Parents’ Stories a Focus of the Campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Parents’ Stories a Focus of the Campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Nearly one hundred people gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to promote positive childhood experiences and listen to parents share their experiences in recognition of child abuse prevention month. The event is the first of many activities happening throughout the nation, and Colorado, as part of the month-long Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together.  

“Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in my community. And, every day, we each help positive childhood experiences take root,” said Beverley Besha Moore, emcee for the event and board member of Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate), the statewide nonprofit organizing this annual grassroots effort to raise awareness during child abuse prevention month. As the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the organization leads the national Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado which has grown exponentially over the years, giving away more than 40,000 FREE pinwheels last year as many families were under significant stress doing their best to parent during a pandemic.

2022 Colorado Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign Launch Event

Thank you to all the partners, parents and kids that joined us at the Colorado State Capitol! What a great start to Child Abuse Prevention Month!
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A leading champion for all children in the United States, Prevent Child Abuse America is the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. Prevent Child Abuse America experts develop innovative, evidence-based prevention strategies, raise public awareness, and advocate for family-friendly policies and programs at the national, state, and local levels to ensure that all children and families get what they need to thrive. “Research shows that positive childhood experiences grow thriving families and communities,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “This is the moment to build a child and family well-being system that propels families to grow and thrive together. Please consider joining us to ensure safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are cultivated to enable children, families, and entire communities to succeed – today and for generations to come.” 

As a mom to seven kids myself, two by adoption and five by birth, I know that no parent can do this alone. All parents need support from their community to raise their kids—it truly does take a village. And while all families need support, some families do experience social, economic and environmental inequities more than others and this explains why children of color experience significant disparities in child well-being.” said Besha Moore. As an African American mother, I’ve experienced first-hand the struggle of wanting to ask for help but being fearful that I would be looked at differently or treated differently because I’m African American. We can all help by proactively calling out inequity and injustice and working to create the conditions for safe, stable and nurturing spaces. All children and families thrive when communities focus on addressing root causes that lead to health and social inequities. We all need to know how to strengthen the family next door.”

This year, Illuminate is giving away 10 Free pinwheels to anyone interested in getting more involved and asking all Coloradans to pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. “When parents, caregivers, family, friends, neighbors, employers and elected leaders work together to increase five critical protective factors in families’ lives that is when we can prevent child abuse, strengthen families and build brighter childhoods,” continued Besha Moore.

Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in my community. And, every day, we each help positive childhood experiences take root.

Beverley Besha Moore

Board Member, Illuminate Colorado

Conditions in communities where people live, learn, work and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes – including child abuse and neglect – a serious problem affecting every segment of our community. The occasion focused on effective community-based solutions including home visiting, homeless shelters, family resource centers and other local community supports that support all families thereby reducing the likelihood of child maltreatment.  In October 2018, I experienced every parents worst nightmare; my three and a half year-old son pasted away. After that tragedy, I was offered a whirlwind of supportive services, counseling, classes, family and friends coming to offer support. