Hero’s Health Grant from CHC: Creating Healthier Communities Supports Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs

Hero’s Health Grant from CHC: Creating Healthier Communities Supports Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs

Today Creating Healthier Communities (CHC) announced Illuminate Colorado as one of four awardees of its Hero’s Health grant. The $10,000 grants, awarded to CHC nonprofit partners committed to serving active and retired military communities through program and service delivery that is focused on mental health or housing insecurity, will be used to create meaningful impact for America’s heroes and their families. The funding that Illuminate has been awarded will support Fathers of Freedom, one of 44 Circle of Parents groups meeting throughout Colorado. 

“CHC is pleased to support Illuminate Colorado’s efforts to improve the quality of life for our nation’s active military and veterans,” said Stacie Dennis, director of nonprofit engagement at CHC: Creating Healthier Communities. “Illuminate goes above and beyond for our armed forces population in this country and the Hero’s Health grant is just one way that CHC is investing in vital programs and services that make life better for our communities.”

Built around the foundations of mutual self-help, parent leadership, family support and increasing all five Protective Factors in families, Circle of Parents® groups strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. Groups are parent-led and parent-driven and thus there is no curriculum – just a safe place for parents to share with each other and seek support and advice. Circles provide a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers, where parents are the experts.  It’s a place where anyone in a parenting role can openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children.  It’s a place where they can find and share support.

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. All parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or support. To help parents find that support in their lives, Illuminate Colorado is focused on growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado. 

“Illuminate Colorado is proud to serve as a nonprofit partner with CHC and delighted to receive a Hero’s Health grant as an award in recognition of our dedicated work of creating healthier communities for America’s military population, said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate. “Our military veterans often need to recuperate from both apparent and invisible wounds after sacrificing and serving our country, so after they fight for us, we work attentively to support them. We are proud to support and empower these two military fathers in making such an extraordinary difference in their community; and thankful for their leadership which ensures that any veteran father in the Colorado Springs area can get together for dinner every Thursday at 5:00 pm.” 

When asked what their hopes are for 2022 with support from this generous gift, the Fathers of Freedom Circle of Parent facilitators shared:   

Personally, what I look most forward to about 2022 within our fathers groups is the opportunity to provide engaging activities for the families we serve, watching the confidence in our fathers grow and seeing the excitement in their children ignite. It’s important for us all to have support systems and feel connected, but that sentiment is much more pronounced with combat veterans, where the name of the game tends to be “isolation. We strive to provide a safe place where veterans can come to meet other fathers and speak openly about the struggles they may be facing internally  that could be putting a strain on their family life and their parenting. We want to give them the support and resources to help heal so they can be the best role-models for their children that they can be. And sometimes, that just comes down to listening.

Adam Combs

What I hope for in 2022 is that we are able to reach more fathers in our community and continue to bring them together with their families while providing healthy family events and support! I truly believe that when our military and veteran fathers are healing, their families are healing as well. We need each other just as we did in the military!

Adrian Nunez

CHC: Creating Healthier Communities, formerly Community Health Charities, is a catalyst for good health, bringing communities, nonprofits, and businesses together around a shared commitment to better health and wellbeing. The organization represents thousands of high-impact nonprofits nationwide, working to address barriers to good health and connecting them with capital from corporate, foundation and government partners to power transformative change. By listening to partners and convening community and business leaders, CHC aims to act in the best interests of communities, directing resources and expertise where it is needed most. For more information, visit chcimpact.org or @chcimpact.  Find more information and how to support CHC’s Hero’s Health cause here

 

Community Leadership Award Presentation & Fireside Chat with Adrian Nuñez and Adam Combs

Each year, Illuminate Colorado honors the contributions of exceptional individuals and organizations who have furthered our collective mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment.

WATCH THE VIDEO 
Illuminate Colorado Executive Director Jade Woodard talks with Community Leadership Award recipients and veterans, Adrian Nuñez and Adam Combs, about the work they are doing with Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs.

