Colorado prospers when Colorado families and communities prosper.With ballots in mailboxes and on kitchen tables across the state, Colorado voters now have the opportunity to ensure every family has access to Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), securing Colorado’s future prosperity.
Voting yes on Proposition 118 is especially important because according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, four in five Coloradans don’t have access to Paid Family and Medical Leave. They can’t afford to take time off work to care for a newborn or a seriously ill loved one — something that’s needed now, more than ever. Viewed through a health equity lens as well as a family strengthening lens, PFML is an urgently needed solution–and within reach if Coloradans vote yes on 118.
Illuminate Colorado supports Proposition 118, and we hope you’ll join us in voting YES for paid leave. It’s going to take all of us standing up and working hard from now through November 3rd to change the lives of millions of hard-working Coloradans.
How Will the Program Work?
Proposition 118 creates a state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave (including an additional four weeks for qualifying pregnancy or childbirth complications) and keep their job. To qualify, an employee must have worked for their employer for at least 180 days. The program will be paid for by premiums split between workers and their employers. The employer must pay at least 50 percent of the premium, but may choose to contribute a larger percentage.
Depending on weekly wage, workers will be eligible to receive up to 37-90% of their income during their time off, with higher percentages for lower-income workers. A new PFML division in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) will oversee the new program and create rules and regulations to govern the program. To learn more, review the 2020 Ballot Information Book (Blue Book).
Paid Family and Medical Leave allows the family more time with an infant during the most critical year for preventing child fatality: the first year of life. PFML programs have been found to decrease infant mortality rates as well as decrease rates of abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome). Abusive head trauma is the leading cause of physical child abuse in the United States. Medical costs alone attributable to abusive head trauma in the four years after diagnosis average nearly $50,000 per affected child. After California implemented a minimal paid family leave policy in 2004 (6 weeks of 55% wage replacement), abusive head trauma hospital admissions decreased by 5.1 per 100,000 children.
Offering paid time to parents/caregivers to care for not only their infants, but also themselves, increases Parental Resilience, Concrete Supports, Social Connections, Knowledge Of Parenting and Child Development, and Social and Emotional Competence Of Children, each of which are shown to strengthen families and decrease the likelihood of child maltreatment.
Advancing Gender & Racial Equity to Ensure Opportunities for All
Currently, higher wage jobs are more likely to provide paid family leave than low-wage jobs. White workers and male workers are disproportionately overrepresented in the highest wage brackets in Colorado, meaning that Black and Hispanic workers as well as women workers are less likely to have access to paid family leave. Over time, gender and racial barriers to accessing and building wealth are compounded by a lack of access to PFML. This inequitable access to economic support may make it more difficult for families of color to overcome the financial burden of a serious family or medical need, such as COVID-19.
One of the biggest barriers that limits women’s path to economic security is unaffordable child care. Women often face a trade-off between going to work and paying for child care or staying at home and forgoing the work opportunity. Although the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid time off and job protection for workers at companies with over 50 employees, it doesn’t protect the many workers who do not qualify for the benefit, and even those that do qualify may be unable to afford to utilize it because the time is unpaid. Both pregnancy and the subsequent birth of a child cause challenges for FMLA-exempt women who would like to remain in their current position after the birth of a child, but don’t have any legal guarantee of being able to return.
Another barrier to economic security for women is gender-based violence. Research has found that intimate partner violence is more likely to start and/or escalate during the perinatal time period. Proposition 118 includes up to three days of paid safe time for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This economic support for survivors can allow time for safety planning, accessing any needed medical care or mental health care, obtaining legal assistance, etc., ensuring affected employees and their families receive the time, resources, and care they need to safely exit a dangerous environment or situation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that states implement PFML to reduce gender inequality by protecting maternal employment and earnings, which are vital to being able to leave an abusive relationship.
Paid safe time is incredibly valuable given the intersections of perinatal mental health, substance use, and intimate partner violence, all of which impact the wellbeing of children in the home. Several studies suggest that survivors may use substances as a way to cope with ongoing violence and mental health symptoms. Paid safe time may empower survivors to begin to meet potential co-occurring needs such as mental health supports or substance use disorder treatment. Offering support services for caregivers that use a two-generational approach and provide support for whole families is essential to building protective factors, breaking the generational cycle of abuse, and sustaining recovery.
