Innovation Through Partnership: Creating “Honey”

Innovation Through Partnership: Creating “Honey”

We know that access to child care is critical for all parents and caregivers in order for children, families and communities to thrive. So it was fairly easy to recognize the need for a mobile child care classroom to serve Colorado families when they need it the most. Figuring out how to make it a reality was a little more complicated.

Through a lot of hard work and with the help of some incredible partners, that reality is finally here. We’re so excited to introduce Honey.

As a foundational part of Illuminating Child Care, Honey is the first of its kind anywhere in the country. 

 

But none of this would be possible without our partners on this project. One of those partners is Proctor Productions, a full-scale design and fabrication firm with a team of passionate designers, fabricators, and storytellers who are dedicated to building any experience, large or small.

 

Honey would not exist today without the creativity, dedication and hard work of Proctor. We recently sat down with the firm to reflect on the experience of working together to create Honey.

Illuminate Colorado: Why did you decide to take on this project?

Proctor Productions: Building and modifying vehicles for clients is very familiar territory for us, but this was something truly special. We initially met with Jade and Joan about their needs and quickly realized the meaning behind what they were trying to do, and instantly knew this was something we could get behind and believe in as well. We have children and families too, so upon hearing their idea of creating this program to take child care to the people who may need it the most to help and heal, we were in. We’re passionate about all the projects we do, but we’re especially proud of the work we’ve done with Illuminate Colorado.

Illuminate: What was your favorite part about working on Honey?

Proctor: That’s a tough question to answer because we really do love every aspect of the work we do; problem solving, custom solutions, artwork, fabrication, all of it. Each member of our teams are specialists on at least one thing, so there are details and elements throughout Honey that of course are favorites, but we honestly have to say that the relationship we have built with Illuminate may be our favorite part of it all and the best example of the project effort. The high level of collaboration we began with continues to be a fundamental of the work to this day.

Illuminate: What part of the renovation are you most proud of?

Proctor: As we said, we have teams of specialists that all bring value to our projects, but one part of the renovation effort we are most proud of is definitely all the custom woodworking, cabinetry, and interior vehicle elements our fabrication team completed inside Honey. The aesthetic is so complete with such accuracy and specificity that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the original vehicle portions and anything new we added to complete the interior functions needed. The finishes and build quality are just so spot-on, Honey’s interior looks like it has always only ever been the wonderful mobile child care classroom it is now. Again, we love it all, but are very proud of that team and the end results.

Illuminate: What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome?

Proctor: We don’t see obstacles, only opportunities for solutions, whatever they may ultimately be. Fortunately, Illuminate sourced a relatively newer RV motor coach in excellent condition as a great point from which to start the project. But there are always unknowns when working with an existing vehicle or mobile platform and those unknowns can definitely be the most challenging to address once you get into the bones of what you’ll really be working with. Honey was already a well-built vehicle with existing hydraulic, pneumatic, gas, electrical, and plumbing systems to design around and integrate with, so considering all those factors was the biggest challenge in accomplishing everything we wanted to in the project. Everything is achievable, it just takes the appropriate amount of time and effort to do it the right way.

Illuminate: Is there anything you learned when it came to how trauma-informed care can impact design?

Proctor: Yes, definitely. We always begin our process with design thinking and asking the right questions to ultimately address the real needs that may be present, but designing for both adult teachers and little kiddos in the classrooms heavily influenced our thinking and final intent. Among many of the things we learned throughout this process, with guidance from Illuminate, we educated ourselves on, and implemented the guiding principles of safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness and empowerment in the classroom wherever we could. Where this influence is most visible is in the forms, shapes, sizes, and placement of elements inside the vehicle. Everything needed to be appropriate and useful to the adults operating the program as drivers, activation staff, and most importantly as teachers. Moreover, it needed to be appropriate for, and compliant with the developmental needs of the infants and toddlers that will be receiving care in the classrooms. Everything from access to toys, books, safe sleeping areas, to colors, artwork, and lighting were considered when designing and creating the interior environment of Honey.

Illuminate: Anything else you’d like to add?