November 11 @ 5:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Virtual Event

 

RSVP TO ENTER THE LIGHT THE WAY GIVEAWAY

New Research Provides Insight and Recommendations for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

New Research Provides Insight and Recommendations for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Denver (Nov. 10, 2021) – New research from Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado and presents recommendations for preventing abuse statewide. The study also highlights known solutions to the problem of child sexual abuse for parents, professionals and policy makers alike. 

“We have a responsibility to help all children reach their full potential,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate. “Ultimately, building awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence with adults, who are supported by communities, systems and policies to create safe environments, leverages the best of the evidence and expertise available and can result in the prevention of child sexual abuse.”

As part of the study, Illuminate surveyed Coloradans attitudes, knowledge and behaviors related to the prevention of child sexual abuse, analyzed child welfare data in Colorado and estimated the financial impact associated with the problem. From January of 2014 through December 2020 alone, more than 7,400 children in Colorado were identified as having been sexually abused, with an estimated financial cost of $1.5 billion to support these children on their journey toward healing. 

The survey of Coloradan found several opportunities to prevent child sexual abuse through awareness efforts including a concerning lack of use of anatomically correct terms for body parts with children. This language used around children at the earliest of ages promotes positive body image, self-confidence and parent-child communication, all important factors to preventing child sexual abuse. The use of anatomically correct terms also discourages abusers and in the event of abuse, anatomically correct terms help children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process.

Some key findings:

  • Less than half of parents (47%) say they typically use anatomically correct terms 
    • When informed that using these terms is a way to prevent child sexual abuse, 71% of parents said they would consider using anatomical terms. 
    • It is particularly important to reach men aged 18-54 with this information given that less than half of men (42%) reported using the proper terms.

“We’ve repeatedly heard stories that affirm the need to have clear and thoughtful ongoing conversations with children, starting before they are even verbal. Sex offenders report that when children used the proper words for their private parts, it was a deterrent. They knew those kids were having open conversations with trusted adults,” said Margaret M. Ochoa, child sexual abuse prevention specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Safety and cochair of the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition.

  • Survey results showed that while nearly half of parents (49%) did not have “the talk” with their parents when they were growing up, 66% of parents plan to have ongoing conversations with their children about sex or puberty. 

“This is a positive indication that generational attitudes are shifting in a way that supports the prevention of child sexual abuse,” said Woodard. “ But we still have a long way to go. What this study does show is that awareness and recognition of how we prevent child sexual abuse makes a difference.”

Recommendations for creating a Colorado where children grow up free from sexual abuse also highlighted in the brief include: 

  1. Funding strategic multi-year public awareness campaigns reaching all Coloradans to shift the norms related to child sexual abuse prevention.
  2. Training adults on their collective responsibility to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.
  3. Expanding learning opportunities to support adults in building skills and confidence in approaching conversations about child sexual abuse prevention.
  4. Continuing to identify, engage in, and support policies and system improvements to prevent initial occurrence or reoccurrence of child sexual abuse.

Restoring Funding

Beginning in 2015, state General Fund resources had been addressing the need for adult education about child sexual abuse prevention through the The Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund. However, when tough budget choices needed to be made in 2020, the yearly $250,000 funding was cut. While Colorado has a brighter financial outlook than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, General Fund resources were not restored during the 2021 session despite being amended into the House version of the budget. Restoring general fund investments in the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund for successful child sexual abuse prevention programs allows the state to build from a place of strength and documented impact—ensuring Colorado children and families benefit from proven programming.

The Issue Brief “Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado.” was made possible, in large part, through the support of The Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund in the Office of Early Childhood at the Colorado Department of Human Services, and in collaboration with well informed by experts and advocates who make up the Coalition.

Background on the Research 

Child welfare data and trends in Colorado are examined in the brief. For the five years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children who were sexually abused had steadily risen in Colorado. From January 2014 through December 2020, more than 7,400 children in Colorado have been identified as sexual abuse victim/survivors. In 2020 alone, a year when reports of child maltreatment were dramatically down as a result of the pandemic, and subsequent quarantine and stay-at-home orders, over 1,000 substantiated reports  of child sexual abuse were made through the child welfare system in Colorado. Unfortunately, this does not account for all of the children who have not yet been identified. 

