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Posts tagged ‘Alaska Children’s Trust’

Be Safe on the Water this Summer: Safe Boating Practices for Families

By the Alaska Office of Boating Safety

The Alaska Office of Boating Safety strives to help Alaskans avoid dangerous situations on the water and use safe boating practices. One of our programs, the Kids Don’t Float program, is a statewide injury prevention effort developed to address Alaska’s high youth drowning rate. This program educates participants about the effects of cold water immersion and provides life jackets through the Kids Don’t Float life jacket loaner board component.

While we focus on teaching children throughout Alaska why it’s important to wear a life jacket, we also want the adults in their lives to have the same understanding. Wearing a life jacket is a vital part of safe boating for everyone, not just for children.

Generally accepted by researchers to be water temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, cold water is virtually all water in Alaska, and it has a physical effect on everyone, regardless of age, swimming ability, or boating experience. Cold water immersion plays a significant role in many of Alaska’s boating fatalities. During each stage of cold water immersion, a life jacket can greatly improve a person’s chances of survival by increasing the distance between their airway and the water, assisting with rescues and self-rescues, keeping a person floating even when disabled or unconscious, and providing protection in the event of an ejection.

In Alaska, anyone under the age of 13 is required by law to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on an open boat, on the deck of a boat, or when being towed. Along with making sure your children are wearing safe and serviceable life jackets, you can set a good example, not to mention taking a step to ensure you’re around for their future, by wearing yours.

Consider a situation in which you are unable to help during an emergency (perhaps you experience a medical issue or fall out of the boat). Will your family know what to do? Empower passengers, including children, to be safe and responsible boat passengers by educating them on what to do in the event of an emergency. Make sure they know how to handle the boat, location of emergency equipment, how to call for help, and how to assist in a rescue.

Because nearly all boating-related mishaps involve operator controllable risk factors, most are both predictable and preventable. Effective risk management is the key to safe and enjoyable boating. To keep yourself and your children safe while boating, follow these safe boating practices:

  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Carry emergency communication and distress signaling (alert and locate) devices on your person
  • Attach the engine cut-off device when underway (powerboaters)
  • Equip the boat with at least one means of re-boarding
  • Complete a pre-departure check
  • File a float plan
  • Brief all passengers on the location and operation of emergency equipment and how to stop, start, and steer the boat
  • Check the weather and dress appropriately

BSlogo Idea OneTo learn more about what we do, visit alaskaboatingsafety.org or find us on social media. You can contact us at officeofboatingsafety@alaska.gov with questions or comments, or to schedule a Kids Don’t Float presentation at your school or organization.

Congratulations to our 2019 Southeast Champions for Kids: Joy Lyon & Sen. Peter Micciche

We were honored to announce our 2019 Southeast Champions for Kids at a special event benefiting Alaska Children’s Trust in Juneau on February 20. Two amazing individuals were recognized with this award: Joy Lyon and Sen. Peter Micciche.

Each year, Alaska Children’s Trust recognizes 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. The purpose of our Champion for Kids Award is to recognize these individuals for their contributions, whether it is through their professional employment, volunteer work, community activities, or actively working with children.

Joy Lyon - SE champ for kidsJoy Lyon is the executive director for the Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) in Southeast Alaska. A mother of three and a self-described “reluctant advocate,” Joy says, “It is never easy, but it is harder not to do it!”

Over the years, Joy has been instrumental in raising awareness, lending her voice to those who are normally silenced, and creating programs to support families. For the first part of her tenure, she organized Stand for Kids – an annual advocacy event on the steps of the Alaska Legislature. These later morphed into Little Red Wagon visits, where advocates and children in red wagons toured legislators’ offices to remind them what the future of Alaska looks like. Today, this program has developed into the annual valentine outreach, where each legislator receives valentines made by children.

Under Joy’s leadership, AEYC has reached thousands of families over the decades. She brought Parents as Teachers, a home-visiting program, to Juneau and established the Juneau Imagination Library, which has ensured children receive books. She is part of the leadership behind Best Starts, an initiative to encourage local investment in early childhood. She led the effort to create the “Hearts Award” program, which provides fiscal compensation to early educators who improve their qualifications, with support from the City of Juneau. The list goes on and on.

micciche - SE champ for kidsSen. Peter Micciche was also honored as a Champion for Kids. As a father of four, Peter knows how important investing in our children is for their future and our own. Since the day he entered the Legislature back in 2013, he has brought the stories of children and families to the table. He challenges himself and his colleagues to use a child-focused lens when making decisions that impact people across our great state. This was apparent in his work to rewrite Title 4, the state’s alcoholic beverage control regulations.