In consideration of the combination of all of the above factors, women of color are disproportionately impacted by the absence of PFML. Proposition 118 will ensure that all workers, regardless of race, income, or gender, can take the time they need to care for themselves and their family members. When we strengthen parents, we strengthen children, families, and communities. For additional information, see how paid leave can be a tool for improving equity.
Proposition 118 will help us put our families first, and it will help Colorado businesses by providing a low-cost benefit option to businesses of any size. Coloradans should no longer have to choose between taking care of their newborn and keeping their paycheck or their job. The PMFL program that would be established through Proposition 118 would create significant long-term improvements for children and families, and is the kind of innovation we need.
If you’re interested in additional ways to support Proposition 118, receive updates, and more, get connected with the grassroots Colorado Families First Campaign.
Today is the first day that Colorado counties can begin mailing ballots to registered voters for the 2020 General Election. For the first time in Illuminate Colorado’s history, our organization is sharing public positions on several ballot measures because we want Coloradans to know how your decisions will have the power to affect the lives of children and families in your community and influence the prevention of child maltreatment in Colorado.
Your ballot will be arriving within the next few weeks if you are a registered voter. The deadline to register to vote or update your registration to still receive a ballot in the mail is October 26. Colorado voters can now sign up for BallotTrax – a system promoted by the Colorado Secretary of State that will allow you to track your ballot from sent to accepted. Sign up for BallotTrax here!
Strengthening Families Through Paid Family and Medical Leave For Colorado to remain one of the healthiest economies in the country, we need to work together to build brighter childhoods. Our future workforce, innovators, leaders, and community members can only reach their full potential through thoughtful development and investment in services and policies that strengthen children and families. Investing in practices, policies, and services–like Paid Family and Medical Leave–that promote children’s healthy development ensures that children build the skills they need to be successful. Positive experiences and loving relationships create a strong foundation for a lifetime of health and wellness. Paid Family and Medical Leave is good for families, good for businesses, and good for Colorado. Colorado voters have the opportunity to strengthen families by voting in support of paid leave:
Yes on Proposition 118: Paid Family and Medical Leave Now more than ever, Coloradans shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and recovering from a serious illness, caring for a loved one, or bonding with a new child. Paid Family and Medical Leave allows families more time with an infant during the most critical year for preventing child fatality: the first year of life. Paid Family and Medical Leave programs are associated with significantly higher rates of successful breastfeeding and maternal health, reductions in infant hospitalizations for abusive head trauma, and lower rates of family stressors and risk factors.
Currently, 80% of Colorado workers do not have access to paid family leave. Proposition 118 will ensure that all workers, regardless of race or income, can take the time they need to care for themselves and their family members. Offering paid time to parents to care for not only their children, but also themselves, increases all five of the Protective Factors to strengthen families: Concrete Support, Parental Resilience, Social Connections, Knowledge Of Parenting and Child Development, and Social and Emotional Competence Of Children. Illuminate Colorado endorses Proposition 118.
Building and Maintaining a Strong Foundation of Community Resources for Families Investing in programs and policies that support families enables children to achieve their potential and become productive members of the community as adults. When families have information and access to available local resources to meet basic needs, we strengthen the foundation for families and communities to thrive. Colorado voters have the opportunity to build and maintain a strong foundation of community resources across Colorado by voting with children and families in mind:
Yes on Amendment B: Repeal the Gallagher Amendment Voting yes on Amendment B is a tangible way to protect state funding as the global pandemic continues to negatively impact state budgets. The measure was referred to voters by a bipartisan majority of the state legislature. The Gallagher Amendment outlines that no more than 45% of statewide property tax collections can come from residential property. As residential property values have risen over recent decades, the residential assessment rate has continued to decrease over the years. This is problematic for schools, counties, and other special districts who rely on property taxes for funding. By repealing the Gallagher Amendment and freezing residential and nonresidential property assessment rates at their current levels, Colorado can protect funding for schools, hospitals, fire protection districts, libraries, and other critical community services, all of which contribute to the five Protective Factors for families. Illuminate Colorado endorses Amendment B.
