In the 1980’s a movement was afoot to address the rising trend of child abuse and neglect. Dr. Helfer, from Kansas, saw trust funds used to care for our nation’s highways and wildlife and thought, “Why not our nation’s children … our most precious resource?” His idea was the catalyst for the formation of children’s trusts across the nation. The first Children’s Trust Fund was created in 1980 in Kansas.
In 1988, Alaska established the Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) with the goal of preventing child abuse and neglect throughout the state. Unfortunately, ACT existed in writing only until 1996 when the Trust received its first legislative appropriation for $6 million with the help of Governor Tony Knowles, Alaska legislature and community leaders across the state. As ACT was being formed under the state umbrella, a group of community leaders created ACT’s sister organization, the Friends of Alaska Children’s Trust (FACT). FACT’s mission was to increase awareness among Alaskans about the high rate of child abuse and neglect in our state and to raise funds to grow ACT’s endowment. With FACT’s support, ACT’s endowment totals more than $12 million today.
Despite a high level of investment of nearly $5 million to organizations across Alaska, ACT’s board of trustees and many stakeholders identified ACT’s level of ability to achieve their mission was limited within its current structure. With support of the Governor and legislators, ACT trustees and FACT board members formed a committee to negotiate ACT’s privatization. By 2012, the full Trust balance was transferred to The Alaska Community Foundation and FACT and ACT merged to become one organization - Alaska Children’s Trust, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
With the privatization, ACT is poised to increase its impact on the safety of Alaska’s children. ACT has three key roles: (1) advocate, (2) convener, and (3) catalyst. As an advocate, ACT will work hard to ensure the spot light on child abuse and neglect remains strong and bright. ACT will strive to actively influence public policy within political, economic and social systems and institutions that help us build a state dedicated to ensuring the safety of Alaskan children.
Large scale social change requires a broad cross section of a community working collectively. No one organization or program will reverse the rising trend alone. Greater progress can be made if nonprofits, governments, businesses, and the public are brought together around a common agenda to create a collective impact. As a convener, ACT will foster these relationships across the state and within specific communities that result in forward momentum.
Alaska Children’s Trust believes change is the only thing that can bring about progress. If we really want better health outcomes, then we must apply not only the science of early childhood and early brain development to a broader range of policies and program, we must be willing to take risks and try new strategies. It has taken us decades to reach these staggering numbers of Alaskan children who are abused or neglected. We recognize without new and innovative ideas, we will continue to see our numbers rise. As a catalyst, ACT will challenge current values, methodology and ideas in fighting an epidemic that has plagued Alaska for decades.