First Issue 2013
President's Message

Dear Arizona Friends of the Trust,

Each year hundreds of young people in Arizona's foster care system develop a very big problem: they hit their 18th birthday, and many supports fall away from underneath them. The children are no longer children. Many never had an adoptive family, and now they have nothing and no one.

It is hard for them to continue their education. On their own, they face very high rates of poverty, unemployment, and ultimately incarceration and homelessness.

Less than 3 percent will graduate from college.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust is partnering with Children's Action Alliance to do something about this. On Tuesday, we announced the Arizona Youth Opportunities Initiative, which is crafted to help foster youth make successful transitions to adulthood.

It is during that transition into adulthood that many are so vulnerable.

"We want to make sure these young people have the same support systems that we provide our own children," said Belen Gonzalez, a Trust program officer who has led our work on this initiative. "It is about putting them in the best position for success. It is making sure they have at least one connection to a helpful, understanding adult in their lives."

Children's Action Alliance is our natural partner on this initiative because of its long-term advocacy in the Arizona Legislature for children's issues, particularly relating to poverty and foster care.

The Trust's investment in foster care organizations dates back to its founding in 1998. We have provided $7.8 million through 110 grants to support nonprofit organizations in Arizona assisting youth in foster care. But this kind of active partnership to create systemic community change is a dynamic new approach.

Officials from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, based in Missouri, are advising the Trust and Children's Action Alliance on this foster care initiative. They have been actively working in 15 other states on the same issue, which will give our program the advantage of their deep experience. The Jim Casey group works nationally and in states to improve policies and practices.

Arizona kicks off new foster care youth initiative

Monique Gilliam, 23, left, who grew up in the foster care system, and Belen Gonzalez, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust program officer, spoke during the launch of the foster care initiative. Ms. Gilliam discussed challenges foster care youth face. (Photo by Matt Jewett)

Our hope is that this initiative will be a model of a public and private partntership.

Arizona state representatives and officials from the several government agencies, including the Department of Economic Security and Child Protective Services, participated in the initiative's Tuesday launch at the University Club in Phoenix and will be involved in discussions.

The initiative will also include the voices of young people now within the foster care system; they are the true experts..

"It is important for all of us to come together because the issue requires a greater and better response," Ms. Gonzalez said. "Together we can make a larger impact."

So that existing but underused community resources are not overlooked or duplicated, the first days of the initiative will involve a thorough scan of services that might be networked together for the new system. This process will also reveal the gaps.

This new initiative does not mean that the Trust will turn away from helping other nonprofit groups serving foster care kids. Grant applications are always open for that critical area of community need. The Trust's Nina Scholars program will continue to send many young people from foster care on to college.

Since 2001, 132 former foster youth received scholarships through the Nina Scholars program. It is through getting to know the foster youth in that program that we learned the struggles that many young adults face who age out of foster care.

We want to do even more.

"We cannot give them homes, but we can give them a hand towards a better future," said Carol Peden Schilling, Trust chair. "We care deeply about these young people."

As always, contact me if you have questions.

Register by March 4

  The deadline is March 4 for nonprofit organizations to take part in the first-ever Arizona Gives Day. To date, more than 600 nonprofits have registered!

Organizations must create a profile to participate in the 24-hour giving day, which begins just after midnight on March 20. It is a day for Arizonans to come together and raise as much money as possible for the state's nonprofit organizations.

For details, visit the Arizona Gives website at


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