New Colorado Youth Thrive Collaborative Aims to Improve Youth Well-Being

New Colorado Youth Thrive Collaborative Aims to Improve Youth Well-Being

Illuminate Colorado has been working to increasing community and family protective factors since our formation in 2017 and long before through our founding organizations. Recently, our organization also began working to build protective and promotive factors for young people aged 9-26 by offering a new Youth ThriveTM training and convening the Colorado Youth Thrive Collaborative focused on creating the best long-term well-being outcomes for young people.  

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The Youth Thrive Framework

The five protective and promotive factors are a part of the Youth Thrive framework developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). According to the CSSP, protective factors help eliminate or mitigate the impact of negative life experiences, while promotive factors actively enhance healthy development and well-being.

Research from the CSSP shows that building protective and promotive factors in young people, such as youth resilience and knowledge of adolescent development, creates positive long term outcomes for young people and even helps overcome the harmful effects of racism, systemic oppression, and policing disparities.

Learn more about the role of protective and promotive factors in promoting youth well-being and preventing child maltreatment.

Helping Youth Thrive in Colorado

Illuminate Colorado is proud to convene the Colorado Youth Thrive Collaborative and support partners Compound of Compassion, Bigger Than Me, Fatherhood Support Services and the Youth Empowerment Agency  incorporating the CSSP Youth Thrive framework into their existing and future programming. The work began last summer when the Compound of Compassion hosted Safe Zone events in response to the rapid rise of youth violence. “We want to bring some kind of cohesiveness and collaboration so that there is a personal relationship that’s built, so that we all commune together as a whole and address the issues,” said Compound of Compassion Founder Shana Shaw last month when local news highlighted how the Aurora nonprofits are working to support youth during a spike in violence. 

Even though there has been a recent uptick in youth violence, research shows that communities can foster positive and meaningful change. According to Dr. Apryl Alexander, Associate Professor at the University of Denver and the director of Denver FIRST, which works with adults and juveniles in the criminal justice system, community-based interventions are the most effective at reducing concerns such as youth violence, and community-led interventions are far more effective than system-based interventions.

It Takes a Village

The strength of community-based and -led interventions, coupled with the five protective and promotive factors, means that there is a unique opportunity for each of us to mitigate risk and improve the well-being of young people in our communities. Here are some suggestions and examples of how you can support young people in your community:

      • Identify and celebrate moments when a young person draws on their inner strength.
      • Show trust, respect, and appreciation for the children in your life.
      • Be a trusted and knowledgeable adult when a child, teenager, or young adult comes to you to talk about adolescent development.
      • Normalize asking for help when you need it for the young people in your life.
      • Model how to be kind and interact positively with others.

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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.

Keeping Kids Safe Online

Keeping Kids Safe Online

This year, planning for school means planning to keep kids safe online.

Last week, I had to decide how my children were going to return to school year.  I don’t know if I made the right decision. It was so difficult and it seems every parent I have talked with has struggled to know the right decision and are instead making the best decision for their family.  And still, I am pretty sure every parent who made a decision could very easily be convinced that they made the wrong decision.

What I do know is that since making the decision, several districts have decided that students won’t come back in person at the start of the year.  That means most parents will again be faced with online school—either for a few weeks, or the whole year. Here are a few things that have been on my mind since then:

      • I have no idea what it is going to look like.
      • At least they will be learning something other than Tik-Tok dances online.
      • Will they teach kindergarten like Tik-Tok taught Savage, because my kindergartner has that down.
      • Please don’t teach high school like Tik-Tok taught my teenager Savage. That was 8 hours straight, on repeat.
      • At least Beyonce and I both have to jump to put on jeans.
      • Wait – does this mean the kids will be online even more? This last thought is the one that has me most worried.

I already question how safe my kids are online. In fact, they learned all their Tik-Toks through YouTube since I don’t allow social media, a practice which is getting more difficult every day.  Now they will be online even longer every day and many will be online for the whole year.  We know that the more kids are online, the more vulnerable they are to cyber-bullying, inappropriate content and online predators and exploitation.

