In 2019, Colorado was awarded a Regional Partnership Grant by the Children’s Bureau aimed at improving the well-being, permanency and safety outcomes of children and the recovery outcomes for parents whose children are in or at risk of out-of-home placement associated with a parent or caregiver’s substance use. Since that time Colorado partners have been collaborating through this opportunity to build protective factors within families by expanding Circle of Parents® in Colorado. The intended result of this Circle of Parents Expansion project (COPE) is to move this national evidence-informed model to an evidence-based model eligible for federal reimbursement through IV-E Clearinghouse for the Family First Prevention Services Act. 

COPE partners are looking for six additional counties to pilot the COPE Project in their communities. Interested counties would be required to engage with their Best Practice Court Teams to launch the project and to begin implementing the DANSR approach and to participate in the grant-mandated evaluation. This is a grant-funded expansion, so there is no cost to participate. 

Circle of Parents groups provide a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers. Groups come together based on their location and shared experiences, like parenting while in recovery from a substance use disorder, to openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children, free from judgment. Illuminate Colorado, a statewide nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, has been focused on growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado for the last several years as the Colorado Chapter for this national evidence informed model. Illuminate Colorado offers training, ongoing support and promotion to the 43 Circle groups meeting mostly online right now and plans to grow to nearly 60 Circle groups throughout Colorado by the end of 2021, many of which will be involved in COPE. 

Local courts and county-level departments of human services, the Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office, the Office of the Respondent Parents’ Counsel, the CDHS Division of Child Welfare and Office of Behavioral Health and Illuminate Colorado are collaborating through COPE to encourage and support the incorporation of peer support groups into the innovative Dependency and Neglect System Reform (DANSR) approach that is already successfully utilized across various Colorado counties to better manage cases with substance use concerns. While this project is currently focused on courts and communities who implement or are interested in applying the DANSR approach, however this may change and expand to other communities in the future. 

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1 out of every 8 children in the U.S. lives with at least one parent dependent on alcohol or in need of treatment for substance use disorder. According to 2014-2018 Trails data from the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), 13,325 children in Colorado were removed from their homes due to parental drug and/or alcohol abuse. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Research has shown that parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child maltreatment. When parents don’t feel like they are part of a community and, in turn, feel isolated and unsupported, it should be a concern for all those looking to prevent child maltreatment and address substance use. The well-documented solution to addressing both issues lies in building social connections.

The COPE project is designed to identify and provide services for parents impacted by substance use issues by addressing systemic processes in the court system using the DANSR approach to managing cases and through the enhancement of the recovery ecosystem for parents using  Circle of Parents. The evaluation of COPE has been designed to minimize the time and resource requirements of participating counties and their staff. 2M Research and the Kempe Center serves as the evaluation team for the project to provide a true randomized control trial design.  

To learn more about DANSR and the COPE Project, contact Megan Kearsley, CIP Coordinator and COPE Project Director, State Court Administrator’s Office at megan.kearsley@judicial.state.co.us. 

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