The vast majority of child abuse and neglect and domestic violence cases involve alcohol. Utilizing this knowledge, Peter ensured language that promotes responsible consumption, while effectively supporting industry, and protecting our families. In addition, he included key regulations that create stricter regulations that prevent youth from accessing alcohol. Youth who do use alcohol will benefit from new regulations that promote a trauma-informed approach.

Peter’s support was also influential in the passing of legislation that supports the State’s use of a trauma-informed lens, and legislation designating marijuana tax revenue toward afterschool programming. Both pieces of legislation will help strengthen Alaska’s children and families.

Peter’s dedication to children does not solely exist as a legislator. As a community member, he is consistently engaged in projects that help create safe, stable and nurturing communities for children. He has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula for nearly a decade, and was most recently president of the board. He participates in a variety of community events that promote and strengthen family protective factors.

Please join us in congratulating both of these Champions for Kids! Learn more about the awards, past recipients, and upcoming nomination periods on our website.

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.

Afterschool conferenceThe 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.

Visit the Alaska Afterschool Network website and Facebook page for more information on the conference, upcoming events and afterschool programs in Alaska.

Data that Drives Change

A 2018 impACT story

Every morning, children arrive at schools across Alaska with empty bellies. Some haven’t had enough breakfast – or any at all. Others haven’t eaten since they left school the previous day.

These kids aren’t hungry to learn – they’re just hungry.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT Alaska Economic Well-Being Report tells us that 20 percent of Alaska’s kids live in households where there is not enough food.

While data like this doesn’t put food on the table, it does provide the information decision-makers need to implement efforts to address the problem.

Data plays a huge role at schools like Anchorage’s Willow Crest Elementary, which offers a free breakfast and lunch program to 100 percent of its students.

“Schools receive the free meals through their having a high number of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch,” explains Kristina Peterson, who served as Willow Crest principal for eight years. “Students qualify based on the income level of the family. When a school has a high level of students qualifying, the entire student population can be provided the free meals.”

The importance of data is why Voices for Alaska’s Children, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, became the Alaska KIDS COUNT partner in 2016. KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is the premier source for data on child and family well-being in Alaska and throughout the United States. The mission of KIDS COUNT is to ensure child advocates, policymakers and the public have access to high-quality, unbiased data about child well-being.

Information for the Alaska reports is provided by state and federal sources, then compiled and presented by Voices for Alaska’s Children.  As the KIDS COUNT Alaska partner, Voices looks at the data through an Alaska lens, putting out quarterly reports that give a view of what’s going on in Alaska compared to the rest of the country. The data is available to anyone, from parents to program managers to policymakers.

“Just 20 years ago, there was no centralized place to get information on kids and families,” says Andrew Cutting, who oversees KIDS COUNT Alaska. “It’s a big deal. Not a lot of data sets are nationally focused on kids and families, or as easily accessible.”

One of the noteworthy aspects of KIDS COUNT is that it uses the same measurements to compare Alaska to other state and national data in areas including economic well-being, education, health, family and community, and overall child well-being.

For example, the 2018 KIDS COUNT Alaska Economic Well-Being Report shows that 36 percent of Alaska’s children are living in poverty – significantly above the national average of 19 percent. Overall, Alaska ranked 41 out of 50 in a state-to-state comparison of economic well-being in 2018.

“It compares apples to apples,” Andrew says. “It makes shocking numbers even more shocking.”

By demonstrating Alaska’s disproportionately high numbers, the data underscores the need for a shift in strategy. “If you keep going the same path, you are going to get the same results,” Andrew says. “When you change your outlook and try new things, you’ll start to get better outcomes.”

Back at Willow Crest and other schools across the state, data continues to drive decisions to benefit students and their families.

“It’s already difficult for many families to provide their kids with what they need, so we’re taking a burden off those families by providing a couple meals a day for their children,” Kristina says. “When you know your child is safe and being cared for, it opens the doors for you to do the things you need to do to help support your family.”

Learn more about Voices for Alaska’s Children and access KIDS COUNT data at voicesakchildren.org.

Partnering to Support Parents

A 2018 impACT story

We aren’t born with parenting knowledge, and as any parent will tell you, the job doesn’t come with an instruction manual. But even the most basic knowledge can make an enormous difference in raising happy, healthy children and reducing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which research has shown can lead to many future lifelong problems, including poorer mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic status in adulthood.

O’Maly – a mother of four – and other young moms gained a wealth of parenting knowledge through Covenant House Alaska’s Parent Resiliency Project over the past year. The project, which Alaska Children’s Trust helped fund with a $10,000 grant, delivered a series of parenting workshops to current and former residents of Passage House, which is Covenant House’s transitional living program for young women who are pregnant or parenting.