  • National research has shown that almost 73% of child victims don’t disclose their abuse to anyone for at least one year, 45% don’t tell anyone for almost five years, and many never disclose at all, making it difficult to confront the problem.  

The impact of trauma at a young age can last a lifetime, particularly without support and community programs to aid the process of healing. It is estimated that the average lifetime cost of sexual abuse per survivor is over $210,000. The brief estimates the financial price tag to support the Colorado children on their journey toward healing since 2014 at more than $1.5 billion.

Awareness & Social Norms

RECOMMENDATION 1: Fund strategic multi-year public awareness campaigns reaching all Coloradans to shift the norms related to child sexual abuse prevention by:

• Raising awareness among all adults of the need to model consent, healthy touch and safe, respectful ways to interact with children;
• Raising awareness among parents of the need to use anatomically correct terms with children; and
• Raising awareness among parents and caregivers of the positive norm of having ongoing conversations about healthy development.

Training & Practice

RECOMMENDATION 2: Train adults on their collective responsibility to promote healthy child development and prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse by:
• Promoting training to parents, caregivers, professionals and community members to become better equipped to promote healthy development and prevent, recognize, and respond to child sexual abuse;
• Institutionalizing training with early childhood professionals to deepen understanding of healthy childhood development to be inclusive of sexual development;
• Collaborating with various communities impacted by disproportionate rates of child sexual abuse and counties with higher combined six-year rates of child sexual abuse; and
• Increasing knowledge of parents, caregivers, professionals and community members to identify and address vulnerable situations and environments involving older youth or youth in a position of power.

Training & Practice

RECOMMENDATION 3: Expand learning opportunities to support adults in building skills and confidence in approaching conversations about child sexual abuse prevention by:
• Integrating the formation of language, scripting, and practice into training courses
when appropriate to include terms and phrases adults can use when having discussions with family, friends, neighbors, and community members on creating safe environments and
• Expanding access to opportunities for families, including training and resources, on
having conversations with children on healthy development and sexuality of power.

Policy & Systemic Recommendations

RECOMMENDATION 4: Continue to identify, engage in, and support policies and system improvements to prevent initial occurrence or reoccurence of child sexual abuse by:
• Supporting organizations that serve children and youth in identifying needed policy changes to prevent child sexual abuse;
• Building the five “Protective Factors” in and around all families;
• Expanding comprehensive sexual education in Colorado as an additional means to prevent child sexual abuse;
• Promoting coordinated and innovative research efforts to better understand the incidence and prevalence of child sexual abuse in Colorado; and
• Continuing the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition.

Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado, highlights efforts to prevent this trauma and presents recommendations to advance prevention statewide.

This publication was made possible, in large part, with the support of the Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fundin the Office of Early Childhood at the Colorado Department of Human Services, members of the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition and research conducted by Vitale & Associates, in partnership with WPA Intelligence.

 

During my 30 years serving children and families, I have developed a deep appreciation and understanding of community prevention efforts to reduce child abuse. Child sexual abuse is among the most egregious events that can happen to a child, and the report released today by Illuminate Colorado provides new insights into what we all can do to help prevent such tragedies. The Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman is appreciative of the information gathered by Illuminate and supports their recommendation of investing in strategies that can build strong community awareness around this issue.

Stephanie Villafuerte

Child Protection Ombudsman of Colorado

New Federal Safety Standard for Infant Sleep Products Help Make Smart Choices to Keep Kids Safe

New Federal Safety Standard for Infant Sleep Products Help Make Smart Choices to Keep Kids Safe

When you walk into any store to buy something for a new baby on the way, you assume that the products on the shelves are safe, but those who’ve spent some time learning about safe sleep recommendations and guidelines know that isn’t the case when it comes to infant sleep products. Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the approval of a new federal rule to ensure products marketed or intended for infant sleep will provide a safe sleep environment for babies under 5 months old. Beginning in mid-2022, any product intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet a federal safety standard—a requirement that does not exist today. 

