Illuminate Partners with Head Start to Support Strength Based Conversations Related to Substance Use

Illuminate Partners with Head Start to Support Strength Based Conversations Related to Substance Use

Many families struggle, often in private, with substance use. But beginning a conversation around substance use with any family can often feel uncomfortable and awkward, even for professionals who work with children and families every day, like home visitors and early child care professionals. 

When families can feel safe to talk about substance use in a non-judgmental and hopeful way, the relationship between a professional dedicating their career to supporting families and any parent can be strengthened, and children are ultimately safer for it. 

That is why, in 2017, Illuminate Colorado developed the Smart Choices Safe Kids Conversation Guide for Professionals to learn how to incorporate topics like substance use and safe storage into everyday conversations with families. Since then, Illuminate has trained over 600 professionals across Colorado to have strength based conversations with families and distributed more than 8,000 safe storage bags making their way into the hands of Colorado families.

The strength based conversations promote a multi-generational approach, encouraging professionals to think critically about substance use and substance use disorders, as each family is unique. The training includes a “Conversation Guide” of scripts for professionals to use as guidelines to start and continue conversations on safe homes, safe caregiving and child & family well-being, at every age and stage of life. 

“The key to a successful conversation is to avoid judgment, stigma, and bias – actively listening and engaging with the family you are working with. All families want the best for their children and have hopes and dreams for their children’s futures.” Jason Read M.Ed., education and training program manager with Illuminate Colorado. “Using substances, whether legal, illegal, or prescribed, doesn’t change how much parents care about their children, but it may impact their ability to do what is best for them.”

In addition to receiving tips, techniques and strategies to help keep kids safe and families healthy, professionals leave the training with Smart Choices Safe Kids brochures for people parenting in English and Spanish and safe storage bags to share with families. With the brochure inside of the bags, professionals have a tool to universally share with families to continue conversations around safety in the home. 

Taking the Conversation Guide training has provided our staff with the language and strategies to have difficult conversations with the families we support,” shared Sherry Price, deputy director of Hilltop Family Resource Center one of many organizations that have encouraged their staff to take the Conversation Guide training. “Giving safe storage bags to families has been a life-saver in promoting a safe home and reducing risk of children accidentally ingesting harmful substances such as prescriptions, legal substances and poisonings.”

Many home visitors already talk about where the cleaning products are stored, or keeping certain items out of reach of small children. Now they can incorporate the bag into a conversation about safety, and talk about what other items could be stored in the locking bag, like medications, edibles or paraphernalia, for example. 

And in 2021, in addition to supporting Colorado professionals, Illuminate is set to begin training Head Start staff across the country to use this Conversation Guide for Professionals, in partnership with the National Center of Health, Behavioral Health and Safety (NCHBHS), under the Office of Head Start, an Office of the Administration for Children & Families. Collaborating with NCHBHS in this way puts Illuminate in the company of some extraordinary national leaders in child development. Other partners in the NCHBHS include: Sesame Workshop, Child Trends, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development and Child Trauma Research Program, to name just a few.

“This is an exciting endeavor to help build knowledge and comfort in having conversations with families about substances and substance use all across the country,” said Anne Auld director of education for Illuminate Colorado“Over the course of the next five years, we will not only train Head Start staff across the nation, we will also create a Train the Trainer model to ensure organizations have ongoing access to this training and increased organizational capacity to strengthen families and their own communities. That’s how we create transformation change.” 

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Learn more about the Smart Choices Safe Kids and the Conversation Guide for Professionals.

It’s Pinwheel Planting Season!

It’s Pinwheel Planting Season!

Every day, we help positive childhood experiences take root. Planting pinwheels represents the bright childhoods we all want for children. Since 2009, as the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America, Illuminate Colorado has lead an effort to distribute pinwheels throughout our state to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse and strengthening families. 

And since the beginning of the Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado, our collective efforts have grown exponentially with hundreds of local organizations and individuals distributing more than fifty thousand pinwheels each year. It was an amazing effort, that is until last year. Just as we were getting started distributing pinwheels the pandemic hit Colorado and we have been storing approximately forty thousand pinwheels in our offices ever since.

And while life may have not returned to normal yet, we are not going to let that deter us from doing what our organization always does this time of year – get ready for child abuse prevention month in April. However, we also know we can’t rely on our tried and true strategy of connecting with community organizations, early childhood councils, human service agencies, advocates and schools to inspire their communities to strengthen families. Those folks are busy and STRESSED dedicating their careers to creating positive childhood experiences and supporting people parenting during this incredibly stressful time in all of our lives.

This year, we need to look to you – our friends, families and neighbors – to plant pinwheels in your front yards or neighborhoods as a symbol of support for the bright childhoods we all want for children. We know we need this reminder now more than ever. 

To that end, we are excited to announce that – for the first time thanks to the generous support of our Board of Directors and the philanthropic community- Illuminate Colorado is giving away 40,000 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire ​Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

Pinwheels for Prevention® Giveaway!

