Family Voice Makes a Difference Illuminating Systemic Change

Family Voice Makes a Difference Illuminating Systemic Change

Families are experts on their children and by extension the programs intended to support them in strengthening their families and addressing challenges. It is for this reason that Illuminate Colorado looks to parents and caregivers with lived experiences as the driving force within coalitions and networks focused on systemic change. We connected with three Coloradans giving voice to their experiences through two collective spaces “walking the walk” so to speak when it comes to the family voice movement to get their reflections on the impact Illuminate is having in the field.  

Increasingly, there is an effort to involve parents and caregivers from all walks of life in the decision-making process of systemic change, as well as program improvement. “Nothing for us without us! It is important that we listen and honor lived experience. We need to uplift and celebrate lived experience by saving them a seat at the table,” said Heather Hicks, a mother of two and a family voice representative for the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. “The Partnership”, as it’s more commonly known, is a collaborative space aiming to create conditions where children and the adults in their lives can thrive. The Partnership is building collaboration at the state and local level to align funding, priorities, regulations, outcome measures and implementation – across sectors and jurisdictions to create a strong family well-being system that supports families. As the backbone support team for the Partnership, Illuminate is guiding vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, establishing shared measurement practices, cultivating community engagement and mobilizing resources in support of this collective effort. 

“I have worked in various spaces similar to the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. I have been the parent that professionals have refused to listen to. I have been that parent that professionals look in the face and nod their heads then do nothing. I have been the parent that has continued to cry out and strive for equitable spaces for families so that they come and participate in the decisions that are being made for them. I have been the parent that has spent years fighting for change and has seen very little transpire from it. So to come from that and walk into a space where Illuminate has opened their arms and hearts to not only hear what we have to say, but to boldly act upon what we have to say – it is a beautiful thing,” said Hicks. 

Hicks and Fikile Ryder, another mother of two engaged as a Partnership family voice representative, have been involved in this collaborative space for more than a year now. They both co-founded the Partnership Family & Caregiver Space and serve on the leadership team for the Partnership. “Illuminate is an unsung leader in the equity charge for lived experience. What makes them special is that they lead with compassion and heart. As an organization, they have unconditionally supported our asks and needs,” shared Ryder.

When the two women spoke to the Partnership leadership team about fair compensation for families and lived experience working with the Partnership, they said it was an extremely awkward and difficult conversation to have. As women, they felt the social constraints against them that make it even more difficult to advocate and ask for compensation for their time and talent. Reaching out to Illuminate to talk about how they were feeling was a moment the women recognized as the moment “the tables turned a little bit and they felt like equals who were being valued and heard”, crediting Illuminate for acting quickly to strive towards a solution. “We were met with support, kindness, advocacy, ideas, kind words and overall love. This was a turning point for the Family and Caregiver Space,” said Ryder.  

From that moment on efforts were made to demonstrate a real commitment to equity within the Partnership by compensating family voice representatives for their time away from their personal and professional lives, increasing pay for family voice partners to $50 per hour. And while Illuminate is heartened to hear that the process of getting to this milestone in family voice compensation felt positive and swift, Illuminate is also quick to credit philanthropic support and a shared desire among all of the Partnership Leadership Team for this additional investment. It is unique among the collective spaces that Illuminate supports right now, however, honoring the lived experiences of families is not. The Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee was established in 2008 and is a subcommittee of the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force. In 2019, the Family Advisory Board (FAB) to the steering committee was formed in order to elevate the voices of families who have experienced, directly or indirectly, the impacts of substance use during pregnancy.

Diane Smith is a mother of three who has a leadership role within this steering committee, as well as the Family Advisory Board. “It is important to involve families with lived experiences as voice partners in program improvements and systemic change because it is the best way for our systems to evolve. When people are trying to identify what works, what doesn’t work, and how we change things for the next family, it is important for families to give input and share their experience,” said Smith.   

The FAB has been instrumental to the understanding of barriers in seeking support, health care, including treatment and other services, and informing of priority-setting within the steering committee to raise awareness and best serve the needs of families impacted by substance use. Stepping into an advocacy role like this one can be hard for parents and caregivers and Smith points to a strong relationship with Hattie Landry, Illuminate strategic initiatives manager for making her experience a positive one. 

“It is important for FAB members to feel like they are vetted into the situation and feel comfortable with the group of individuals before they share their story. Hattie makes us feel comfortable, she shows a lot of empathy as a person and colleague,” said Smith. When asked what decision-makers can do to support family voice partners and what non family-voice partners can do to create spaces where everyone feels valued and heard, Smith reminds organizers to be flexible and meet families where they are at by communicating by phone, email, text or even in person to ease the stress of sharing their story. 