The new mandatory standard will effectively eliminate potentially hazardous sleep products in the marketplace that do not currently meet a CPSC mandatory standard for infant sleep, such as inclined sleepers, travel and compact bassinets, and in-bed sleepers, which have been linked to dozens of infant deaths. Popular products formerly referred to as “inclined sleep products” include several styles that have been recalled over the years. In fact, just this week, Fisher-Price announced a recall of thousands of baby soothers, gliders after 4 infant deaths, including one baby from Colorado.  

“This change will be historic and save lives in Colorado,” said Kate Jankovsky, childhood adversity prevention manager with the Violence and Injury Prevention-Mental Health Promotion Branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and member of the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership. “This will make it easier for all consumers to buy, use and give infant sleep products as gifts. Today, many people are unknowingly buying products known to be unsafe for an infant to sleep.” 

The lack of regulation of infant sleep products and the abundance of unsafe sleep objects and devices manufactured and sold throughout the United States has frustrated advocates, health care professionals and parents who have lost children, alike, for years. Dr. Sunah S. Hwang, the Lula O. Lubchenco Chair in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Perinatal Health Services Research with the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Section of Neonatology, highlighted the need for action by the Commission in The Call to Translate Data Into Action to Prevent Infant Death published just last month. Stating “[a]lthough states such as Ohio, Maryland, and New York have banned
the sale of unsafe items such as crib bumpers, these soft bedding objects continue to be manufactured,
marketed, and sold. The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously in 2020 to proceed with developing a federal safety rule that would ban the sale of crib bumpers that limit airflow. We eagerly await
the results of the federal rulemaking process.” Hwang highlighted the fact that

of SUID cases categorized as “explained” or “unexplained–possible suffocation,” 74% of airway obstructions were due to soft bedding. In short, 1145 infants may have survived their first year of life had soft bedding not been used during their sleep.”

Later this year, the Commission expects to consider federal safety standards for crib bumpers and crib mattresses. CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long warned of the dangers of bed-sharing or co-sleeping. The new rule does not take any action against bed-sharing without sleep products. Instead, it shifts responsibility to manufacturers to assist parents who want to bed-share, by requiring them to produce only products that are safe to do so. The new rule also does not extend to items that are expressly not intended or marketed for infant sleep, such as swings and car seats.

 

As a reminder, the safest place for a baby to sleep is a flat, bare surface dedicated to the infant. The Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership is actively recruiting members interested in getting involved to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change and systems improvement. 

Colorado Elected Officials Show Support for Growing Better Together

Colorado Elected Officials Show Support for Growing Better Together

Efforts to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse began with a strong start today as thousands across the country joined together to wear blue in support of positive childhood experiences. Video messages from elected officials sharing their public support for building protective factors in our every day lives, as well as policy have also started to pour in. Many Colorado legislators joined the collective efforts throughout Colorado by helping to create the short PSA below to launch this month’s public awareness campaign “Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together”. Rep. Judy Amabile also shared a moving tribute on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives today, recorded below.

These are the legislators who’ve spoken out in support of the campaign so far:

Rep. Judy Amabile,
House District 13

Rep. Leslie Herod,
House District 08

Rep. Yadira Caraveo
House District 31

Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez
House District 04

Rep. Colin Larson
House District 22

Sen. Chris Hansen
Senate District 31

Sen. Don Coram
Senate District 06

Sen. Joann Ginal
Senate District 14

 

Sen. Brittany Pettersen
Senate District 22

Sen. Rhonda Fields 
Senate District 29

Look for additional messages from local county commissioners, city officials, as well as more Colorado legislators, with the hastag #GrowingBetterTogether​ as the month rolls on. 