Illuminate Colorado is giving away 40,000 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire ​Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

The coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed our world permanently. In the United States and likely your community, parents and professionals alike are still trying to adapt and understand the new landscape that the pandemic has created and its repercussions for raising happy healthy children. 

The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings that necessitate new childcare and homeschool arrangements, and food insecurity.

Physical distancing leads to the unintended consequence of isolation. The social connections and community services and activities that serve as protective factors against child abuse and neglect under ordinary conditions may not exist in this extraordinary time of physical distancing. 

Join us in planting the seeds of a better tomorrow for children and families in your community by visiting to get your free pinwheels TODAY.  

There is a limit of 100 FREE pinwheels per household or organization and shipping and handling costs are not included in this special offer. 

Use Pinwheels for Prevention®

  • Give the pinwheels as a gift to another family to let them know you care

  • Display them in the background of your virtual meetings
  • Share pictures on social media #GrowingBetterTogether to promote positive childhood experiences

Ways to Get Involved

Follow #GrowingBetterTogether to Connect to the Movement in Your Community

Tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to Let Us Know You are Committed to #GrowingBetterTogether



Subscribe to Illuminate Colorado’s blog to find out about more activities planned for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Spread the Word about Safe Infant Sleep

Spread the Word about Safe Infant Sleep

To help raise awareness about safe infant sleep during Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month in October, we’re inviting you to participate in a fun and friendly photo activity called #SafeSleepSnap.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles—anyone can participate by sharing a photo of a baby in a safe sleep area on their social media accounts. Make sure you use the hashtag #SafeSleepSnap so everyone can see the adorable pictures of babies in safe sleep areas.

(Not sure what a safe sleep area looks like? Check out this page for details.)

Here are the specifics:

  1. Post a photo of your baby, grandbaby, niece, or nephew in or next to a safe sleep area on your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
  2. Use the hashtag #SafeSleepSnap in the post. This is how we’ll know you participated!
  3. Give yourself kudos for taking part in #SafeSleepSnap and helping raise awareness about safe infant sleep.

Be creative! Practicing safe infant sleep can be fun. Creativity and humor are encouraged in the photos and captions, as long as the baby’s sleep area follows safe sleep recommendations. This album  includes examples you can use as inspiration.

This is your opportunity to both show off your cutie and help other caregivers see that safe infant sleep can be fun! Illuminate Colorado is proud to serve in a convening role for the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership (ISSP), whose mission is to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change, and systems improvement. We will also be posting #SafeSleepSnap photos on our accounts throughout October. Please like the photos, retweet them, and share them with your friends and followers.

We look forward to seeing your #SafeSleepSnap!

For our organizational and community partners, we encourage you to use the Safe to Sleep Campaign’s #SafeSleepSnap Digital Toolkit to help raise awareness around infant safe sleep practices. In this toolkit, you can find resources for family-serving professionals and providers, as well as for caregivers and families! Resources are available in English and Spanish, and in a variety of user-friendly formats, including videos, infographics, and interactive tools.

Visit the Safe to Sleep website to explore information and resources, and to find out more about the campaign and toolkit.

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Ensuring the Colorado Shared Message Bank and a Community for Communicators Grows and Thrives

Ensuring the Colorado Shared Message Bank and a Community for Communicators Grows and Thrives

As many in the early childhood community know, the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership (ECCP) worked intentionally to advance the shared goals within the Early Childhood Colorado Framework for many years. Developing and sustaining a comprehensive early childhood system with children and families at the center was no easy task, and no one individual, organization or agency can do it alone. Together, their collective efforts facilitated numerous engagements and tools that continue to support families and organizations today. However, with numerous organizations focused on early childhood health and education, the ECCP Steering Committee decided earlier this year to discontinue the work and create space for others to grow and thrive.

As the ECCP dissolved, Illuminate Colorado has stepped in to ensure that the Colorado Shared Message Bank and the community that ECCP supported for communicators focused on promoting research-based frames and messages proven to garner broad public support for issues connected to healthy early childhood development, the prevention of adversity, mitigation of toxic stress and promotion of resilience and strengthening families continues to exist and grow into the future.

The Colorado Shared Message Bank is a critical tool in the toolbox to aid people in shifting community norms, perceptions and policy toward embracing the importance of investing in children and strengthening families and communities. It is also product of a collaborative effort of many people trained to support partners around the state as they work to integrate the Shared Message Bank and communications best practices into their communications efforts with and on behalf of children and families. These mentors review partner materials and offer advice on framing to promote social change or engage Coloradans in services that strengthen families.  

As additional frameworks to support maternal health and child maltreatment prevention have been created in Colorado and the community focused on improving communications practices begins to reconvene to share what is working and learn from one another, we offer a message of gratitude to the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership for providing the space and conditions for diverse partners across the comprehensive early childhood system – encompassing health, mental health, family support and early learning – to come together to identify common results, share best and innovative practices, and implement strategies to improve system effectiveness for and with child and family well-being.

Join the community of communicators to find support in promoting messages that strengthen families. 


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