New Advocacy Program Focuses on Elementary School Students

At a press conference Tuesday at the Los Alamos Justice Center, JJAB representatives and local caseworkers announced the new Family Resource Advocate Program. Back row from left, JJAB Chair Judge Alan Kirk and JJAB Coordinator Ellen Ben-Naim and front row from left, JJAB Coordinator Sharon Marinuzzi and caseworkers Sarah Hagar and Amy Canzona. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

The Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board announced a new program Tuesday, designed to help elementary school-age children at risk. The Family Resource Advocate Program will work with families to access the resources they need to solve problems that are affecting their children.

Modeled on the current Youth Resource Advocate program under which Youth Advocate Troy Palmer assists teens and their families, the goal of the new program is early intervention, JJAB Chair Judge Alan Kirk said. Palmer has a caseload of 40-50 youth and their families.

The program is funded through a grant of around $50,000 from the state, which is matched by Los Alamos County to get the program going. The funding will support two caseworkers, Amy Canzona and Sarah Hager in part-time positions, with one position going full-time in July. The caseworkers will work with families to locate and obtain the services they need.

“Case management is a cost effective way to meet needs before a crisis situation develops,” JJAB Coordinator Ellen Ben-Naim said.

Services might include anything from helping a family with affordable housing and groceries to accessing counselling and therapy services, Hager said. Caseworkers also provide families with a shoulder to lean on as they cope with difficult problems, she said.

“We want to be in high gear when school starts in the fall,” Ben-Naim said.

The caseworkers will spend the first three months of the program identifying services and building relationships with local service providers.

“We’ll work with families to help them move forward,” Hager said. “We’ll identify gaps in services and add them as we go along.”

“Once families are connected with services, we’ll be checking in with them to see how things are going and make any changes that are needed,” Canzona said.

Los Alamos School Superintendent Gene Schmidt said he is excited about working with JJAB on this program.

“For us, it’s about helping families as soon as possible,” Schmidt said.

School staff will help identify families who might benefit from the program, he said.

“JJAB has now taken us from elementary to high school to young adults, with help available at every step. These programs will help us to achieve the 100 percent graduation rate our community expects,” Schmidt said.

Families also are invited to self refer to the program. To self refer or learn more, contact Sarah Hager at 505.412.9366 or, or Amy Canzona at 505.709.0668 or

Canzona grew up in Los Alamos. She holds a Master of Arts in School Counseling and Agency Counseling and a Master of Arts in Special Education, as well as a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy.

Hager came to Los Alamos from upstate New York last year. She holds a Master of Science in School Counseling and Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

“All families have strengths and weaknesses,” Ben-Naim said. “This program will help families to build on their strengths.”

To learn more about this and other JJAB programs, visit

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