Proctor: Absolutely. It was very important to the entire team from the beginning that this program be accessible to as many families who need help as possible, and one of the ways we could facilitate that access was through the look and feel of the program branding, and especially how the vehicle appears from the exterior and inside as well. We wanted to achieve a balance of Illuminate Colorado’s branding and recognition, but also add some personality and character to this fleet of mobile child care classrooms. We created a look with all the artwork that contains familiar Colorado elements but also some fun and whimsical elements for the kids. And to do that we’ve got a group of bears bringing that personality to life on this vehicle, which it’s named HONEY. HONEY is truly unique in leading the way of how families will experience mobile child care, and our bears are symbolically versatile and can be whatever anyone imagines: a teacher and children, a parent interacting with kids, or parents just hanging out with kiddos. We want to extend educational opportunities to children and make all families feel welcomed, so HONEY represents these family voices in our state of Colorado through it’s bears and mountains. 

We are so grateful for Proctor’s partnership on this project. To learn more about Proctor Productions, visit their website at proctorproductions.com.

We never anticipated this reaction to our first mobile child care classroom.

We never anticipated this reaction to our first mobile child care classroom.

 

Less than two weeks ago, as nearly one hundred donors and supporters of Illuminate Colorado signed up to get a sneak peek at our first mobile child care classroom, we could never had anticipated Colorado State Senator Brittany Pettersen‘s reaction.

Illuminate was lucky to have so many supporters with us online to walk through the mobile child care classroom with Illuminate Colorado Executive Director Jade Woodard, who was onsite at Proctor Productions. After touring the vehicle under renovation, the online event included a panel discussion to talk about the impact of the program in communities and Sen. Pettersen’s emotional response to the unveiling moved everyone else on the call.

“It’s hard to hold back tears. As a law maker you don’t often get to see things come to fruition. You pass a bill, you think about the people that you hope to help, but you rarely get to see something so tangible,” shared Sen. Petterson, co-sponsor of multiple pieces of legislation which helped make Illuminating Child Care possible including House Bill 19-1193 and Senate Bill 20-028. “My mom, she became addicted to opioids when I was just six years-old and when I think about what she went through and the barriers that she faced, not only with access to treatment, but also with having three young kids. This is so meaningful. Access to child care is such as huge barrier.”

Watch the entire live stream panel discussion and reactions from other panelists including Hillary Fulton with the Colorado Health Foundation and representatives from the Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley on the Illuminate Colorado YouTube Channel.

Thank you to Illuminate Colorado sponsors Proctor Productions, Colorado Department of Human Services, Constellation Philanthropy and the Colorado Health Foundation for helping to increase access to child care for parents and caregivers navigating complex life situations, like mental health concerns, substance use disorders, or employment challenges, as they seek to strengthen their families.

Illuminate Colorado is launching a new program – Illuminating Child Care – providing an innovative systemic-approach to increasing access to child care for parents and caregivers navigating complex life situations as they seek to strengthen their families. Partnering with community-based nonprofits, local substance use disorder treatment providers and government agencies, our staff will provide personalized navigation for their clientele to find child care to help them find child care and connect with resources in the community. Our child care teachers will help infants and toddlers learn and grow, onsite where parents are getting the support that they need to strengthen their families. 

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No Judgement Here, Just Three Simple Questions Every Parent Should Ask Themselves to Keep Their Kids Safe

No Judgement Here, Just Three Simple Questions Every Parent Should Ask Themselves to Keep Their Kids Safe

NO JUDGEMENT HERE, IT MAY BE A PART OF HOW YOU MANAGE YOUR STRESS, JUST REMEMBER TO ASK YOURSELF THESE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.

Stress is running high in many houses. We’re trying to anticipate what is happening with the new school year in the fall, while figuring out how to earn a living and take care of our families during this COVID-19 pandemic. For many folks that means accessing unemployment benefits and community support. The kids also don’t have many options this summer other than to stick close to home, and that means parents often don’t have a break from parenting. Then there is the added stress of trying to find child care, it is a lot of pressure.  

If you’re on social media, you can see it’s pretty common to turn to substances to take the edge off, or at least joke about it. Whether it’s a glass of wine or beer, an edible or practicing mindfulness, the choices you make now in how you are present with the children in your life are more important than ever. 

Colorado is a substance friendly state, and many legal substances have remained available during the COVID-19 pandemic. No judgement here, it may be a part of how you manage your stress, but there are three things everyone should ask themselves when considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children to keep them safe. 