Yes on Proposition EE: Tobacco-Vape Tax Proposition EE, which will expand access to preschool, will increase Protective Factors for Colorado families, particularly including social and emotional competence of children and concrete support. This measure would raise taxes on tobacco and institute a tax on nicotine vaping products in Colorado for the first time. The revenue raised from these taxes will be aimed at improving child and family well-being by investing in programs that improve health and educational outcomes. The funding will support Colorado’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, fund tobacco and nicotine cessation initiatives, and will ultimately create universal access to ten hours per week of voluntary preschool for all children the year prior to kindergarten entry, with the greatest resources invested in those who face the greatest barriers to school success. Illuminate Colorado endorses Proposition EE.
No on Proposition 116: State Income Tax Reduction Proposition 116 would reduce Colorado’s state income tax permanently, resulting in as much as $236 million less in the state’s budget next fiscal year alone. The revenue reduction could result in cuts to K-12, higher education, healthcare and more. As families, communities and organizations are struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic hardships, now is the time to invest in community resources, not diminish them. Illuminate Colorado urges a no vote on Proposition 116.
Ballot Measures Fast Facts:
Lettered measures are referred to the voters from the Colorado State Legislature.
Numbered measures are put on the ballot through a Citizen Initiative signature gathering process.
Propositions create new laws.
Amendments change or amend the state’s constitution.
Elected officials up and down the ballot can impact our daily lives and the well-being of our communities. From health care to housing, education to immigration, and child care to local taxation, elected officials influence programs, policies, and funding that directly affect children and families.
The 2020 General Election is on Tuesday, November 3rd. Voting is our chance to stand up for our families and our communities. We ALL deserve to have our voices heard this election season.
Check out Go Vote Colorado to register to vote or ensure your mailing address is current. You can also find information specific to your county here.
Here are some key dates in Colorado:
Friday, October 9 – Counties will begin mailing ballots to registered voters.
October 19 through November 3 – Drop boxes are available and polling centers are open.
Monday, October 26 – Last day to submit or update a voter registration and still receive a ballot in the mail.
Tuesday, November 3 – Election Day! Polls will be open 7am-7pm. In Colorado, you can register to vote and vote in person up to 7pm on Election Day. If you filled your ballot out at home, be sure to turn it in at a dropbox by 7pm!
Voting lets us weigh in on the issues that are most important to us. Be a role model for your community and vote!
After six years of effort, SB20-028 Substance Use Disorder Recovery passed and has been sent to the Governor. The bill contains a crucial statute change that supports recovery for caregivers with substance use disorders (SUDs) while also ensuring children’s safety.
The new statute language:
de-emphasizes the focus on a test,
removes the references to the federal schedule of substances,
elevates impacts to the child as the main consideration and
advances a two-generation approach to keep parents and their children together during treatment.
Leading up to a Change: State and Federal Context
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national opioid epidemic had been declared a public health emergency. Communities and families across Colorado felt the effects of the opioid crisis, as well as the effects of other substances being used and misused across our state. Though the total number of new child welfare cases in Colorado had declined over the last few years, the number of cases involving drug use by a parent had increased. Furthermore, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) – when a newborn experiences withdrawal symptoms as a result of being exposed to a substance in utero – increased by 120% in Colorado from 2011 to 2016.
In 2008 the Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee was created to address the emerging needs around prenatal substance exposure in the state. Supported by Illuminate Colorado, as a subcommittee of the Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, the SEN Steering Committee envisions a Colorado that equitably serves all families through prevention and reduction of substance use during pregnancy and provides multi-generational support for families to thrive.
Approaches to prenatal substance exposure response also began to shift at a federal level as in 2016. Congress amended the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to require states to create Plans of Safe Care to address not only the needs of infants identified as affected by substance use, but also the health, service, and SUD treatment needs of the affected family or caregiver. Through partnership, guidance and cross-system collaboration with birth hospitals across Colorado, toxicology experts, the Colorado Division of Child Welfare and additional stakeholders began to identify a complex and multi-faceted gap in service delivery.
