As Arizona’s child welfare backlog cases continues to grow, PCA Arizona urges the prioritization of prevention

Child abuse and neglect is on the rise in Arizona: in 2013, there were more than 22,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in a six-month period of time, up from 16,000 in 2009. Despite this increase, child abuse is completely preventable.  As of June 30, 2015, the backlog of child welfare cases sits at 14,946 and there is estimated to be 52,000 new child welfare cases in the next year.

While other states are investing in prevention programs to address this issue before it starts, Arizona’s system focuses on remediation, with more than 18,000 children in foster care across the state.

That’s why ACS is helping Prevent Child Abuse Arizona (PCA Arizona)  to shift the public conversation about child maltreatment so prevention is prioritized as the lead strategy in the child safety system in Arizona.

As part of this effort, ACS helped PCA Arizona develop resonant messaging to clearly and consistently communicate the value and importance of child abuse prevention. ACS also equipped PCA Arizona with the tools and resources they need to become a key player and trusted source of information to the media on issues of child abuse and neglect, and the impact of child abuse prevention. Just last week the Daily Courier published a Letter to the Editor  by PCA Arizona Executive Director Becky Ruffner calling for the state of Arizona to invest in evidence-based prevention programming to reduce the number of cases of child abuse across the state.

Much is at stake; and PCA Arizona’s strong communication effort aims to make a huge impact on child safety.


Immigration brings New Students, and Languages to Akron

NPR recently highlighted a story out of Akron Public Schools, which is not uncommon to many districts throughout the state of Ohio, particularly Ohio’s urban districts.

Akron, and other urban districts across Ohio have been seeing more and more students who have immigrated with their families as a result of U.S. foreign policy decisions supporting refugees from around the world. As a result, the face of Akron’s student population is changing and Akron Public Schools has embraced this change.

The NPR broadcast, which can be accessed here, highlights the positive impact that this enrollment shift has cause for both the district, the students they serve, and the community.

Today, Akron Public Schools strives to keep up with the unique needs of English as a Second Language (ESL) students who are eager to learn and hungry for knowledge.

In addition to enriching classroom opportunities Akron Public Schools offers athletic opportunities for students. Today the soccer team at North High School, the most diverse high school in the state, is composed of 40 students, mostly refugees, speaking 5 languages. The team made it to the City Series Championship last year and hopes to do it again this school year.

ACS & The Ohio 8 Coalition Working to Close the Achievement Gap

ACS, through its work with The Ohio 8 Coalition, strives to support students from all backgrounds in an effort to level the playing field and help all students graduate high school, start a career, and make positive life choices. The Ohio 8 Coalition, with the support of ACS, works to impact K-12 policy at the state level to close the achievement gap and create greater opportunities for students to succeed in school and in life, regardless of race.

A recent Brookings article shows the significance of ACS’ work in helping to close the achievement gap.

The article “Following the success sequence? Success is more likely if you’re white” ultimately concludes that, “black Americans who meet traditional markers on the pathway to the American Dream are still less likely to get there than white Americans.”

The authors use researchers’ Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins argument that the likelihood of economic success conditional upon achieving the “success sequence”, a series of the following three middle class “norms”:

  • Graduate from high school;
  • Maintain a full-time job or have a partner who does;
  • Have children while married and after the age of 21.

Research shows that, even when black Americans follow the success sequence their economic prospects are worse than whites. Data shows about 73% of white Americans who follow the sequence will find themselves with income above 300% of the federal poverty line while only 59% of black Americans fare equally well. The article focuses on national data and the authors suggest that there is likely to be significant variation between geographic areas, particularly in cities.

For more information about ACS’ work with The Ohio 8 Coalition, please contact

Study finds younger workers need experience to succeed

A recent study by Brookings found that statistically younger workers (up to age 24) experience higher unemployment rates and less job stability than more experienced workers. This was exacerbated by the Great Recession of 2007-2009, which saw job opportunities drop substantially, especially for younger workers. Why is this important? Because work experience in the younger years provides a critical foundation for an individual’s workforce trajectory for life and sets the tone for overall success.

At ACS we’ve helped the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forward Promise grantees develop strategies to help connect young boys and men of color, particularly those that are or at-risk for being disconnected, to school and work.  ACS understands that collectively a broad group of stakeholders, such as employers, schools, non-profits, and government entities need to work together to create change for today’s youth.

