Candelen’s Call to Adventure

July 6, 2021  |  Published by


Summer vacation leads to frequent requests for "movie nights" from the kids and we obliged this week's request by watching Star Wars Episode 4, A New Hope for the millionth time. Although we know the lines by heart and giggle at the groovy 70s hairstyles, my husband and I do enjoy the spot on parallels to Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Hi, Luke Skywalker!

As I sit here, mere hours after announcing our new name and brand identity, it strikes me that Candelen is embarking upon its own heroic journey. More accurately, its next heroic journey!

In our history, we've had a few leading these Calls to Adventure.

Our founder, Charlotte Hughes. The OG. Our Luke Skywalker.

Our longest serving Executive Director, Susan Jacobs. Our General Leia.

Over the last 45 years of existence, there were many Calls to Adventure on behalf of working families and children. In those Calls, there were lots of fits and starts, trials and failures. Many mentors and revelations. New skills. A few painful deaths and rebirths. Changes, so very many changes. Gifts, treasured gifts. And transformed worlds for kids, parents, and caregivers.

the hero's journey chart

We've had many trusted allies, our Yodas and Obi Wan Kenobis, that have helped us navigate the journey for whom we are eternally grateful and on whom we will rely as we heed our next Call(s) to Adventure.

I'd like to think I'm some Han Solo/Rey blended sort of character, snarky, full of solid one-liners, wise, stubborn, pulled into fighting for all the right things. Alas, I'll leave it to those that write the next chapter to classify me (with a final plea - not Jar Jar Binks, please!!!).

We will continue to support all efforts to improve quality in licensed childcare, partnering with state agencies to do and evolve that work. As the largest provider of professional development, training, and coaching services for child care centers and teachers in Arizona, we are committed to ensuring that we are raising the bar for quality licensed settings. It is a cornerstone of our past, present, and future.

But our primary Call to Adventure is focused squarely on the largest form of child care in the United States - family, friend, and neighbor care. Informal care, often unpaid, done as a favor. Many of us use this type of care when our children are infants - birth to three - that time in the life of a baby when 1 million neural connections are being made every second. We choose this kind of care because we want our babies nurtured, held, and loved so that the foundation of future success is laid out firmly.

colorful brain - candelen's call to adventure

However, others choose this care because they have few other choices. Cost of care. Schedules. Patchwork care because of multiple shifts being worked or part-time care. Whatever the reason kids find themselves in FFN care, we will do our part to support parent choice and ensure that all kids can have a bright start.

Our flagship program, The Arizona Kith & Kin Project, serves lower income, at-risk, often invisible family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers. For over 20 years, we have refined this work to equip caregivers with what they need to understand the fundamentals of child care, brain development, and safety and injury prevention, as well as develop supportive community networks.

The Call is to do MORE! We need to engage the parents who are using this care. We need to ensure the kids are getting all that they need. And we need to gather data and research to inform policymakers on how best to invest in supporting this care in order for us to have any real shot at moving the needle for kids.

Candelen is being Called to a number of Adventures at this moment.

Behavioral health supports and services for caregivers. For parents. For kids. We want to provide behavioral health support, regardless of their ability to pay, to parents and caregivers to build healthier environments for children to learn, grow, and thrive. We want to provide supports to children so that they can enter school ready to learn.

Prenatal supports and services. We want to ensure that each expectant mother has the supports and information she needs to set her child up for success, as well as create a pipeline of ongoing supports once that little bundle of joy inhales his/her/their first breath of fresh air outside the warmth of mama's womb.

Special needs supports and services. A great many children across the state in lower income families do not have the resources or the access to supports for their special needs children. We want to provide these supports and services so that every uniquely abled kid can shine their brightest.

National FNN Research & Public Policy Center. As the organization with one of the oldest and largest FFN programs, we want to coalesce all data and research and evaluate the conclusions. We want to conduct additional research to sate our radical curiosity about the ever-changing needs, wants, and gaps of FFN providers, families, and children, and frame public policy conversation about how best to support these communities.

In all of these Calls to Adventures we will be crossing the threshold into the unknown and will surely be met with lots of hiccups, testing of assumptions, falling down, and getting back up again. And we know that we will be able to do it in spite of the ogres in our heads, and because of you - our allies - working together to help every kid achieve the brightest outlook possible.

May the Force Be With You.

Nicole Newhouse
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