Five Things We've Learned from Collaborating with Family Partners

Illuminate’s work within the Spectrum of Prevention fostering coalitions and networks to ensure continued progress on policy priorities, identify opportunities to protect existing policies that are serving families and enhance policy implementation has expanded over the last several years. The organization now supports eight different collaborative spaces to advance child maltreatment prevention in Colorado, with Landry facilitating discussions with family voice partners across many of these spaces. She gives five quick tips for organizations and collaborative spaces based on what we’ve learned from collaborating with family partners: 

  1. Ask family voice partners what their goals & visions are for systems-level projects.
  2. Involve family voice partners from the very start of projects.
  3. Don’t make assumptions about what families need. Ask questions, listen, learn, adapt, and grow.
  4. Provide equitable compensation to family voice partners for their time and expertise.
  5. Support family voice partners and non family-voice partners to create spaces where everyone is and feels valued and heard, creating equitable decision-making processes. 
Bills Supporting Child Sexual Abuse Prevention & Response Cross the Finish Line in Colorado

Bills Supporting Child Sexual Abuse Prevention & Response Cross the Finish Line in Colorado

All children deserve the opportunity to live, learn, grow, and play in safety. Policies that support prevention strategies related to child sexual abuse are critical in order to support the health and safety of future generations. In 2020 alone, a year when reports of child maltreatment were dramatically down as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine and stay-at-home orders, over 1,000 children were substantiated as victims of child sexual abuse through the child welfare system in Colorado. (1) However, Colorado has made some important strides in 2021. 

As the Colorado Legislative Session wraps up, bills focused on child sexual abuse prevention and response make their way across the finish line.

Senate Bill 21-073, Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault, removes the statute of limitations and other restrictions on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct, including derivative claims and claims brought against a person or entity that is not the perpetrator of the sexual misconduct. Eliminating the civil statute of limitations for sexual assault allows child and adult survivors time to heal so that they may access the civil legal system and monetary resources to thrive into adulthood after surviving sexual abuse.

→ SB21-73 was signed by Governor Polis on April 15th, 2021.

Senate Bill 21-088, the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, creates a new civil cause of action for any person sexually abused in Colorado while participating in a youth program as a child. The cause of action applies retroactively and victims whose assault occurred between January 1, 1960 and January 1, 2022 may bring a cause of action before January 1, 2025. The bill ensures that all victims of child sexual abuse, including victims who have delayed disclosing the abuse they experienced into adulthood, the opportunity to hold responsible culpable and complicit individuals and organizations accountable. 

→ SB21-88 passed both the Senate and House.

SB21-017, Sexual Contact By An Educator, updates hiring practices and ongoing duties of both charter schools and public schools to support information sharing with the Department of Education regarding whether a potential hiree or previous employee has been dismissed by or has resigned from a school as a result of an allegation of unlawful sexual behavior or an allegation of a sexual act involving a student who is 18 years of age or older. The bill additionally creates a class 1 misdemeanor, abuse of public trust by an educator, for limited and specific cases of educator sexual contact with students over the age of 18. 

→ SB21-17 passed both the Senate and House.

House Bill 21-1320, Sunset Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB), authorizes the SOMB to continue, unchanged, until September 1, 2023. A stakeholder process is anticipated in the coming year to create a bill for the next legislative session. As changes are considered to the SOMB, Illuminate Colorado encourages the inclusion of mandatory standards, comprehensive oversight, and victim input throughout the process. 

HB21-1320 passed both the House and Senate.

Adults are responsible for creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments where children can grow up and reach their full health and life potential. It is possible to ensure that every child, in every community, never experiences sexual abuse if prevention strategies are thoughtfully incorporated into all aspects of society by governments, businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, and individuals.

Thank you to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and many survivors, for leading the efforts on SB21-073 and SB21-088.

Citations

(1) Colorado Department of Human Services, Types of Allegations of Maltreatment Report Time Period: January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020, Retrieved from CDHSDataMatters.org on May 18, 2021 https://rom.socwel.ku.edu/CO_Public/Login.aspx?H=7152.

Review the 2021 Policy Agenda

Download the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda.

Review the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to find the status of other bills this session related to strengthening families and tune in next week for a full recap of the 2021 Legislative session and the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda.