The Multi-Faceted, Multi-System Problem
Using a two-generation approach by keeping mothers and their children together during treatment improves physical and psychological outcomes and prevents additional state costs down the line. Substance use disorders in women often co-occur with mental health issues, trauma, sexual violence, and/or intimate partner violence, and thus must be supported in ways that factor in the broader context. Fear, stigma, and other barriers can prevent pregnant people from accessing the services they need for their own and their families’ well-being.
There is not a consistent standard in Colorado for verbal screening or chemical testing for substance use during pregnancy as a part of prenatal care. Colorado hospitals have varying practices in place for identification at time of birth. Definitions of child abuse and neglect related to prenatal substance exposure are interpreted differently between counties. This means that what one county sees as a substantiated case of child abuse and neglect, another county could respond to differently. This variation is particularly important when considering how a finding of child abuse can affect future employment opportunities and may impact child placement and custody decisions. Without a consistent standard to guide toxicology testing and the child welfare response, there is room for discrimination in who is tested, and therefore reported, while potentially leaving other vulnerable infants sent home without support.
Most recent evidence shows that parents are integral to the care of infants with NAS. New strategies to assess and treat NAS such as the Eat, Sleep, Console (ESC) Assessment and increased family engagement in care support skin-to-skin contact with parent(s), rooming in with parent, on-demand human milk feeding/breastfeeding, coordinating care with feeding times, as well as involvement, education, and empowerment of parents during the hospitalization. Separating infants from their parents does not allow for this care.
Under previous statute (§ 19-1-103(1)(a)(VII) & 19-3-102 (1)(g)), if an infant tested positive at birth for exposure to a schedule I or II controlled substance, the parent may have received a substantiation of child abuse based on the positive test alone. While a toxicology test may communicate an important piece of information, it does not provide a full picture of impact on a child, weigh all safety and risk considerations present, or acknowledge if the birth parent was receiving medication-assisted treatment during pregnancy. Furthermore, results have limitations depending on collection, timing, storage and testing methods. Referencing the criminal code in Colorado civil statute reinforced the notion of the child welfare system as punitive–which may drive families and parents away from supportive systems and resources due to fear. Fear of the child welfare system or criminal justice system may create a disincentive for a pregnant person with a substance use disorder from receiving prenatal care or seeking SUD treatment, both of which have strong evidence around improving birth outcomes for both parent and child.
Cross-Sector Stakeholder Process
As outlined above, numerous complexities arose with Colorado’s child abuse and neglect definitions related to prenatal substance exposure, including but not limited to: opportunity for fear, stigma, and discrimination, narrow assessments of families’ strengths and needs, delayed incorporation of newest evidence-based best practice, challenges and inconsistencies across county child welfare practice, and need for implementation of federal guidance, all leading to the momentum and political will for robust stakeholder engagement.
Since 2013, stakeholder conversations have occurred nearly every year about revisions to Colorado’s child abuse and neglect definitions regarding prenatal substance exposure. While stakeholders came from varying sectors, fields, and perspectives, they shared a desire for Colorado families to have the support they need to thrive. After multiple years of stakeholder meetings, the group arrived on language that would align Colorado statute more closely to federal statute as revised by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. Through collaboration with the state legislature’s Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee, the language was included in the Committee’s package of bills and ultimately passed with bipartisan support during the 2020 legislative session.
How the Bill Positively Impacts Colorado Families
SB20-028 supports substance use disorder recovery of parents and caregivers by:
Addressing the ways fear and stigma prevent pregnant people from accessing services.
Ensuring families are assessed holistically .
Supporting attachment and bonding within the birth parent/infant dyad.
Incorporating shifts in clinical practices for neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Acknowledging the limitations of toxicology testing related to prenatal substance exposure.
Aligning state and federal statute.