Who would take the kids to the hospital if you were incapacitated in any way?

It’s a good rule of thumb and it is the worst case scenario. Driving under the influence of any mind or body altering substance can be dangerous for everyone in and around the vehicle. Make sure there is an adult in the home who has the capacity to get behind the wheel and care for the kids to help prevent something awful from happening.  

That special someone should understand the developmental and physical needs of your kids based on age, ability and need. This may look like having the reaction time needed to keep a toddler off the stairs. Or ensure a baby is being fed and changed consistently, and when needed. Perhaps meeting the emotional needs of an older child. Oftentimes, the very escape that is desired from substance use (including alcohol), is what makes taking care of the kids safely so difficult. Substance use alone does not equal unfit or unsafe parenting. Remember, this is a judgement-free zone. 

If the answer to this question isn’t you, it’s time to make a plan to have a responsible caregiver present during and after use. Edible THC products remain active a lot longer than many people suspect, so plan for several hours after use. 

Is everything stored where the kids can’t get it? 

Substance use may have increased in your home over these last couple of months or become a new normal. This likely means it is around the house more. Again no judgement, we all need to make sure substances are properly stored all the time, just like dangerous household cleaning items. This may include locking alcohol in a cupboard or pantry, or locking medications or THC products in a locking bag or box.

Keeping substances out of reach of children and young people is important, and is an easy step in creating a safe environment for your family.

What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?  

Parenting is stressful under regular circumstances and this new normal may be here for awhile. There are a variety of ways to take care of yourself that doesn’t include “checking out.” Find a place you can retreat to when you start to feel stressed. Even if it is locking yourself in the bathroom or going for a short walk, give yourself permission to take at least 5 minutes alone, assuming children are in a safe place, like a baby in a crib, alone on their back.  Finding ways to take care of yourself can make all the difference in reclaiming some balance and help you be the parent you want to be for your kids. 

Adulting is hard, especially with kids around. Much has changed in this new normal, but the questions to ponder at any point when substances are used, including alcohol, have remained the same. It is up to all of us to make smart choices to keep kids safe. 

Whether you are a single parent who can’t remember the last time you had a moment to yourself or a neighbor helping out watching the kids, anytime you’re considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children, it’s important to ask yourself these three simple questions to keep kids safe. 

Visit SmartChoicesSafeKids.org to get more information to guide us all through the choices we have to make at every age and stage of life to keep kids safe.

And, if after asking yourself these three simple questions, you are starting to think that you need to talk. Call the Colorado Crisis Services 1-844-493-TALK (8255),a support line for anyone affected by a mental health, substance use or emotional crisis. It’s ok to admit that you are struggling. Crisis counselors are standing by.

If you or a loved one needs support, just text, call, or walk-in 24/7/365.

Anne Auld is the director of education for Illuminate Colorado. Auld has worked with children and families for more than 20 years, training parents, professionals and community members on subjects including strengthening families, safe storage, child sexual abuse prevention and much more.

Illuminate Colorado to receive $630,000 Contract For Innovative Child Care Pilot at Addiction Treatment Services Programs

Illuminate Colorado to receive $630,000 Contract For Innovative Child Care Pilot at Addiction Treatment Services Programs

Open Minds reports today, Illuminate Colorado Awarded $430,000 Contract For Addiction Treatment Pilot Program, ultimately the final total contract amount will be just under $630,000.

“We are very excited to continue to advance innovative child care services in Colorado to help reduce barriers and stigma to accessing care for families impacted by substance use disorders. With public and private partnership, Illuminate is hopeful that we will significantly prevent child maltreatment in Colorado, “ said Jade Woodard executive director of Illuminate Colorado.

Child Care.jpg

In addition to the $630,000 provided by the Colorado Department of Human Services, Illuminate has received a $750,000 multi-year grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to pilot this new and innovative type of child care in Colorado with a focus on serving families with children ages 0-5. The three-year mobile child care pilot will begin in 2020 in two regions, serving multiple substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities in order to meet the immediate needs of caregivers accessing SUD treatment. Illuminate has plans to expand the pilot by outfitting motor-homes into infant/toddler classrooms to visit treatment centers around the state to provide child care to parents seeking support for substance use disorders.

Read the entire article from Open Minds

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