The workshops explored in-depth parenting skills in a group setting, with a goal to increase parental awareness, examine the effects of one’s own trauma and ACEs on their children, and build a strong support network of peers.

“My biggest hope is that we are preventing ACEs in children through this process of creating parents who are aware of trauma and prevent it whenever possible,” says Gena Graves, Passage House program coordinator. “In 20 years, my hope is we have young adults without ACEs because their parents were knowledgeable and had the skills.”

One of the first challenges that the project worked to overcome is the negative stigma associated with “parenting classes.”

“Going to a class doesn’t mean you are a bad parent – it just means you can learn to be a better parent. We want people to embrace the thought of parenting as lifelong education. We want to normalize it and change the climate,” Gena says, adding that she was encouraged by the participating mothers’ attitudes toward the workshop.

“Everyone can learn more. Even the best parent can learn more because everyone is different,” shares O’Maly, who connected with Passage House a little over five years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child.

O’Maly and the other mothers were so engaged that they requested additional sessions, including one that invited their family members, significant others and anyone else associated with their children’s care. “That session allowed everyone involved in the child’s care to hear the same information and be able to speak the same language. The moms wanted that,” Gena says.

One of the unique aspects of the project was that it blended many different styles and strategies. “Our curriculum approaches subjects and teaches skills in different ways. It’s not just based on one resource, way or book. So, if something didn’t resonate with a mom in one way, it was often approached in a different way later that they could connect with. There was something for everyone,” Gena says.

O’Maly agrees, saying that she has tried different parenting classes in the past, but found this one to be the most interesting and valuable. “I paid attention this time. I wanted to participate. I had to participate, not just listen,” she shares.

Perhaps the most positive outcomes Gena witnessed over the year were the connections the mothers made with each other, and the knowledge and confidence they gained. “The project focused on delivering the information over a period of time, giving the moms time to meld, and build on past material,” she says. “It brought the same group of women together over and over and created an atmosphere of learning and support amongst the participants.”

“Over the year, we saw them become more engaged in parenting. They gained a lot of confidence and felt more knowledgeable,” Gena continues. In a post-project survey, the mothers indicated that 93 percent had greater resilience as a parent, 97 percent had more positive parenting attitudes, 97 percent increased their knowledge of ACEs and resilience, and 100 percent built connections.

“The different topics and information on different stages definitely helped me become a better parent,” O’Maly shares. “I can understand my kids better and know how to parent my kids at different levels and in good ways.”

Funding from Alaska Children’s Trust allowed Covenant House to provide workshop materials and tools for the moms to take home. “It allowed us to put the tools in the moms’ hands so they can continue to refer to it, go back to it and learn more. They could also share with others in the home who were helping care for the child. That wouldn’t have been possible without the funding from ACT,” Gena says.

Covenant House plans to continue the workshop series this year, inviting continued participation from the previous participants and welcoming new moms.

“I think it is super important to have this kind of education for young moms especially,” O’Maly said. “I recommend it 100 percent.”

For more information on Alaska Children’s Trust’s community investment grants, visit alaskachildrenstrust.org.

Building Resilience through History and Hope

A 2018 impACT story

Alaska is a beautiful and unique state, with places and people like nowhere else. Unfortunately, it is also a state with problems like nowhere else. From child abuse to substance abuse and low graduation rates to high suicide rates, Alaska is at or near the top of every list.

Driven by the belief that understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and resilience will begin to turn the tide, the Alaska Resilience Initiative (ARI), an initiative of Alaska Children’s Trust, led the effort to develop an Alaska-specific curriculum to educate Alaskans on these topics.

After more than a year of intense work involving a diverse and passionate statewide group, the new curriculum, History and Hope, was piloted this spring. The curriculum is designed to “train the trainers” to go out and educate audiences on what ACEs are, why they are so significant, why resilience is so critical, and how to build it.

Training programs on ACEs and resilience are not unique – in fact, ARI began using a different curriculum to train trainers in 2014. However, it soon became apparent that the program – developed in the lower 48 – was missing some critical pieces for the Alaska audience. “We found it did not meet the needs of Alaska, and it became clear that we needed an Alaska-specific curriculum,” says Laura Norton-Cruz, ARI director.

Big picture, the two things that the new curriculum incorporates are context – specifically addressing the significance of historical and ongoing systemic trauma, as well as the strength and healing power of Alaska Native culture – and hope, providing real-life examples and tangible tools so audience members leave feeling like they can begin to make a difference in a complex problem that Alaska has grappled with for decades.

