Say It Louder For the People In the Back

Say It Louder For the People In the Back

Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to stand up and speak out, but too often it feels like we are preaching to the choir. Now is the time to say it louder for the people in the back. You need only to look at the media coverage associated with the words “child abuse or “child welfare” to see the need for greater awareness for prevention. There are few solutions included in those stories beyond monitoring whether reports are up or down.

And while connecting a child and their family to support through human services is life-saving, there is more than one narrative in this story. Ask yourself, how often are programs available to all children and families recognized for what they are – critical solutions to this heartbreaking problem? If you asked your neighbor what those solutions were, could they tell you how to create positive childhood experiences in your community or what the protective factors are? If you see a pinwheel planted in their front yard, the answer is likely yes. 

That is why we coordinate this awareness effort in Colorado. And thankfully, it is not uncommon for organizations and people dedicating their careers to serving children and families involved in the child welfare system and helping survivors heal to advocate for what is needed to address issues leading to children and families floating downstream. Now is the time to double our efforts to not only advocate for adequate intervention, but also work to put ourselves out of business.

Our collective effort to scream the solutions and whisper the problem begins this Thursday, National Wear Blue Day. Hopefully, by the end of the month, with 40,000 pinwheels planted in front yards and neighborhoods throughout the state, more people will know how to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy. And next year, the choir grows. 

Pinwheels for Prevention® Giveaway!

Illuminate Colorado is giving away 40,000 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire ​Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

Enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest!

Enter a photo for a chance to win a grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit serving children and families! Photos with the most votes on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 1:00 pm (MTN) win the opportunity to select a Colorado nonprofit serving children and families to receive the following prizes:
1st Prize – $1000 mini grant
2nd Prize –  $300 mini grant
3rd Prize – $200 mini grant


Use Pinwheels for Prevention®

  • Give the pinwheels as a gift to another family to let them know you care

  • Display them in the background of your virtual meetings
  • Share pictures on social media #GrowingBetterTogether to promote positive childhood experiences

Ways to Get Involved

Follow #GrowingBetterTogether to Connect to the Movement in Your Community

Tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to Let Us Know You are Committed to #GrowingBetterTogether



Subscribe to Illuminate Colorado’s blog to find out about more activities planned for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Illuminate Colorado Takes On New Role Supporting Home Visiting in Colorado

Illuminate Colorado Takes On New Role Supporting Home Visiting in Colorado


Denver, CO (March 23, 2021) – Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) announced the organization has become the state office for Healthy Families America (HFA), Prevent Child Abuse America’s (PCA America) signature home visiting program and one of the leading family support and evidence-based home visiting programs in the United States. 

This expansion of Illuminate programs and services strengthening families, organizations and communities in Colorado means the organization will coordinate communication with HFA sites within the state, serve as a conduit of communication to the national office and provide a voice in Colorado for HFA, while advocating for a continuum of home visiting services in Colorado.

A wide range of studies show that when parents participate in HFA, children are healthier, experience fewer adverse childhood events and demonstrate long-term improvements in school performance.

Dr. Melissa Merrick

President and Chief Executive Officer, Prevent Child Abuse America

“Our organization has a strong history of partnering on national, state and local levels to promote the benefits of home visiting in Colorado. We know that early, nurturing relationships are the foundation for healthy development and essential for children to reach their full potential. As the Colorado Chapter of PCA America, we are excited to take on this new role supporting the local HFA sites here in Colorado,” said Jade Woodard executive director for Illuminate. “Home visiting programs should be a critical component of every community’s plan to prevent child maltreatment. Places where everyone recognizes our shared obligation to help parents be the parents they want to be are societies where children and families thrive,” continued Woodard. 

HFA is a two-generation home visiting model proven to demonstrate powerful outcomes for children, parents and communities. The home visiting model has the highest rating of “well-supported” by Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse, giving states and county human service agencies the ability to pay for HFA services with federal resources made available through the Family First Prevention Services Act

“A wide range of studies show that when parents participate in HFA, children are healthier, experience fewer adverse childhood events and demonstrate long-term improvements in school performance,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and chief executive officer of PCA America, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing child trauma. “Additionally, we see an increase in family functioning and self-sufficiency, as well as broad health and fiscal benefits—these are among the many positive impacts HFA has on communities, and we’re proud to be partnering with Illuminate Colorado to extend home visiting across the state.”

Studies of HFA show parents experience dramatic gains in education, leading to increased family income and tax revenues for the community. Children in families involved in HFA score higher on tests measuring cognitive development and improve academic performance. Healthier birth rates, lower complications, and reductions in child neglect and abuse are also correlated with participation in HFA, with rigorous studies showing a 70% reduction in pregnancy complications and 48% fewer cases of low-weight births. 

