PHOENIX (Tuesday, September 27, 2016) – Today, Arizona Department of Child Safety Director Gregory McKay, the First Lady of Arizona Angela Ducey, National Director of Healthy Families Cydney Wessell, other notable prevention advocates, and several hundred attendees celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Healthy Families Arizona program. Governor Ducey issued a proclamation of congratulations for this noteworthy milestone, declaring September 27, 2016 "Healthy Families Arizona Day".
Healthy Families Arizona (HFAz) is a free, voluntary home visitation program that serves pregnant women and families of newborns. Program services are designed to strengthen families during the first five years of a child's life, when vital early brain development occurs. Through its efforts to support and educate families, the program has been proven to reduce incidences of child abuse and neglect, provide stability for at-risk families, and increase economic self-sufficiency. According to the 2015 HFAz program evaluation, 96 percent of enrolled families had no substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect, 95 percent of parents received substance abuse screenings, and 93 percent of children received screenings for developmental delays at one year.
In 1991 Healthy Families Arizona launched in Tucson and Prescott. Within four years the prevention program grew from three to twenty-three sites statewide. In 2000, the program became the first in the nation to receive a four-year multi-site credential from Prevent Child Abuse America. In 2011 the program completed a third accreditation renewal with 100% of programs passing accreditation - something no other multi-site system had ever accomplished. In the same year, the program was awarded the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant. In 2012, Healthy Families Arizona became the first state in the nation to initiate family services in Grant Region 9. To date, this effective prevention program has served over 76,000 Arizona families.
Agency Director Gregory McKay congratulated the staff and thanked the child welfare community: "As director, and as an Arizona citizen - thank you for strengthening families and preventing child abuse. It’s a gift that reaches far into the future. We at DCS are mandated to react to abuse first and prevent later; but grieving after the fact sickens us all. It’s time for proactivity and togetherness – we need to get well now. Happy Silver Anniversary; now let’s go for the gold.”
Expansion of the Office of Prevention is a key strategic goal for the Department of Child Safety in fiscal year 2017. This includes an increasing focus on the deployment of preventative services that help more Arizona children safely remain at home in environments free from abuse and neglect.