INNOVATING
To Serve The Needs Of Children In Foster Care

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged businesses to take a hard look at how they operate and utilize their team to continue to be viable in this environment. For nonprofits like Arizona Helping Hands whose services have been deemed essential, the question is how to make our services available to families in need while keeping our staff and an army of volunteers safe.

Volunteers dedicated 13,000+ hours of service to Arizona Helping Hands in 2019. These servants created beautiful birthday packages for children in foster care, folded and sorted clothing donations, assembled first aid kits to assist foster families and more. Today we are asked to manage the number of people gathered at one time, meaning that these important projects cannot be safely performed. The needs of foster families have not changed, forcing us to make decisions on how we can continue to serve the 14,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system in new and innovative ways.

Our standard service model provided basic needs to foster families through scheduled appointments at our warehouse. Families would drive from all over the state to receive beds, cribs, diapers and more.  When multiple children are being educated at home and it is unsafe to travel across town, we had to consider new ways we could assist families with the products to ensure that children who had been abused and neglected could be safe and comfortable.

Knowing that we had to change and adapt our operations, we sought our partners and new collaborations. We developed a new partnership with the Arizona Department of Child Safety (“DCS”).  Our new alliance allows us to utilize the State’s contracted moving company to deliver beds and cribs across the valley to families in need. Grandma in Mesa contacted us saying she has stepped up to take custody of her four grandchildren, and they are sleeping on air mattresses and foam pads. With DCS support, we delivered four complete twin bed sets to her door and those boys and girls will sleep safely and comfortably tonight.

With all of the added pressures on foster families today, we wanted to make it easier for them to access available resources. There are agencies like ours that are open and responding to the myriad of challenges that are faced by foster families. Banding together with 9 of our partners in the community, we have assembled an emergency assistance response line. Through this collaboration a foster parent can make one call or visit one website – One4AllAZ.com where they can find help.

We have also instituted a new take away service method for the items we can assist with, including home safety items, foster footlockers, educational supplies and backpacks, diapers and more. Our employees are kept safe, and we can aid foster families with their essential needs.

Arizona Helping Hands has always been a financially responsible organization. We have very low overhead costs (93% of donated dollars are used on direct program services), and thanks to tremendous community support of our ongoing capital campaign we have paid off our building. We have no rent or mortgage payments and can dedicate more dollars to our programs serving children in foster care.

Prior to 2013 there was no resource such as Arizona Helping Hands. There was no place a family could find assistance with beds, cribs, clothing and more. Our services are unduplicated in the State of Arizona, and our service numbers demonstrate how essential we are to Arizona’s foster population. We will take every step necessary to innovate and adapt because thousands of boys and girls in foster care truly rely on us. We are resilient, we are motivated, and we will continue to be here to bring hope, safety and joy to children who truly deserve our helping hands.

Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org

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