Much is being done right now to ultimately ensure home visiting is available to families in all Colorado communities. The Early Childhood Leadership Commission Home Visitation Investment Task Force is working to develop a strategy to scale a home visiting continuum in Colorado. In addition to serving on this task force, Illuminate is proud to support and collaborate through multiple coalitions working to strengthen and advance effective home visiting services across Colorado and prevent infant and maternal mortality. 

There are two community-based organizations currently using the HFA home visiting model in Colorado; Early Childhood Partners Healthy Families Vail Valley (Healthy Families Vail Valley) program serves families in the Eagle River Valley and the Family Visitor Program Healthy Families Aspen to Parachute program (Family Visitor Programs) serves families in that Colorado region. 

“Since Family Visitor Programs brought the Healthy Families America model to Colorado in 2011, we have anticipated the day HFA could be represented by a state office,” said Sandy Swanson, executive director Family Visitor Programs. “Illuminate’s willingness to take on this role will strengthen and expand the model by making it available to all communities in Colorado.” 

“Healthy Families Vail Valley is thrilled to see the HFA model strengthened in Colorado with the development of Illuminate Colorado as our state intermediary, ” said Megan McGee Bonta, manager, of the Healthy Families Vail Valley program. “It will help build a stronger network to serve and build resilience in Colorado families and children and we look forward to continuing to partner with the organization and the incredible work they are doing!”

Related Topics

Home Visiting in Colorado – 

Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or concrete supports. Home visitors help parents bring out the best in themselves by tapping into the skills they already possess. Home visiting programs are proven to have positive impacts on children, families and communities.

Contact Us

Learn more about Health Families America in Colorado

RELEASE: One in Five Colorado Parents Say They Have No One to Turn to For Support

RELEASE: One in Five Colorado Parents Say They Have No One to Turn to For Support

 Newest Circle of Parents Group Offers a Way for Military Fathers to Safely Support Each Other

Denver, CO — Having a network of people to turn to when parenting gets stressful is critical to the well-being of children and families, as well as the economic health of Colorado. According to Illuminate Colorado, surveys among parents in Colorado prior to the pandemic highlighted the critical need to increase social connections among people parenting in Colorado. While 50% of Colorado parents think other parents ask for help with parenting, the reality is that only one in five parents in Colorado reported asking for support with parenting and one in five said they have no one to turn to for day to day emotional support with raising children.

“These results raised red flags dating all the way back to 2016, long before the pandemic impacted Coloradans’ lives in so many ways. We know that things didn’t get easier for anyone parenting over the last several months. That is why we are working with parents, schools, libraries, government and community-based organizations and businesses to do more to help parents build their network of support right now,” said Jade Woodard executive director of Illuminate Colorado.

Illuminate Colorado is a statewide nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment by growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado. This national, evidence informed model provides a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers. Circle groups give anyone in a parenting role a place to openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children, free from judgement.

People raising children of all ages can find statewide and local circles of parents connecting at Groups have come together based on their location as well as shared experiences, like military service, parenting while in recovery from a substance use disorder and parenting a child with special needs. Others simply want to connect with people in a similar parenting role, like the kinship, grandparenting and fatherhood Circle groups.  

The newest circle to form is led by two military veteran fathers who recognized a void in their community for fathers attempting to figure out how to jump back into parenthood while working to overcome other struggles that often accompany serving abroad. Their group known as Fathers of Freedom will meet online every Tuesday via Zoom beginning November 17th from 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm.

“The biggest reason I started this group was because being a stay at home father who is a combat veteran and has battled a lot of things over the years, at times have begun to feel isolated and withdrawn from the rest of society,” said Adrian Nunez, one of the founding members of the Circle of Parents group Fathers of Freedom, pictured with his two children. “I wanted to create a safe place for other Veteran fathers to meet up, encourage and support each other through the thick and thin of life to really step out of our comfort zones to grow.”

“Parents drive the conversations. We are just building the space to connect. We know that parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. All parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or support. That is why we want to grow Circle of Parents groups all over Colorado,” said Woodard.

Illuminate Colorado offers training, ongoing support and promotion to the 43 Circle groups meeting mostly online right now. There are plans in place to grow to nearly 60 Circle groups throughout Colorado by the end of 2021.

For more information or to speak with parents and caregivers connected through Circle of Parents in Colorado or a prevention expert, please contact Katie Facchinello at 303-246-2062 and

Circle of Parents® support groups offer a safe, friendly, confidential, non- judgmental, supportive environment to share with and learn from other parents. It’s a place where anyone in a parenting role can openly celebrate success, address challenges, find information and resources to support raising children.

If We Only Focus On The Negative, We Are Missing Half The Story

If We Only Focus On The Negative, We Are Missing Half The Story


More than one thousand professionals from the family support continuum, from prevention and public health through restoration and child welfare gathered for the 2020 Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference. And just as we would want for all Colorado families, the conference got off to a strong start with a keynote presentation from Dr. Angela Narayan, an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver. Narayan directs the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University examining the intergenerational transmission of risk and resilience from parents to children, with a particular focus on the perinatal period as a window of opportunity to buffer the transmission of trauma and promote resilience in both mothers and fathers, and their children. 