The statute change allows for the context of the situation, home environment, child care/supervision, support systems, attachment, and a family’s risk and protective factors to all be considered. Based on the holistic assessment, child welfare can still become involved, however a finding of child abuse or neglect will not automatically be required. Maternal and child outcomes are better when their needs are addressed in a dyad, and this acknowledgement can reduce apprehension and barriers to receiving services. Whenever safe, families should remain together, and services should simultaneously address both the needs of the parents/caregivers and the needs of the child.
On the Horizon
Although the bill has passed, there is more work to be done. The increased stress associated with the current pandemic, unemployment, and decreased personal and community support is predicted to exasperate substance use. As outlined in CAPTA, states must develop and implement monitoring systems of referrals to and delivery of appropriate services for infants and caregivers affected by substance use. In order to increase consistency in cross-system implementation and practice, a multidisciplinary group of hospital-based staff, child welfare professionals, and other service providers formed to create the Plans of Safe Care Work Group of the SEN Steering Committee. The revised statute will work in conjunction with the rollout of Plans of Safe Care across the state.
The next step for implementation of the bill is for Colorado Department of Human Services to issue an operational memo to all counties notifying them of the need to adhere to the revised statute. To participate in the rule-making subcommittee and/or to learn more about Plans of Safe Care, please contact Colorado’s Substance Exposed Newborn Specialist.
Illuminate looks forward to the positive impact SB20-028 will have on Colorado families.
After a two month pause in the state legislative session due to the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators returned with a specific focus: to pass a balanced state budget as well as pass bills that will support Coloradans through the pandemic. We’ve outlined outcomes associated with Illuminate’s 2020 Policy Agenda highlighting policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado below.
As to be expected, many of the bills introduced prior to COVID-19 no longer had paths forward, and those that did faced significant changes. The state budget has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and associated economic hardships — largely due to a loss in revenue from income tax and sales tax, accounting for the pandemic’s impact on employment, hospitality, retail, travel, and more.
The bright spots:
Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in order to strengthen household financial security: While this provision was originally included in HB20-1203, the bill as written no longer had a path forward. A broader version, HB20-1420, was newly introduced and passed. The bill includes sections to expand EITC eligibility to ITIN filers starting in tax year 2020 and to increase the EITC benefit for all eligible families beginning in tax year 2022. EITC is an effective tool for racial justice, public health, and poverty reduction, as well as child maltreatment prevention.
Create an annual cost-of-living adjustment in the Colorado Works Program Basic Cash Assistance Benefit:SB20-029 as amended and passed will provide a one-time $500 payment to families enrolled in TANF, rather than the original plan to increase the basic cash assistance amount and create an annual cost of living adjustment.
Create a statewide universal preschool program: The first step to creating a universal preschool program was completed with the passage of HB20-1427. The bill refers a ballot measure to voters for the November 2020 general election regarding incremental sales tax changes on cigarettes and tobacco/nicotine products, including those used for vaping. The new revenue would be allocated to housing, rural schools, and the state education fund for the first 2.5 years, and beginning in fall 2023 would be allocated to a universal preschool program.
Advance priorities emerging from the Infant and Family Child Care Action Plan:SB20-126 passed and will begin addressing Colorado’s child care shortage by requiring homeowners associations to allow licensed home-based child care programs that serve children ages 0-5 to operate.
*New: Supporting families through the COVID-19 Pandemic: HB20-1410 and HB20-1412, both newly introduced and passed, support Coloradoans through housing assistance and utility bill payment-related assistance given the impact of COVID-19.
The work continues:
Establish a statewide paid family and medical leave program for individuals to care for themselves and their families: Rather than a bill, this effort is being converted to a statewide ballot measure (Initiative 283) to seek voter approval in November for establishing a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave policy.
Invest in the expansion of home visitation programs throughout Colorado: Prior to COVID-19, SB20-144 Home Visiting Expansion Grant Program was postponed indefinitely by the bill sponsor. Stakeholders remain committed to expanding home visiting.
Increase access to family planning services to support birth spacing, educational attainment, and economic stability of families: Unfortunately, the family planning line item will be cut by about $715k for FY 20-21 (pg. 141 of Long Bill Narrative) in conjunction with budget cuts across all state departments.