To help communities successfully engage with stakeholders, ACS created a simple 8 step process. You can find this tool on our website here on our website.

What else did the Brooking report say?

In short, that while many employers appreciate the flexibility, energy, and tech-savviness of younger workers, they identify academic and soft skills, dependability, and ability to fit into the workplace culture as both fundamental requirements and pervasive weaknesses among younger workers. It also found that a diverse group of stakeholders (employers, government, education, and training organizations) need to work together to improve youth job outcomes. The study notes that to improve outcomes for young workers and businesses:

  • Employers need to identify more clearly the skills necessary to execute their business plans and improve their strategies to recruit, assess, and train for those skills;
  • Stakeholders need to support and participate in workforce intermediaries or employer partnerships that meet regional labor market needs;
  • Educators and employers need to strengthen their information flows and increase their use of industry-recognized competency-based credentials; and
  • Educators and employers need to work together to expand work-based learning opportunities.



Every Day is Literacy Day at ACS

Today is International Literacy Day – and as we reflect on the importance of literacy to the careers, quality of life, and future to the individuals our clients serve, ACS continues to prioritize early childhood education and K-12 education in our work.

The Center for Community Solutions published an infographic this morning showcasing the need for continued attention to literacy in Ohio:

1.    1 in 11 Ohioans aged 25+ lack basic prose literacy

2.    1 out of 9 Ohio adults do not have a HS diploma

3.    45% of Ohioans below basic literacy have completed high school or received a GED

As we know, high-quality early childhood education is an essential component to preparing a child to succeed in school, and in life. Many studies have shown that students who attend high-quality preschool score better on their 3rd grade reading tests, and are more likely to graduate high school. Through our work with PRE4CLE, ACS has helped build a roadmap that will bring voluntary high-quality preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds in the City of Cleveland. ACS continues to support making this plan a reality by helping PRE4CLE build the communication infrastructure and strategic approach to inform families, providers, policymakers and the community about the importance of high-quality preschool as well as engage policymakers on the local, state, and federal levels to support early education.

We know that in addition to high-quality early education, quality K-12 education is just as essential to improving literacy in the state. That’s why ACS works closely with the eight largest school districts in Ohio through The Ohio 8 Coalition to advocate for policies that lead to better school outcomes for all of Ohio’s students.

Please join us in celebrating International Literacy Day as we continue our efforts to raise awareness about critical building blocks for learning.

PRE4CLE Helps Cleveland’s Children Thrive

Two recent news articles highlight new accomplishments for PRE4CLE , Cleveland’s high-quality preschool expansion initiative. ACS has worked with PRE4CLE from its’ very beginning – from facilitating the development of a roadmap to bring high-quality preschool to every child in Cleveland by 2020, to developing and managing the implementation of a two-year strategic communication and advocacy plan.

Following CMSD’s CEO Eric Gordon’s  State of the School Address in Cleveland last month, the Plain Dealer (Cleveland’s daily newspaper) recognized PRE4CLE for fulfilling one of the pillars of the Cleveland Plan – and being a roadmap to bring high-quality preschool for all three- and four-year olds in the City.  PRE4CLE plays an important role in preparing Cleveland’s children for academic success and bolstering their social skills through connecting families to high-quality preschool programs and accelerating the expansion of the number of high-quality preschool options available.

This summer, PRE4CLE announced that it has awarded Preschool Classroom Expansion Grants  to help increase the number of high-quality preschool openings in the Union-Miles, Buckeye-Shaker, and Glenville neighborhoods. These grants represent a major milestone for PRE4CLE – marking the first preschool expansion dollars awarded by PRE4CLE to high-quality providers in Cleveland.

The purpose of these grants is to increase the number of high-quality preschool programs (having at least 3-stars through the state’s Step Up to Quality rating system) in the Cleveland neighborhoods that currently don’t have enough high-quality preschool seats to serve the children who live in those neighborhoods. In the Union-Miles and Buckeye-Shaker Square neighborhoods, preschool enrollment is at 80 percent of capacity and expansion is necessary to meet families’ demands. In Glenville, there are preschool programs, but few are high-quality.  These grants are a first step towards implementing a key element of the PRE4CLE plan to focus new resources in the highest need areas of the city.

