Art for Advocacy: Register Today for Strolling Thunder Colorado 2022!

Art for Advocacy: Register Today for Strolling Thunder Colorado 2022!

Make your voice heard with and for Colorado families with young children! Join Illuminate Colorado and our partners on Oct. 1 for the fifth annual Strolling Thunder Colorado. This year’s family-friendly event will be held virtually from 9:30 – 11 a.m.  

Join families and advocates from around the state as we raise our voices using art for policies that families with young children need. Illuminate is proud to be a hosting partner of Strolling Thunder because child care, paid leave, and other family supports strengthen the foundation for families and communities to thrive. 

 

Learn more from our friends at the Colorado Children’s Campaign and register for the event below:

At Strolling Thunder, attendees raise their voices for babies and their families in a fun, family-friendly setting. The event celebrates recent wins at the legislature, brings attention to what families need to thrive, and helps participants connect with their state and local elected officials. This year’s event theme is “Art for Advocacy.” Register today by clicking here. All who register by Sept. 17 will receive an art kit for the art activity and a care package before the event.  

 

Strolling Thunder Colorado brings together people who care about babies and their families at an event featuring guest speakers, story time, a dance party, an art activity, and an advocacy training. Each year, it encourages elected officials to make pregnant people, babies, and their families a priority when policy decisions are made. The event is hosted by Raise Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, Colorado Association for Education of Young Children (COAEYC), Colorado Children’s Campaign, Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance (ECCLA), Illuminate Colorado, and ZERO TO THREE.  

As a part of this event, Raise Colorado is asking community members to share photos of them and their children strolling – whether that be taking a walk in a park or pushing their child in a stroller, as well as a quote sharing why they think it is important to prioritize pregnant people, babies, and their families in Colorado. This is optional, and photos and quotes will be shared at the event and possibly on host organizations’ website. To make a submission, please click here.

Register for Strolling Thunder Today!

Register by clicking here before September 17th to receive an art kit for the art activity and a care package prior to the event!

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Show Your Respect This FASD Awareness Month

Show Your Respect This FASD Awareness Month

Each September, we recognize Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Month to bring awareness to the many individuals and families who are impacted by the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol in Colorado and across the United States.

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)? 

FASD, an umbrella term used to describe a range of effects that can occur in a fetus exposed to alcohol before birth, is the most commonly known cause of developmental disabilities in the United States.

While the exact number of people who have FASDs is unknown, it is estimated that up to 1 in 20 U.S. school children may have an FASD, with 1 in 7 pregnancies being alcohol-exposed. In Colorado in particular, an estimated 15.4% of pregnant individuals in our state drank alcohol during the last 3 months of their pregnancy, according to the most recently available Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data.

Learn More About Alcohol and Pregnancy

Have questions about the relationship between alcohol, pregnancy and FASD? Learn more on our Alcohol & Pregnancy topic page.

When children, adults, and families impacted by FASD receive appropriate diagnoses, supports, and services, secondary impacts of FASDsuch as dropping out of school, getting into trouble with the law, and substance usecan be prevented, and impacted individuals and families can thrive.

While we know the importance of providing appropriate services for pregnant people impacted by alcohol use and families who are impacted by FASD, significant and concerning gaps in FASD-related preventive, diagnostic and clinical resources are common in Colorado and throughout the United States. 

The Time is Now!

This September, we have a particularly momentous opportunity to build on and improve our nation and the state of Colorado’s efforts to prevent alcohol use during pregnancy, support those who are struggling with alcohol use during the perinatal period, and provide concrete supports to individuals and families impacted by FASD. 

The “FASD Respect Act” (S. 2238 and H.R. 4151), legislation currently being considered at the federal level, would reauthorize vital funding for prevention, screening, identification, research, and FASD-informed services. 