I remember the first time I found out, purely by accident, that one of my children had been exposed to inappropriate content. After a private freak out session with my partner and a couple of trusted friends, I took a friend’s advice.  By not blaming, but rather walking through what they see, and talking about how to avoid it in the future, parents can answer questions and support their children in being savvy with the technology that will be a part of the rest of their lives.

The good news is, there is no shortage of training and materials on how to keep your kids safe online. There are programs you can pay for, accounts you can create and videos you can watch.  The best part is, the research is clear.  Talking to our children about threats online, just like talking to them about drugs, just may be our best defense.

1. Talk With Your Kids About the Risks of Increased Time Online 

Guide their online behaviors by teaching them to identify and avoid red flags, and be explicit with them. Make sure your child knows that it’s safe for them to talk to you if something makes them uncomfortable. You can find a great guide HERE or see a full-sized version of our “How to Talk with Your Kids about Online Safety” guide at the bottom of this post or HERE.

2. Create an Online Safety Plan or Agreement With Your Child

Together, set clear guidelines like when and where they can be online. Teach them to spot red flags and encourage open communication. Have a plan in place in case your child is impacted by one of the threats. Practice what your responses are so you can focus on helping your child deal with their feelings.

 

3. Every Device Has a Way to Set Up Parental Controls

I have even had my kids help me set them up so that it felt less about me controlling them and more about all of us being safe.  It worked great because they are way more tech savvy than I am anyway!

Now, I may not be able to dance Savage like my teenager or my kindergartner, but at least I can take these simple actions to protect them while they learn more dances and avoid their schoolwork.

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Illuminate Colorado makes adjustments to reflect the ongoing support and health for our employees and the communities we serve.

Illuminate Colorado makes adjustments to reflect the ongoing support and health for our employees and the communities we serve.

As you can imagine, as an organization that works to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, we are beginning to face many difficult decisions. Based on information we have reviewed, including the close monitoring of local and national health reports and directives regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) and inconsideration of the many school closures that have impacted our employees and community partners daily lives, we have adjustments to reflect the ongoing support and health for our employees and the communities we serve. Including:

  • Cancelling or postponing all in person events through the end of March. We will be focused on a digital first experience at Illuminate Colorado. Our office is not closed, but Illuminate employees are working virtually as much as possible through March 27 at which time it will be determined if there is the need for an extension of this general practice. During this period of time, staff will be answering phone calls and emails. Please call the main phone line at (303) 413-3460 if you need assistance or visit a staff directory
  • Ramping up digital training and education starting next week. Our goal is to help share more tips, training, and education on how you can leverage social during this challenging time to raise awareness for the prevention of child maltreatment and strengthen families. Illuminate Colorado cares about your community – help us stop the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to spread awareness for the prevention of child maltreatment during this time.
  • Launching a new community on Facebook to provide a space for parents and caregivers to connect to one another during this stressful time. We recognize that the added stress of the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Colorado, the closure of schools and child care services and social distancing places children and families at greater risk for toxic stress and child maltreatment. We also know that social connections are critical in the prevention of child maltreatment. This added communication platform will be a place for you to connect with Illuminate Colorado employees as well as other parents and experts statewide. 

The health and safety of our staff and the communities that we serve are our top priority and this decision to postpone meetings was not made lightly, but out of an overabundance of caution. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make decisions about events and meetings in April in the next few weeks and update you accordingly. We also encourage the community to continue hand washing and follow other recommendations from the CDC about how to avoid the spread of illness and visit Colorado’s COVID-19 website for more information.

Behind the scenes, we will continue to operate to ensure that we return to business as usual as soon as it is safe to do so. We appreciate your support and understanding during these difficult times. For the latest information, please continue to check our blog at www.IlluminateColorado.org/news  

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