AZ Giving & Leading: Florence Crittenton of Arizona

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Founded in 1896, Florence Crittenton is Arizona’s oldest social services agency. Florence Crittenton provides shelter, counseling, social support and education to nearly 1,200 girls and their families. The young women and girls served by Florence Crittenton have suffered from poverty, abuse, neglect, crime and homelessness. Florence Crittenton CEO Dr. Kellie Warren will discuss her agency’s programs.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leading looks at a social service organization founded more than 100 years ago, the Arizona chapter of Florence Crittenton helps girls and women recovering from unbelievable number of life challenges. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: What is Florence Crittenton of Arizona?

Kellie Warren: Florence Crittenton was established 118 years ago as one of our social service agencies. The founder, Charles Crittenton, after he lost his daughter to a childhood disease went around the country opening Florence Crittenton type agencies in her honor. Really looking at empowering and supporting women so those lost and fallen women of the world, these agencies were to help them recover and support them, more specifically to Arizona for unwed mothers. The Crittenton Agency, it provided a lot of services for those types.

Ted Simons: It sounds like unwed mothers was the initial focus. The mission seems to have changed because the world has changed quite a bit.

Kellie Warren: We're about safety, hope and opportunity, providing that to every girl whose life we touch. We keep a pulse on what the community needs and align our services appropriately.

Ted Simons: Talk about the ever changing needs.

Kellie Warren: Today we have a lot of girls who have suffered abuse, neglect, are in need of substance abuse, mental health services. There are teen pregnancies going on and girls that need safe and shelter for their child and appropriate programs so they can work on self-sufficiency, life skills, education is vital. So whatever girls need today we try to be responsive to that.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask regarding how many women and girls are served annually, and a that number changed? Obviously it's increased. The state has increased. In terms of reporting and being able to understand that Florence Crittenton is there, I would imagine that would be an uptick in numbers as well.

Kellie Warren: My job is to get the word out. We service around 1,200 young people in anyone given year. We have more capacity. We want to make sure people understand that we are about the support and empowerment of girls and women and their children, and we want to make sure that people understand that there are services out there.

Ted Simons: Talk about some of the services, everything from counseling and medical to education.

Kellie Warren: Right. We have a therapeutic group home on campus where we have about 40 girls living from 90 to 120 days on average. The girls are between the ages of 10 to 18, so they come in to receive a holistic care of services including individual, therapy group and family therapy, education, medical needs are met. We provide a safe environment and we try to set up treatment plans based on their needs.

Ted Simons: The girls leadership academy of Arizona. What is that?

Kellie Warren: It's our school. It's the first single gender public school that focuses on college preparation. We offer rigorous curriculum and try to empower girls to achieve careers in math, science, engineering, and some of those careers that are not always presented to girls.

Ted Simons: Sounds like everything to a certain degree involves transitional living. Going from this to that.

Kellie Warren: Right. We also have a transitional living program where individuals 17 and ½ to 21 have the opportunity to reside in our apartment or duplex with their children. A lot of these girls are transitioning out of foster care and may not have a family to go to. Some could be on their way to becoming homeless and we're trying to disrupt that and provide a safe, affordable housing. While in our program they really work on life skills, self-sufficiency and parenting skills if they have children. We're also in the community I wanted to add that. We actually go into homes, institutions, other group homes where kids might reside and provide life skills, self-sufficiency as well.

Ted Simons: I know you had a major fund-raiser, a luncheon, Teaming Up for Girls. Elizabeth Smart the keynote speaker.

Kellie Warren: She was awesome. I think her message provided hope and inspiration not only to our girls who attended but to the audience as a whole. She was an example of someone who had overcome a tragic situation and used that to empower others to go beyond tragic situations and to achieve whatever they think their purpose is.

Ted Simons: Was resilience a message here? It seems as well you don't want to say, oh, accept it and move on, but at some point you do have to move on.

Kellie Warren: One key thing I think she said that resonated with our girls was don't allow the people who have hurt you to have that much power over your life. The best way that you can get those individuals back is to achieve, walk with your head up. Go on with life. Smile a little. So I think the message for the girls was despite what you've been through, you still have a promising future. You still have purpose in life. Brush it off. Get up and move forward. I think Florence Crittenton attempts to send that message but it's nothing like having someone as an example that really looks like the girls sharing that same message.

Ted Simons: What kind of response did you get after her address?

Kellie Warren: Oh, it was amazing. What I really appreciated was that she spent time with the girls before she went on the stage. So the girls were in the Green room and she came in. She allowed them to ask any questions that they might have. Girls wanted to know specifically what happened and how is she surviving and what did the perpetrator do. They had those kinds of questions. Elizabeth was brave enough to be honest about her experience and share it with them. I think that was the most remarkable part of her visit here.

Ted Simons: That sounds like -- what's next on the agenda?

Kellie Warren: I want more girls to know about our opportunities. I want more volunteers to come and support us. We have great volunteers. We have probably 700 on record, 250 to 300 that help every year. But we have a great cause. We're not able to do it alone so we need community partnerships and we need the world to spread the word that there is an agency that helps girls, that empowers and supports girls and helps them achieve their full potential.

Ted Simons: As far as challenges, I know getting the word out, getting folks involved, are there other challenges? Are there things you wake up and go, that's going to be a tough one. We have to move in that direction now.

Kellie Warren: I think the girls come with a complexity of needs. We want to provide them the best services in a holistic array of services if you will. With that comes cost. We're not able to meet our budget based on the funding that we receive. So we really need the support of the community to help deliver those services so we can remove girls from those frightening situations and help them move on to reach their full potential.

Ted Simons: Did you see funding concerns escalate during the recession?

Kellie Warren: Most definitely. The need is still there. It's our responsibility as a community to take care of the girls and their children. We don't want funding issues or the economy to stop the great work. I think Florence Crittenton has lasted this long because the community has partnered with us to achieve our full potential.

Ted Simons: Last question, very quickly, working as you do, CEO of Florence Crittenton, has to be a good feeling.

Kellie Warren: I absolutely love It. I go in every day, when I have stressful times I walk the grounds and the girls, the glimmer in their eyes helps me past it.

Ted Simons: Great job, continued success.

Kellie Warren: Thanks for having me.

Dr. Kellie Warren:CEO, Florence Crittenton of Arizona;

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