“In Alaska, we have our own culture and pride about being Alaskan. The land, the people who have been here for thousands of years. There is strong culture and knowledge to learn from,” says Anna Meredith, one of new History and Hope facilitators.

Two versions of the curriculum have been developed to date – one specifically for those in the health care field, and a second focused on K – 12 educators. The goal is to create additional versions for other audiences, including early childhood educators, legal professionals, policymakers and parents.

“We chose school and health care first because they are essential places where trauma shows up, and it is important for those audiences to be trauma-informed. Anyone in education – from teachers to front desk staff to noon duties – can help create a safe space. Same in health care – from the receptionist to the doctor – it’s really important that everyone have access to this,” Laura says.

ARI began piloting History and Hope this spring, with presentations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer and Juneau. One of the first presentations took place at the R.E.C. Room at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic in Homer, where board members, clinicians and staff from accounting, administration, youth education and outreach participated.

“The training reinvigorated previous brainstorming,” says Anna, the R.E.C. Room’s youth program manager. For example, the clinic’s trauma-informed care team is now building off of Homer’s ACEs brochure to include specific local resources, as well as developing acupressure point cards that provide clients with an effective calming technique.

Another pilot presentation was offered in Fairbanks at the Alaska Native Education program, which serves Alaska Native and American Indian students in grades K-12 by providing a wide variety of services, including academic, social and cultural support.

“It was the first time many staff had heard about ACEs,” says Yatibaey Evans, program director. “Having their eyes opened to the (ACEs) study and how trauma affects kids is helpful to understanding and building compassion and empathy. It increased their open arms, made them wider.”

LaVerne Demientieff, clinical associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was closely involved in the development of History and Hope and is also one of the curriculum facilitators.

“My hope for the curriculum is that we build compassion, connection, ceremony and curiosity,” she shares. “Part of the understanding of the impacts of trauma is being more compassionate. You’re less likely to place blame and more likely to understand that something happened to this person.”

At the Alaska Native Education program, Yatibaey’s ultimate goal is higher graduation rates. “The curriculum helps adults learn how to help children heal and feel supported at school,” she says. “When students feel supported, they are more likely to engage in work and graduate.”

Anna is also optimistic about the potential for the curriculum to impact youth. “The end goal for me is that the next generation of young people get this,” she says. “My hope is that it’ll be a step in a cultural shift and empower people through the science of resilience, give them understanding and compassion of where people are and why.”

Laura shares a similar perspective. “I hope people walk out thinking differently about their students and patients, feeling more compassionate and curious, wondering what’s going on and how can they help,” she says. “We want to give people more tools and an understanding to support compassionate practices. The idea is that when institutions are more trauma-informed, and take a more culturally responsive approach, they’re more effective – there are better outcomes.”

Learn more about ARI and History and Hope at akresilience.org.

New Funding, New Hope for Afterschool Programs

A 2018 impACT story

The school bell has just rung, signaling the end of the day. Two children walk out the front doors of the school. One begins his walk home – alone – to a dark, empty house, and spends several hours on his own before someone gets home from work. The other child heads to an afterschool program, where counselors greet him, ask about his day, give him a snack, check his homework, and provide engaging activities to do with friends.

Out of these two children, which one would you say has a lower risk of getting involved in unhealthy behaviors, like substance abuse? If you said the child in the afterschool program, you would be right.

University of Alaska Anchorage researchers found that students who participate in an afterschool program at least two days a week are 18 percent less likely to use alcohol and 39 percent less likely to use marijuana. Many other studies and evaluations have come to similar conclusions – that afterschool programs can reduce risk factors and build protective factors, minimizing the likelihood that youth will engage in unhealthy behavior while enhancing healthy development.

But here’s the challenge: In Alaska, there are currently 25,000 children enrolled in afterschool care, and another 45,000 children who want to be in a program, but can’t because the programs are full, cost-prohibitive – or simply don’t exist in their community.

These statistics were unacceptable to the Alaska Afterschool Network (a program of Alaska Children’s Trust), as well as Boys & Girls Clubs Alaska, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and a group of Alaska legislators, who joined forces to champion a bill establishing the Marijuana Education and Treatment Fund.

The bill, which successfully passed both the House and Senate earlier this year, will direct 25 percent of Alaska’s new marijuana sales tax revenue to the fund. Half of that revenue will go to the Department of Health and Social Services for marijuana education, monitoring and treatment efforts. The remaining half will directly benefit Alaska’s youth by increasing access to afterschool programs statewide through the newly established Alaska marijuana use prevention youth services grant program.