It reauthorizes and strengthens existing federal FASD programs, replaces the defunct National FAS Taskforce with a National Advisory Council on FASD, and establishes a FASD Center of Excellence as the go-to entity for state, tribal and local governments and non-governmental stakeholders seeking to develop or improve best practices for prevention, diagnosis, and intervention services. Find more information about the proposed legislation here. 

How Can I Show My Respect for Coloradans Impacted by FASD?

Whether you are an individual Coloradan or a Colorado organization that cares about ensuring that those who are using alcohol during pregnancy and those impacted by FASDs are treated with the respect they deserve and receive the support that they need, we need YOU to help ensure that Congress passes this vital legislation. 

Advocacy Opportunities

  • To advocate for the passage of the FASD Respect Act on behalf of an organization, sign on to the Letter of Support.
  • To advocate for the passage of the FASD Respect Act as an individual, reach out to Colorado’s senators and the representative for your district to schedule a meeting.

Need help? Find support with scheduling and hosting a meeting with your legislator here and/or by reaching out to Cassie Davis at cdavis@illuminatecolorado.org.

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You Can Ensure All of Colorado’s Kids Have Access to Healthy School Meals

You Can Ensure All of Colorado’s Kids Have Access to Healthy School Meals

With the first day of the 2022-2023 school year just around the corner, parents and caregivers across Colorado have many things on their minds and to-do lists, from readjusting to school year schedules to the excitement of being reunited with previous classmates and meeting new ones. Something they shouldn’t have to think about? How, or even if, they will be able to ensure that their kids have access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch during the school day.

Food for Thought

When kids are well-fed, their physical, mental, and social well-being increase and families are able to build Parental Resilience and Social & Emotional Competence of Children, two of the Protective Factors that support the prevention of child maltreatment and set the foundation for kids and families to thrive.

During the first few years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal waiver provided access to free school meals for all students, increasing participation in school meal programs by up to 20%. Its expiration prior to the upcoming school year will leave Colorado students whose families’ income is too high to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs–but not high enough to afford school meals–hungry or with school lunch debt. For families who do qualify, the expiration of the federal waiver means dealing with burdensome enrollment paperwork and the stigma that comes with participating in free or reduced-price lunch programs.

What’s on the table?

House Bill 22-1414 Healthy Meals for All Public School Students, a bill passed during this year’s state legislative session, refers a question to the November 2022 ballot for Colorado voters to decide whether to make access to free school meals for all students permanent in our state, starting in the 2023-2024 school year. 

In addition to increasing the economic security of families and ensuring that all students are able to meaningfully engage in both the academic and social aspects of school, this measure would further strengthen Colorado families and communities by incentivizing the purchase of ingredients from local food systems, increasing wages for individuals employed by school meal programs and offering healthier meal options to students. If passed, the program would accomplish this by offering: 

    • An option to participate in a local procurement grant program that would provide schools with funds to purchase food from local farms and ranches.
    • An option to participate in a grant program that would enable schools to increase pay for the staff who serve and prepare meals for students.
    • Funding for equipment and training to provide students with healthier meals.

What can I do?

Here’s how you can support the efforts to make access to healthy school meals a reality for all Colorado students:

 

Vote YES on this November’s ballot question about providing school meals for all students. 

    • Make sure you’re ready to vote on this November’s ballot! In Colorado, you can REGISTER TO VOTE and vote in person up to 7 p.m. on Election Day, November 8th. In order to receive a ballot in the mail, the deadline to register to vote or update your registration is October 31.
    • You can also 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!

Engage in the Healthy School Meals for All Campaign’s official campaign launch events (Stay tuned to Illuminate Colorado’s social media channels for more details!)

    • In-person in Denver on Thursday, August 11 at 10:30 a.m.
    • Regional kick-off dates and details to come!

Sign up to actively participate in the Healthy School Meals for All coalition’s efforts to pass the ballot initiative in November.

What about the 2022-2023 school year?

