-212-2554 by August 3.

resilience

You’re Invited: May 9 Evidence-based Policy & Practice Lecture

lectureAs a precursor to the National Citizen Review Panel conference being held in Anchorage this month, Debra Schilling Wolfe will be speaking about Evidence-based Policy and Practice: Role of Research in Child Protection Enterprise. The presentation will be held Tuesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in Rasmuson Hall on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

Schilling Wolfe is the executive director of The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

More information can be found in the Debra Schilling Wolfe Public Lecture Announcement flyer and on the Alaska Citizen Review Panel website.