As the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), Illuminate Colorado has already given away more than 30,000 free Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. The nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities is calling on an additional 10,000 Coloradans to claim their FREE pinwheels and plant them in their front yards and neighborhoods as part of a national movement to recognize the importance of community-based support for all children and families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, and all year-long.

“We can build healthier, safer and thriving communities if we take the same approach to raising families that we do to tending a community garden on a shared piece of land. Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado.

Throughout the month of April, Illuminate and other PCAA chapters, as well as local supporters in more than 150 cities in Colorado, are planting pinwheels and using this community garden metaphor to reinforce the message that “every day, we help positive childhood experiences take root.” Planting a pinwheel represents the bright childhoods we all want for children.

Illuminate Colorado was also proud to join the Colorado Department Governor Jared Polis and Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services for a virtual launch of Child Abuse Prevention Month featuring four Colorado families sharing stories of parental resilience while parenting in the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has added stressors for parents and caregivers, requiring them to adjust to new norms while staying strong in the face of stress. Families are building and maintaining positive relationships with people they can call on for help and need access to the resources they need in order to thrive,” said Barnes.

“Research shows that positive childhood experiences in nurturing environments provide fertile ground for physical and mental health, learning, and social skills,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “By preventing child abuse and neglect we aim to holistically improve the lives of all families and the communities they live in.”

The Coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed the world and prevention professionals are still working to understand the pandemic’s repercussions for incidents of child maltreatment to reduce adversity in childhood. The pandemic experience has had a consequential impact on an entire generation of children, sadly some more than others. Too many of our children have likely experienced at least one adverse childhood experience by now. Communities must nurture them going forward to heal.

The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings that necessitate new child care and homeschool arrangements, and food insecurity. The social connections and community services and activities that serve as protective factors against child abuse and neglect may not exist in this extraordinary time of physical distancing.

But few news reports since the COVID-19 pandemic began have focused on issues related to child abuse beyond the volume reports of child abuse, with an Associated Press analysis released this week highlighting a national total decrease of 18 percent in both total reports and investigations. Media coverage has overlooked the importance of protective factors that help buffer families from the negative consequences of exposure to risks, like isolation, unemployment, substance use and mental illness, by reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person parenting responds to the risk.

Families get overloaded with stress or risks and, like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors and community leaders know how to lighten the load by increasing the following protective factors, that is how tragedy can be avoided.

Having the Pinwheels Conversation 
Far too many people, parents and professionals alike,  don’t know how to prevent child abuse. Research has shown five Protective Factors have the power to prevent and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

“It is time to have a different conversation about helping families upstream. There is more than one narrative connected to child abuse prevention than whether or not reports are down or up, in fact there are at least five different stories to tell. If there is a child at home or in your neighborhood then every day, you have a responsibility to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy and we all have a responsibility to help you grow a better tomorrow,” continued Woodard.

When we increase these five protective factors for all families, we strengthen families, prevent child abuse and build brighter childhoods.

So this April, during child abuse prevention month, the hope is at least 10,000 more people will plant a pinwheel.  And, 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.

 

 

Growing A Better Tomorrow, Together

Communities have a BIG influence in families’ lives. ​Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities.​

Every day, you can plant seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy. 

Visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org to get involved, enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest and learn more about how to strengthen your family and the families in your community.  

Illuminate recommends the following ways that people everywhere can dig in and help raise awareness and impact virtually during child abuse month:

  • Enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest. Submit a pinwheels 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 grants of $1,000, $300 and $200. See the campaign website for official rules.
  • Join a FREE two-hour interactive virtual introductory course to learn how to “bring the protective factors to life” at home, work and in your community. Offered April 19, from 10:00 am  12:00 pm and April 21 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Get inspired to move from knowledge to action in your community.
  • April 8 is World Day for Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse — every survivor and their loved ones need access to services for healing and resilience. Together, we can reach a tipping point in Colorado where children grow up happy, healthy and safe in communities that prevent children from experiencing sexual abuse. If enough adults in a community take a FREE two-hour interactive online training then, together, we can create a new standard of child safety in your community and throughout Colorado. Visit TipColorado.org to help your county reach the tipping point.
  • Join PCAA, sorority partners at Kappa Delta and Sigma Delta Tau and Illuminate in a Digital Advocacy Day. Contact your elected officials and spread the word about policy change that’s vital to the well-being of children and their families. Visit IlluminateColorado.org/2021policy for a guide to what policies and legislation in Colorado build protective factors.
  • Use the hashtag #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community, find other ways to get involved and signify your commitment to helping children, families and entire communities to thrive. Illuminate Colorado is by no means the only organization in Colorado working to strengthen families or raise awareness during this time. 

    Look for pinwheels in your community to begin to pop up soon as a sign of a family-friendly organization or home committed to planting the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.

Illuminate Colorado is Giving Away 40,000 Pinwheels To Inspire A Conversation

Illuminate Colorado is Giving Away 40,000 Pinwheels To Inspire A Conversation

Growing A Better Tomorrow, Together

Communities have a BIG influence in families’ lives. ​Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities.​

Every day, you can plant seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.   

DENVER, March 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate), the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), has given away 30,000 free Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. The nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities is calling on an additional 10,000 Coloradans to claim their FREE pinwheels and plant them in their front yards and neighborhoods as part of a national movement to recognize the importance of community-based support for all children and families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, and all year-long.

“We can build healthier, safer and thriving communities if we take the same approach to raising families that we do to tending a community garden on a shared piece of land. Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado.

Throughout the month of April, Illuminate and other PCAA chapters, as well as local supporters in more than 150 cities in Colorado, are planting pinwheels and using this community garden metaphor to reinforce the message that “every day, we help positive childhood experiences take root.” Planting a pinwheel represents the bright childhoods we all want for children.

“Research shows that positive childhood experiences in nurturing environments provide fertile ground for physical and mental health, learning, and social skills,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “By preventing child abuse and neglect we aim to holistically improve the lives of all families and the communities they live in.”

The Coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed the world and prevention professionals are still working to understand the pandemic’s repercussions for incidents of child maltreatment to reduce adversity in childhood. The pandemic experience has had a consequential impact on an entire generation of children, sadly some more than others. Too many of our children have likely experienced at least one adverse childhood experience by now. Communities must nurture them going forward to heal.

The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings that necessitate new child care and homeschool arrangements, and food insecurity. The social connections and community services and activities that serve as protective factors against child abuse and neglect may not exist in this extraordinary time of physical distancing.

But few news reports since the COVID-19 pandemic began have focused on issues related to child abuse beyond the volume reports of child abuse, with an Associated Press analysis released this week highlighting a national total decrease of 18 percent in both total reports and investigations. Media coverage has overlooked the importance of protective factors that help buffer families from the negative consequences of exposure to risks, like isolation, unemployment, substance use and mental illness, by reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person parenting responds to the risk.

Families get overloaded with stress or risks and, like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors and community leaders know how to lighten the load by increasing the following protective factors, that is how tragedy can be avoided.

Having the Pinwheels Conversation 
Far too many people, parents and professionals alike,  don’t know how to prevent child abuse. Research has shown five Protective Factors have the power to prevent and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

“It is time to have a different conversation about helping families upstream. There is more than one narrative connected to child abuse prevention than whether or not reports are down or up, in fact there are at least five different stories to tell. If there is a child at home or in your neighborhood then every day, you have a responsibility to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy and we all have a responsibility to help you grow a better tomorrow,” continued Woodard.

When we increase these five protective factors for all families, we strengthen families, prevent child abuse and build brighter childhoods.

1. Build Parental Resilience
Resilience is managing stress and dealing with your life, even when things get difficult.

Right now, stress is HIGH. You’ve likely felt a little short-temper, yelled or not been your best-self at moments. Everyone needs to practice self-care right now, especially parents. Take care of yourself, to take care of your kids. Share a mindfulness or stress management tip, encourage others parents to give themselves permission to not be perfect.