If your family or a family you know needs support with accessing school meals during this upcoming school year, see below (click on the image to enlarge) or visit the USDA National School Lunch Program webpage for information about how to find out if you qualify for support with accessing school meals during the 2022-2023 school year.

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Illuminate Colorado’s Statement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Illuminate Colorado’s Statement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Like many Americans, we are still processing what the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade means for families. We are grateful for the advocacy led by Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and Cobalt on the Reproductive Health Equity Act HB22-1279, which protects pregnant people’s rights to access reproductive care, including abortion, in Colorado.

Children do well when their parents, caregivers and communities do well. Ensuring pregnant people have accessible and responsive reproductive and maternal health care is crucial to family well-being. Research shows that abortion access increases educational attainment and workforce participation among women and improves outcomes for children.1 Protecting women’s and families’ ability to determine and exercise their own reproductive choices equates to advancing broader economic equity and social justice for women and families for generations to come and is all the more important for people who already face systemic obstacles to health care and economic opportunity.234 Access to concrete supports in times of need—including comprehensive health care that is inclusive of abortion services—is a research-based protective factor that lowers the risk of child abuse and neglect, and is a key way to ensure that families get off to the best possible start. 

At Illuminate Colorado, our values and foundations call us to focus on ensuring people have the supports and resources they need to thrive – not dictating what people can decide about their bodies and their futures. In particular, our organizational foundation of being Family and Community Driven means that we believe families and communities are experts of their own experiences and should be in the driver’s seat of their lives. While we are disheartened by the Supreme Court’s decision, we are also motivated. Together, we remain committed to advocating to ensure all families can determine their pathway to parenthood, which ultimately will lead to more safe, healthy and thriving families.

Necessary and Adequate Medical Care for Your Child is Not Child Abuse
Citations

1) The Economic Effects of Abortion Access: A Review of the Evidence, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, iwpr.org/iwpr-issues/reproductive-health/the-economic-effects-of-abortion-access-a-review-of-the-evidence/

2) Linking Reproductive Health Care Access to Labor Market Opportunities for Women, Bahn, Kugler, Mahoney, Corley, and McGrew  2017.

3) The Costs of Reproductive Health Restrictions, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, iwpr.org/costs-of-reproductive-health-restrictions/

4) The Turnaway Study, ANSIRH, www.ansirh.org/research/ongoing/turnaway-study

 

 

Jade Woodard

Jade Woodard

Executive Director

Jade has served as the Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado since its inception in 2015, following 7 years as the Executive Director of founding partner agency, the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. 

Prevention Through Partnership

Prevention Through Partnership

“Prevention happens in partnership” is a phrase often repeated by the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), Dr. Melissa Merrick. As the Colorado chapter of PCAA these words rang especially true for us at Illuminate Colorado in 2021. As we began to...

Patience is a Virtue: The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

Patience is a Virtue: The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

Like all parents, I have a ton of stuff going on. I overcommit to things, I always think there is more time in the day, and when I feel the crunch of obligations begin to weigh down on me, the dictator starts to come out. I rarely give myself or my daughter any wiggle room for the inevitable unknowns that may arise in life, like an accident on the freeway when we are already running late.

We Need YOU to Advocate for Families at the Federal Level

We Need YOU to Advocate for Families at the Federal Level

While this year’s Colorado legislative session may be over, opportunities to advocate for policies that strengthen kids and families continue at the federal level. Raise your voice, and join Illuminate in advocating for the policies below!

Child Care and Early Learning Reconciliation Plan

Colorado and our nation prospers when our youngest children thrive, because they are our future leaders and community members. No matter where they live–the plains, mountains, rural areas or urban centers–children need high-quality experiences and loving relationships to support healthy development. Ensuring high quality child care is affordable and accessible for families is vital to ensuring a positive future for Colorado.

Conversations continue between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), keeping hope alive that a reconciliation bill is a possibility. Reconciliation discussions include the revamped child care and early learning reconciliation plan, which largely focuses on expanding funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and advocates on the Hill are hopeful that it will be included as part of reconciliation.