While Dr. Narayan’s talk reviewed her important research and findings, it was not meant to be technical, but instead advocated for practical uses of the findings to date on the importance of Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) as a Counterpoint to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in community mental health, pediatric and primary care screening and home visiting programs. After accounting for demographics and ACEs, this research has shown higher levels of BCEs significantly predict lower levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms. This research also found that when someone experienced ACEs and not BCEs, there was evidence of aggressive behavior, alcohol abuse and substance use. 

There is a decade of research demonstrating the impacts of ACEs, like experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect, witnessing violence in the home or community or having a family member attempt or die by suicide.  These traumatic events during childhood are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities.(1) Having studied ACEs for many years, Narayan said she “always felt like we are missing half the story by not also assessing positive childhood experiences.” This BCEs research highlights “the pregnancy period as an opportune window to help buffer the transmission of trauma in families who are at risk for various types of adversity”, said Narayan. Narayan’s presentation highlighted ways the findings from research of the use of a BCEs Screening Tool can be leveraged to build resilience in children and families’ lives.  

The tool, developed in part by Narayan, features ten simple questions found to be culturally sensitive and applicable across a variety of demographic and socioeconomic audiences. If people working with children and families begin to incorporate the FREE BCEs screening tool, there is great potential to prevent child maltreatment and future chronic health problems, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood, found to be present in the lives of adults who experienced a high number of adverse childhood experiences. 

“Obviously, we can’t change the experiences that adults had in their childhoods, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask about them, leverage them, bring them to the forefront as much as possible in order to help families in future generations.” Narayan bases much of her work on the perspective that “positive and negative experiences lay the foundation, but experiences that accumulate throughout someone’s life also continue to be very influential in terms of predicting the pathways that they are on and where they might deviate.” 

An example of practical implications for practitioners and clinicians given by Narayan was to leverage what BCEs have been identified as common. The positive experiences in childhood not in bold below are present for most people, so, if someone answers no, that can be an indicator of risk. On the flip side, four out of five people indicated that they did not have the experiences in bold. These things are less common, but are important because higher levels of BCEs impact adulthood. Narayan encourages practitioners and clinicians alike to ask themselves how we can specifically encourage these less common experiences in families to build resilience in future generations. 

When you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:

  1. Did you have at least one caregiver with whom you felt safe?
  2. Did you have at least one good friend? 
  3. Did you have beliefs that gave you comfort?
  4. Did you like school?
  5. Did you have at least one teacher who cared about you?
  6. Did you have good neighbors?
  7. Was there an adult (not a parent/caregiver or the person from #1) who could provide you with support or advice?
  8. Did you have opportunities to have a good time?
  9. Did you like yourself or feel comfortable with yourself?
  10. Did you have a predictable home routine, like regular meals and a regular bedtime? (2)

While this tool was developed for professionals, there is certainly no harm in asking yourself these ten simple questions from the BCEs Screening Tool to reflect upon your childhood or the childhood of the children in your life. Ask yourself, can you create more Benevolent Childhood Experiences? 

All presentations at the Strengthening Families and Colorado Communities, and materials presented including the BCEs Screening Tool in English and Spanish will be available through the end of October 2020 on the conference website for attendees. Be sure to subscribe to the Illuminate Colorado Blog to be among the first to know when the 2022 conference date is announced. Hopefully, we will be able to convene the conference in person. 

(1) CDC

(2) Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) Scale, © Narayan, Rivera, Ghosh Ippen, & Lieberman, 2015© 

Colorado creates a Stay At Home CO Guide – Find resources and ideas to get through this together!

Colorado creates a Stay At Home CO Guide – Find resources and ideas to get through this together!

This week, Colorado created a Stay At Home CO Guide full of free resources, support and activities to help you, your family, and your loved ones during this time.

While we are on a statewide Stay at Home Order and as we continue to practice physical distancing, social support has never been more important to families because isolation and economic stress increase risks for child maltreatment and family violence. 


We also know that families are trying to meet their basic needs right now. This is the best tool we have right now to increase concrete supports in times of need – one of the five ways we can strengthen families and prevent child abuse. Whether you are looking for help with rent control, understanding the stay at home order, or healthcare coverage, you can begin here.

The website is regularly updated and also includes many hotlines to report concerns and access support, including the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, Colorado Crisis Line and Domestic Violence hotline, as well as wellness, education and entertainment activities for families.

Submit suggestions of free resources that are helping Coloradans stay at home and keep families strong. 

It is up to ALL of US to promote the positive and strengthen families.

Right now, it is critical that all families have equal access to help getting through this time. Everyone deserves a chance to thrive, and each of us can play a role in helping families that are struggling, especially now.

Share tips, resources and stories about programs that have helped you get through tough times. Hearing stories and recommendations from other parents who have accessed support has an incredibly impact on our communities.

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