2. Build Social Connections 
Having a network of friends and family helps us feel secure, confident and empowered. Accept help from others and look for opportunities to give back. Reach out to others, talk about what is going on in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Focus on nurturing relationships where you feel respected and appreciated.

3. Build Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
There is no perfect parent, but knowing what to expect does make the job easier. Discover what to expect as your child grows. Try new skills and tips to help your child progress and thrive. Pause to understand why your child is acting out and respond in a positive, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate way.

4. Build Concrete Support in Times of Need
Some problems are too big to solve alone. Knowing where to get help in the community can make life easier. Know what help is available in your community. Make a plan for what programs you might need if you were faced with unemployment or severe illness. Reach out and ask for support when needed. Share your story with others about programs and resources that have helped you.

5. Build Social and Emotional Competence of Children
Help children develop skills so they can manage their emotions and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults. Respond warmly and consistently to your child. Allow your child to express their emotions. Model how to be kind and interact positively with others.

So this April, during child abuse prevention month, the hope is at least 10,000 more people will plant a pinwheel.  And, 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.

Illuminate also recommends the following ways that people everywhere can dig in and help raise awareness and impact virtually during child abuse month:

  • Thursday, April 1, wear blue to show support for positive childhood experiences. Post a photo or video on social media and include the #WearBlueDay2021. Join together at 10:00 AM with Governor Jared Polis for the virtual launch of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in Colorado on Illuminate’s Facebook page.
  • Enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest. Submit a pinwheels 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 grants of $1,000, $300 and $200. See the campaign website for official rules.
  • Join a FREE two-hour interactive virtual introductory course to learn how to “bring the protective factors to life” at home, work and in your community. Offered April 19, from 10:00 am  12:00 pm and April 21 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Get inspired to move from knowledge to action in your community.
  • April 8 is World Day for Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse — every survivor and their loved ones need access to services for healing and resilience. Together, we can reach a tipping point in Colorado where children grow up happy, healthy and safe in communities that prevent children from experiencing sexual abuse. If enough adults in a community take a FREE two-hour interactive online training then, together, we can create a new standard of child safety in your community and throughout Colorado. Visit TipColorado.org to help your county reach the tipping point.
  • Join PCAA, sorority partners at Kappa Delta and Sigma Delta Tau and Illuminate in a Digital Advocacy Day. Contact your elected officials and spread the word about policy change that’s vital to the well-being of children and their families. Visit IlluminateColorado.org/2021policy for a guide to what policies and legislation in Colorado build protective factors.
  • Use the hashtag #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community, find other ways to get involved and signify your commitment to helping children, families and entire communities to thrive. Illuminate Colorado is by no means the only organization in Colorado working to strengthen families or raise awareness during this time. Look for pinwheels in your community to begin to pop up soon as a sign of a family-friendly organization or home committed to planting the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.

Visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org to get involved, enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest and learn more about how to strengthen your family and the families in your community.

About Illuminate Colorado
Illuminate Colorado is a statewide nonprofit strengthening families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. With a research-based approach that emphasizes building promotive and protective factors, we address systemic and multi-sector issues by collaborating with families and partners at the community, state and national level to develop and implement powerful programs, policies and initiatives that keep kids safe in Colorado. Visit www.IlluminateColorado.org to learn more.

About Prevent Child Abuse America
Prevent Child Abuse America is a leading champion for all children in the United States. Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Chicago, we are the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect, working to actively prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect before they occur. Our success is founded on a nationwide network of state chapters and nearly 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites, which directly provide parents and caregivers a wide variety of services and resources that help children grow up to be productive, contributing members of their communities and society. Our comprehensive approach is informed by science—we translate and disseminate innovative research to promote proven solutions that our vast network then puts into action. And we raise public awareness and advocate for family friendly policies at the national, state, and local levels to support transformative programs and promote the conditions and contexts that help children, families, and communities across the country thrive. Visit preventchildabuse.org to learn more.

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