Advocates for child welfare emphasize prevention, community engagement

April 25, 2014

Over 16,000 Arizona children are in group homes, foster care or other temporary placement. The costs – not only financial, but trauma to children and families – are staggering.

Child abuse prevention advocates from the public and private sectors gathered with the community to examine solutions at the Annual Statewide Child Abuse Prevention event held at the Rising Youth Theatre in downtown Phoenix, April 22. woman speaking at event Download Full Image

Held as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the event aimed to increase dialogue around prevention and community involvement to help children and their families receive the resources and education they need to live healthy and productive lives.

Focusing on prevention

Charles Flanagan, director of Arizona Child Safety and Family Services, spoke on the importance of child abuse prevention and elevating efforts toward prevention to be at the same level as other services. He also noted that prevention is a shared responsibility, and community partnerships play an important role.

“One of the things that I’ve discovered is that we have got to raise the profile of the prevention work that we do, as well as intervene earlier when we get calls that require some sort of a response” he says. “So that’s what this is about. This is about us coming together and joining our resources together in such a way as to leverage our resources to affect a better outcome.”

Maricopa County Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Colleen McNally echoed the sentiment, noting the significance of parental education in lessening the risk of future intervention, and how connecting with the community helps build resilience.

Healthy Families Arizona, a statewide home visitation program is one such initiative.

“Healthy Families is a prevention-based program, birth to age five. We coach parents to be parents – developmental skills, parental skills and better forms of discipline,” says Sarah Tyree, family support specialist with Southwest Human Development, which offers the program.

Over the past 20 years, the program has seen a 99-percent success rate in the prevention of child abuse.

“We start with high-risk families who are at risk, so we really do make a difference in people’s lives,” says Suzanne Schunk, vice president of family support services for Southwest Human Development.

Researching factors that influence success

As part of the event, Rising Youth Theatre presented excerpts from the play "Shipwrecked." Playwright Sigrid Gilmer worked with foster youth and the adults who care for them to create a play that “tells the stories of the system from the perspective of the young people at the heart of it.”

Cynthia Lietz, associate professor in the School of Social Work and Tucson component coordinator for the College of Public Programs, pointed to examples in the play that highlight how individuals cope with challenging circumstances.

“Protective factors are key,” she says. “Social support – at least one meaningful relationship – can help keep someone on track.”

Protective factors can encompass a number of personal traits, too, including insight, creativity and humor.

Lietz’s research looks at how family units are able to sustain or improve their situations despite traumatic circumstances. In addition to investigating how negative experiences predict outcomes, she looks at success. She notes that it is easy to see a relationship between negative factors and failure, but more difficult to explain how people overcome adversity and succeed.

She says that overcoming adversity is possible.

Her work focuses on case studies of people who have completed care programs and succeeded. This has direct impact on the resources put in place for families.

McNally notes that while the courts intervene when an adverse event that has already occurred, they are still interested in ways to improve prevention. Working with ASU, they gain insight and measurable outcomes.

Building a community of support

“This event prompted important dialogue between public and community leaders committed to preventing child maltreatment. I was pleased to hear that director Flanagan plans to increase the amount of attention paid toward preventing abuse before it occurs,” Lietz says.

She also says that seeing these organizations come together to find creative ways of fixing the problem of child abuse prevention gave her, and those who attended, hope for future changes.

“The involvement of ASU’s School of Social Work in the event demonstrates our desire to partner with our public child welfare system to work toward achieving our shared mission,” she says. “All children and youth in Arizona should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe and loving environment.”

Written by Anastasia Landeros and Heather Beshears

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Fearless and equipped, engineering grad prepares for life outside of college

April 25, 2014

A conversation with Katelyn Keberle starts with the unexpected: “I was fortunate enough to not know what I wanted to do before joining college, so I tried my hand at everything.”

Channeling her inner urge to create and try different things, Keberle decided to major in materials science and engineering. The 21-year-old, set to graduate in May 2014, has focused on exceeding expectations at every opportunity that crosses her path, and so it comes as no surprise that she is this year's winner of Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award. portrait of Katelyn Kaberle Download Full Image

“Materials science goes down to the fundamentals,” she said. “It’s the interface of chemistry and physics that explains why things are the way they are, and how we should work with things that are the way they are. Without materials science and engineering, modern technology such as computers, semiconductors, urban developments and biomedical devices wouldn’t exist.”

A Tempe native, Keberle applied to engineering schools at ASU and the University of Arizona, and chose ASU’s Fulton Schools for their quality of engineering programs and affordability.

“Even as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to work on research that looked at applications of carbon nanotechnology to detect and treat diseases like cancer and heart ailments. It was a cool experience because I saw how my work could directly affect and help people,” she said.

At ASU, she was also encouraged to add to her academic experience by pursuing volunteer opportunities and internships.

“I was involved in growing the ASU chapter of Materials Advantage Club to promote networking among students of materials science and engineering,” she said. “Another volunteer opportunity I enjoyed most was my time as a Fulton Ambassador. It allowed me to share my experience as an engineering student at ASU with high school students and answer any questions that they have about pursuing the field.”

Keberle is also the youngest member of the FlashFood team, an award-winning project that evolved out of Engineering Projects in Community Service, social entrepreneurship courses offered by the Fulton Schools of Engineering. FlashFood is a mobile application to help food service businesses, food recovery organizations, local community centers and volunteers to work together to recover perishable food and connect it with those in need.

While working on FlashFood, Keberle was pleasantly surprised by ASU’s encouraging culture of openness, innovation and social entrepreneurship.

“What I really liked about ASU is that we are not afraid to look at ourselves and ask what we could be doing better, and to continue to strive and create better experiences for the next generation,” she said. “It has been great to be able to share services and facilities that are continuously evolving and getting better with incoming freshmen.”

For Keberle, being in college has allowed her to evolve into becoming a confident, young leader.

“The amazing experiences at ASU have shaped and allowed me to become a better version of myself,” she said. “Developing leadership qualities and knowing that as future engineers we can do anything have been immensely valuable lessons to learn as an undergrad. The skills that I gained through the engineering school have prepared me to go after any opportunities that I’d like to.”

Driven by an innate curiosity, a love of creating and doing things that haven’t been done before, helping people and making the world better a day at a time, Keberle hopes to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. She is due to start work as a process engineer at the medical products division of W. L. Gore and Associates, Inc., as soon as she graduates.

When asked about winning the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Alumni Association 2014 Outstanding Graduate Award, Keberle smiled sheepishly.

“I am humbled beyond words to receive this distinction,” she said. “I feel that I represent all ASU students who believe that education is not limited to doing our best in the classroom. We are also serving our communities as part of our learning process.”

To continue that learning process in the real world, Keberle is ready to graduate.

“When you prepare to leave a place, you feel a lot better when you like the direction it is going in,” she said, sounding wise beyond her years. “It has been exciting to have been a part of this period of growth with its various programs and internships, to be a part of many 'first times' of doing so many things and to see them continue to be enriching experiences. It’s time to go. I’m sad, but also excited to leave.”

Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, ASU Local