What can we do?

We must keep pressure on the Senate to ensure the child care and early learning proposal is included in the reconciliation bill.

To advocate for inclusion of the child care and early learning proposal in the reconciliation bill, participate in Prevent Child Abuse America’s child care action alert.

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program Reauthorization

Home visiting programs are proven to positively impact maternal and child health outcomesincluding by reducing child maltreatment, improving positive parenting practices, and improving family economic self-sufficiency. 

Unfortunately, the current funding level limits their ability to reach the children and families who need them most. Only 150,000 of the 18 million current and expectant parents who could benefit from the program receive services. In Colorado in particular, while some level of home visiting services is available in all counties, according to the Child Fatality Prevention System’s 2020 Annual Legislative Report, “Not a single county in Colorado… has home visiting programs to meet the overall needs of families in the county.”

As the Colorado chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA) and a member of our state’s Home Visiting Investment Task Force, Illuminate Colorado enthusiastically supports the importance of maintaining and bolstering the infrastructure necessary to offer high-quality home visiting services to families across our state and nationwide.

What can we do?

To bring the power of home visiting to more families, we need Congress to reauthorize and increase funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. You can help us to reach members of Congress about the bipartisan MIECHV program by taking part in and sharing the PCA MIECHV action alert!

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Respect Act

When children, adults, and families impacted by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) receive appropriate diagnoses, supports, and services, secondary impacts of FASD (e.g. dropping out of school, getting into trouble with the law, alcohol and other substance use, etc.) can be prevented, and impacted individuals and families can thrive. Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is the most commonly known cause of developmental disabilities in the United States, and recent research shows that up to 1 in 20 first graders in the United States are impacted by the resulting disability of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). 

While we know the importance of diagnosis and providing appropriate services for FASD, significant and concerning gaps in FASD-related diagnostic and clinical resources are common throughout the United States. Despite the clear need for more resources, federal funding for FASD prevention and intervention has declined from $27 million as authorized in the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention Act of 1998 to just over $12 million in FY2021. 

What can we do?

The “FASD Respect Act”  (S. 2238 and  H.R. 4151) authorizes $118 million for prevention, screening, identification, research, and FASD-informed services. The bill reauthorizes and strengthens existing federal FASD programs, replaces the defunct National FAS Taskforce with a National Advisory Council on FASD, and establishes a FASD Center of Excellence as the go-to entity for state, tribal and local governments and non-governmental stakeholders seeking to develop or improve best practices for prevention, diagnosis, and intervention services.

To advocate for the passage of the FASD Respect Act on behalf of an organization, sign on to the Letter of Support.

To advocate for the passage of the FASD Respect Act as an individual, reach out to Colorado’s senators and the representative for your district to schedule a meeting. Find support with scheduling and hosting a meeting with your legislator here.

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

Globally, at least one in five girls and one in ten boys experience childhood sexual violence. Across Colorado, and in our own backyards, child sexual abuse is a major public health concern which must be addressed as a core element of child safety and family well-being. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the previous five years, the number of children who have been sexually abused had steadily risen in Colorado (1). From January 2014 through December 2020, more than 7,400 children in Colorado were identified as having been sexually abused (1).  In 2020 alone, a year when reports of child maltreatment were dramatically down as a 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, which doesn’t account for all of the children who have not yet been identified (2).

What can we do?

Read and sign the petition started by a group of 9 survivors from the Brave Movement and G7 countries and beyond, urgently calling on leaders of the world’s richest countries to take bold and transformative action to end childhood sexual violence when they meet later this month.