Additional Counties Needed to Expand Peer Support Groups for Families Impacted by Substance Use

Additional Counties Needed to Expand Peer Support Groups for Families Impacted by Substance Use

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. 

Colorado Parent and 5280 Publishing Receives 2021 Illuminating Media Award

Colorado Parent and 5280 Publishing Receives 2021 Illuminating Media Award

The way information is framed in the media, the stories journalists, editors and producers choose to tell and the selection of images that get paired with those stories play an extraordinary role in shaping the environments in which we all live and raise our children. That is why Illuminate Colorado created the Illuminating Media Award, to recognize and shine a light on media outlets and journalists preventing child maltreatment through the stories they share with the community. This year, Illuminate Colorado has selected Colorado Parent and 5280 Publishing to receive the 2021 Illuminating Media Award for helping to build brighter childhoods in Colorado.

The pandemic created unprecedented levels of stress in parents’ lives. Over the course of almost a year and half now, in addition to all the normal trials and tribulations of parenthood, people raising children have had to navigate so much more than our parents before us as we tried our best to maintain our own mental health and literally do it all. 

Parents tried to work virtually from home while running an online classroom in the background. Frontline parents placed themselves at risk, distanced themselves from their families to care for others, and tried to stay emotionally connected to their children. Unemployed parents tried to navigate resources in the community to keep a roof over their heads and their children fed. We all tried and for that we all deserve to be congratulated because there is no perfect parent. Throughout it all Colorado’s go-to parenting guide became so much more to us during this pandemic and they too shifted so much of what they normally do. 

Colorado Parent Magazine expanded from the traditional print magazine we all picked up at the local supermarket or pediatrician’s office to a digital edition we could all rely on from the safety of our inboxes. It became a space that told stories and shared resources online to help Colorado parents and children get through this tough time and, hopefully, come out the otherside relatively unscathed. 

In addition to donating advertising and promotion as the Media Sponsor for the 2021 Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign helping Illuminate distribute more than 40,000 pinwheels throughout Colorado to raise awareness for the prevention of child maltreatment, Colorado Parent has provided a platform for local child development experts to share helpful tips and parents and caregivers to share stories that bring the Protective Factors to life all year-long. It is for this ongoing commitment to strengthen Colorado families and build knowledge of parenting and child development that we honor Colorado Parent and 5280 Publishing for illuminating media

Colorado Parent Bringing the Protective Factors to Life

Here a just a few of our favorites Colorado Parent stories over the last several months that have brought the Protective Factors to life: 

  • Father To Father: When Your Son Has Special Needs – The story of two fathers connecting, one far along the journey through parenthood with a multi-disabled son who was turning 31 and the other just beginning to grapple with his six year-old son’s Autism diagnosis. 
  • Powerful Puberty Class Teaches Moms and Daughters – Normalizing the continued conversations we should be having with our kids throughout their development, this is a great article highlighting one midwife and educator teaching moms and their tween and teen daughters about puberty, body image, and why we should celebrate—not squirm about—their changing bodies.

We look forward to the day when we can recognize the wonderful staff of Colorado Parent and 5280 Publishing in person with this award. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to check out Colorado Parent’s Free email newsletters and follow us on Twitter as we share more #IlluminatingMedia.

Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley Hiring Early Childhood Lead Teachers in Partnership With Illuminate Colorado

Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley Hiring Early Childhood Lead Teachers in Partnership With Illuminate Colorado

Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley is partnering with Illuminate Colorado to bring Illuminating Child Care to the San Luis Valley and is seeking two Early Childhood Lead Teachers for our mobile child care classroom serving infants and toddlers onsite where parents are getting the support that they need to strengthen their families.

Position Overview:

The Early Childhood Lead Teachers will be hired to plan, organize, implement, and deliver an infant and toddler program curriculum to enrolled children’s individual and group’s educational, intellectual, physical, social, and emotional needs. 

These positions will manage a mobile child care classroom for children whose parents are working to address complex issues impacting their family, like mental health concerns, substance use disorders, or employment challenges; and ensure that the mobile classroom remains in compliance with the State of Colorado Child Care Licensing standards.

Position performs classroom, administrative, mobile unit management duties to support the mobile child care classrooms. Early Childhood Lead Teachers must have flexibility to work a schedule including evenings and weekends. Salary Range: $40,000 – $43,000 (based on education & relevant experience), IRA Contribution up to 3% Match, No Health Benefit available at this time. Anticipated start date June 1, 2021. 

View the full job description here.

To apply: Please submit a resume & letter of interest via email to outreach@eccslv.org.

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