“From ensuring our staff stay up to date on the latest in child brain development, to making sure our kids are eating healthy and get to experience the music, culture, technology, and resources our community has to offer, we take high-quality early learning seriously. With PRE4CLE as a partner, we are now able to expand that cultural exposure to more children who need it most,” says Fundamentals Academy Director Lisa Ogletree, whose family has been providing quality education to children in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood for over 20 years.

“The grants cover things like furniture, small tables, chairs and shelves,” says Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE director, adding interactive toys, enrichment activities, books, puzzles and blocks to the list. “It’s all the basic — but very critical — parts of a high-quality early childhood classroom.”

You can read both of the articles here:

Lead More Effective Meetings

At ACS we facilitate hundreds of small, medium and large meetings each year. This list from SmartBlog on Leadership provides a check-list of 15 items to make your meetings more effective and productive. ACS offers complimentary tools to take your meetings to the next level:

  • Facilitation checklist – ACS’s facilitation checklist provides will help a facilitator design, plan for, and prepare a facilitated session from start to finish.
  • Facilitation challenges –Common facilitation challenges includes challenges a facilitator may face, and ways to overcome them.
  • Active listening techniques – This sheet helps you build your skills to be able to listen and respond appropriately in meetings.

ACS is Growing!

ACS is delighted to welcome the newest member of our team, Christina Graw, who has joined ACS staff as an Office Administrator. Christina will play a critical role in keeping ACS running smoothly, and supporting ACS clients in meeting their goals. She will be responsible for writing and editing content for ACS’ newsletter, and managing website updates. She will also provide administrative support to the ACS team by scheduling meetings and coordinating all travel needs for staff.

Christina has four years experience in marketing for government and non-profits, including the creation and management of successful social media campaigns and the development of a variety of marketing materials. She also volunteers as social media manager for the Malachi Center in Cleveland. Welcome, Christina!

Individual vs. System Leadership: ACS translates this from theory to practice

When most people talk about leadership they are referring to it in a very traditional sense. A traditional leader has the ability to bring people together to accomplish a goal they could not complete as individuals. This is the core of training and professional development sessions developed by ACS. Another component of ACS’ work with local, state, and national organizations, however, focuses on leadership-system leadership.

System leadership refers to the way organizations collaborate with each other, engage their constituents across social and economic boundaries, and improve upon their challenges and weaknesses. System leadership also contributes to the growth of a system. Many of ACS’ clients are working with complex problems that require system coordination and collaboration. Whether its creating change in the way that child care operates in a country or state, working with communities to ensure that youth have the tools and resources they need to succeed in school and in life, or working with national organizations to improve systems in several different states -ACS fully understands how to cultivate and implement system leadership within an organization.

How is your organization working toward system leadership? The Stanford Social Innovation Review recently published an article by Peter Senge that talks about the importance of system leadership and how to cultivate it.

Check out this video where leaders from Boston organizations gathered to hear Peter Senge (author,  The Fifth Discipline), John Kania (managing director, FSG), Molly Baldwin (CEO, Roca), and Alan Khazei (Founder and CEO, Be The Change, Inc.) reflect on what it takes to be a system leader and offer their perspective on the importance of this thinking when working on critical social issues.

ACS has tools in place to help your organization implement system leadership. The first tool we offer is our set of Collective Impact Questions. These questions take planning strategy from a single organization and allows multiple stakeholders to work together on a shared agenda in a community.

The second tool ACS offers is our coalition building tool. This tool will provide you with the basic structure and strategies needed to carry out a grassroots coalition.

NAEYC Issues a Call to Action for Early Childhood

For nearly ninety years the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been the voice of high quality early learning in the United States and around the globe. Among its many accomplishments, NAEYC is known for developing a global standard for early childhood programs and professional development for early childhood providers.

With the help of ACS, NAEYC is doubling down on its policy work for young children by issuing a Call to Action, which outlines NAEYC’s commitment to guaranteeing that all young children thrive in learn in a society that is dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential. The Call to Action encourages NAEYC affiliates to support the organization’s efforts to ensure that children birth through age 9 have equitable access to developmentally appropriate and high quality early learning, and that the early childhood education profession exemplifies excellence and is recognized as a vital and critical role in our communities.  The NAEYC Call to Action includes a number of specific actions that advocates can take.