We hope you’ll join Illuminate Colorado in speaking up at the federal level to ensure that:

    • Families have access to quality and affordable early learning/child care and home visiting services
    • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention, screening, identification, research, and support services are appropriately funded
    • Bold and transformative action is taken by our and other nations to end childhood sexual violence

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Reflecting on the 2022 Legislative Session’s Wins for Colorado’s Kids and Families

Reflecting on the 2022 Legislative Session’s Wins for Colorado’s Kids and Families

Colorado’s 2022 legislative session wrapped up earlier this month, and Illuminate is thrilled that all of the bills that we supported and tracked due to their capacity to strengthen families by building Protective Factors that prevent child maltreatment (as well as many others that fit within our 2022 policy priorities) have passed! 

From policies that provide families with Concrete Supports in Times of Need to those that support the Social & Emotional Competence of Children, there are many wins to celebrate for our state’s children and families!

Some highlights from this session include:

Increased Prevention Investments in the State Budget

 The 2022-2023 state budget, or “Long Bill” includes increased one-time funding ($150,000) for the Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund (formerly called the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund) to invest in prevention strategies. Thank you to Rep. Herod and the whole Joint Budget Committee!

Continued Investment in Illuminating Child Care through HB22-1295

House Bill 1295, which establishes duties of the new Department of Early Childhood, includes a new sunset date for the state funding that supports Illuminating Child Care through 2028. Thank you to the bill sponsors, Reps. Sirota & Garnett and Sens. Buckner & Fenberg!

Enhanced Statewide Infrastructure as a Result of Multiple Bills

House Bill 1295, House Bill 1197, and House Bill 1278 are critical steps toward coordinated, cohesive, and effective early childhood and behavioral health systems by defining the duties of the new Department of Early Childhood, creating Colorado’s universal preschool program, and establishing the Behavioral Health Administration.

Improved Family Economic Security through HB22-1259 and HB22-1055

House Bill 1259 provides direct economic supports to families through improvements to the Colorado Works program, and House Bill 1055 creates a sales tax exemption for diapers and other essential hygiene products.

Expanded Access to Perinatal & Pediatric Health Care through HB22-1289

House Bill 1289 ensures access to health insurance coverage for all pregnant people and children in Colorado, regardless of immigration status and making other critical improvements to the perinatal service continuum across the state

Head over to the full 2022 legislative session recap for a closer look at these and many other legislative wins for children and families in Colorado!

The Work Continues

Advancing systemic improvements and policy change requires year-long collaboration. Below are just a few areas that require immediate attention to advance the 2022 Illuminating Agenda.

We will all need to:   

    • Engage in stakeholder opportunities as part of implementation of bills that passed this session, especially: 
    • Get involved in the campaign efforts to encourage Coloradans to vote ‘yes’ on the ballot question referred to voters by House Bill 22-1414 Healthy Meals for All Public School Students to provide long-term funding that will ensure that our state’s students have long-term access to school meals by limiting state income tax deductions for people earning more than $300,000 a year.
    • Continue to advocate for primary prevention in federal and state budgets by investing in proven services and professional education that support families and keep kids safe–especially for preschool, child care, evidence-based home visiting programs, family resource centers, afterschool programs, medical and behavioral health care, and child sexual abuse prevention programs
      • This includes advocating federally for increased investments in proven child maltreatment prevention programs and services through MIECHV, CBCAP, and CAPTA
    • Continue to advocate for family economic security–especially access to housing, food, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), and tax credits
    • Continue to advocate for family friendly work policies, including livable wages for Colorado families.
    • Continue to advocate for expanded support for families impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders 
    • Continue to advocate for expanded  support for families impacted by intimate partner violence
    • Continue to advocate for equitable access to services to support healing and recovery

We are so grateful to the many community partners for their leadership and advocacy, to the legislators who sponsored and/or voted in support, and to all of YOU for making your voices heard in order to make these family-strengthening policies a reality in our state. We hope you will join us in celebrating these wins and looking ahead to the next steps in creating and implementing policies that strengthen families and create the conditions for all of Colorado’s children and families to thrive.

Subscribe

Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2022 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate Colorado’s blog.

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