Increase knowledge around healthy sexual development: Unfortunately, the Comprehensive Sexual Education program will be cut by about $500k for FY 20-21 (also pg. 141 of Long Bill Narrative) in conjunction with budget cuts across all state departments.
The bright spots:
Revise the Colorado Children’s Code related to prenatal substance exposure to ensure families with a substance exposed newborn receive support and services appropriate to their family’s strengths and needs: This provision is included in SB20-028, which passed! Although the bill was amended and stripped down, it still contains this statute change that is a critical piece of supporting recovery for caregivers with a substance use disorder (SUD) while also ensuring children’s safety. The bill additionally continues the Opioid and other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee, specifically to study the impacts of COVID-19 on substance use in Colorado during interim 2021.
Ensure parents and caregivers have access to substance use disorder (SUD) recovery supports tailored to their needs: While significantly amended, the bills that came out of last year’s Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Committee have passed, including HB20-1017 SUD Criminal Justice Reform, HB20-1085 SUD Prevention, and HB20-1065 SUD Harm Reduction. Additionally, HB20-1411 was newly introduced and passed to leverage funds from the federal CARES Act to mitigate against cuts to mental health programs and substance use treatment across the state.
The work continues:
Study multi-generational treatment services for families including SUD treatment, mental health services, and children’s services: This study was originally included in SB20-007 SUD Treatment, however had to be amended out along with other sections in order to reduce the bill’s fiscal note. The bill as amended passed.
Expand early intervention eligibility for developmental services for substance exposed newborns and their families: There wasn’t movement on including SENs in automatic EI eligibility this year. Additionally, early intervention evaluations will face a $250k cut in FY 20-21.
Ensure families have access to resources at high stress points before child maltreatment occurs: In order to reduce the state’s budget shortfall in FY 20-21, the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program is set to take a $1.8 million cut (pg. 78 of Long Bill Narrative). Additionally, Family Support Services will receive about a $500k cut for FY 20-21.
The work continues:
Ensure adults in Colorado have the knowledge and resources to identify and support children and families where abuse and neglect has occurred:SB20-059 aimed to ensure all children and youth have protections under the law in regard to adults in a position of trust, regardless of the age of the youth. The bill was postponed indefinitely given this year’s context but will likely return next year.
Ensure families who are child welfare involved have access to the appropriate resources via implementation of the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act: SB20-162 updates statutory provisions related to Colorado foster care prevention services and supports in the context of FFPSA. Opportunities remain to ensure that prevention services are readily accessible for families across the state.
Ensure adults in Colorado have the resources to support individuals and families where abuse and neglect has occurred: HB20-1296would have allowed child and adult survivors of sexual assault time to heal so that they may access the civil legal system and monetary resources necessary to rebuild their lives after surviving sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the bill ran out of time to make it through the legislative process this session.
As always, subscribe to the Illuminate Blog for more policy updates, including how we’re continuing our advocacy work.
The Joint Budget Committee began meeting last week to weigh potential budget cut options to reconcile the $3 billion revenue shortfall that Colorado is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Illuminate Colorado empathizes with members of the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) who must make incredibly difficult decisions that will certainly impact Colorado children and families for years to come.
The hearing for the budget balancing recommendations and options for the Colorado Department of Human Services occurred this past Saturday, May 9th. We greatly appreciated the discussions of JBC members, staff and other legislators around the gravity and impact of the budget decisions at hand. While tough cuts were made to evidence-based programs and services, there was simultaneous acknowledgement that prevention work ultimately yields great cost savings.
We urge our lawmakers to maintain prevention as a priority and keep the needs of families and children top of mind. When families, organizations and communities focus on building protective factors, we can effectively prevent child maltreatment and keep families strong during this Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
You can tune into the Joint Budget Committee here. An updated economic revenue forecast will be presented tomorrow, May 12th. The full legislature is tentatively set to reconvene on May 26th in order to introduce state budget legislation, with the constitutional ‘deadline’ of June 30th to pass a balanced state budget.