“Alaska is the first state to invest funds from marijuana sales directly into afterschool prevention programs. Other states are looking to us as an example,” says Thomas Azzarella, director of the Alaska Afterschool Network. “It went from a topic that no one was talking about to one that everyone is talking about.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula is just one program that can speak to the critical need for funding. They closed their Homer Club in 2013 due to funding shortages and lack of program space; funding for their Soldotna Teen Center has dried up, creating an uncertain future for a much-needed program; and their Soldotna Club has a waiting list of 85 kids.

“It is a hard situation because we want to serve all kids, especially those who need us most. However, funding and program space have been our biggest barriers, preventing us from expanding our existing programs,” shares Heather Schloeman, executive director.

“We teach youth how to make positive decisions and give them the tools needed to avoid risky behaviors and peer pressure,” Heather explains. “Our programs serve youth when they are most at risk: after school and during the summer months, times when they would most likely be without adult supervision if afterschool programs were not available.”

Jennifer Yeoman can share firsthand about how important afterschool programs are to Alaska families. In addition to her six children, ranging in age from 7 to 18, Jennifer has cared for many foster children over the years.

“Having a large family, I truly believe in the thought it takes a village to raise a child. Boys & Girls Club has been there as our children have grown up and provided a structured program for them where I did not have to worry,” Jennifer says. “They have been beyond helpful for all our foster children we have had over the years. We could not have provided the care as a foster family without the help from Boys & Girls Club.”

“If these programs were not there, we would have to have our own children be home alone after school, or not be able to work full time, which would impact our family, as well as not be able to continue being foster parents for most of the children we have helped,” Jennifer adds.

With the new fund and grant program in place, Thomas says they can begin to work toward the goal to get more kids in afterschool programs, where they can build protective factors and reduce the risk of substance abuse. The fund will also provide professional development for afterschool providers to improve program quality.

“Afterschool programs with highly trained staff and volunteers produce greater positive outcomes for youth. Trained afterschool professionals are more likely to build relationships that make a positive difference throughout a youth’s life,” he says. “Quality of care matters.”

Jennifer agrees. “Having a safe place for your children to go for a few hours after school helps more than I can speak to,” she says.

And now, with support from the new grant program, more Alaska kids will have just that.

Visit akafterschool.org to learn more about the Alaska Afterschool Network and how afterschool keeps kids safe, inspires learning, and supports working families.

Thank you, Donna!

One of my favorite traditions at Thanksgiving is when people share what they are thankful for that year. Although Thanksgiving is a few days away, I would like to dedicate this month’s issue of ACT’s community impACT e-newsletter to one of our most favorite partners – Alaska’s First Lady Donna Walker.

I remember the first time I met Donna nearly four years ago. She came to our offices alone – a very rare occurrence to meet her without staff in tow. What I remember the most is her smile. She has one of those smiles that is infectious. As I shared the history of the Children’s Trust and the relationship we have with the First Lady, her smile grew tenfold.

For 20 years, it has been a tradition for Alaska’s First Lady to be ACT’s honorary chair. Donna’s affinity for the mission of ACT provided the opportunity to serve as a champion for the safety and well-being of Alaska’s children.

Donna has had a lifelong commitment to children. As a mother and grandmother, she knows firsthand how important it is to ensure children grow up in safe, stable and nurturing environments. She even took a year away from her law career to be a caseworker for the Office of Children Services. To have the opportunity to partner with a statewide organization with a mission to prevent child abuse and neglect made that infectious smile grow.

For the past four years, Donna has been a beacon of hope for us all. Her passion and her voice to raise awareness and commitment to ensuring Alaska children and families thrive was present in everything she did.

When it comes to children, Donna never said no. She volunteered hundreds of hours with programs striving to support children and families. She has slept out in freezing temperatures to raise awareness and funding for homeless youth. She has written numerous op-eds asking Alaskans to join her in protecting and investing in Alaska’s most precious resource. She has taken time to sit with children and read stories. Each year, she joins Operation Santa ensuring children and families in rural Alaska have an amazing holiday. And the list goes on and on.

As a partner of ACT, Donna was always willing to lend a hand in helping us work towards achieving our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect. Annually, Donna hosted a gathering at the Governor’s house on behalf of ACT. She helped us raise resources that support our various programs. She kicked off our annual National Child Abuse Prevention Month rally. She visited ACT grant recipients across the state to learn how communities are working to protect children and what barriers they face day-to-day.

Although her time as Alaska’s First Lady is coming to a close, we know this is not the end of her work to help build safe, stable and nurturing environments for Alaska’s children. On behalf of all the children and families in Alaska, thank you to First Lady Donna Walker for being a champion for kids.

Trevor Storrs, President and CEO, Alaska Children’s Trust

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.

Support ACT While You Shop

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!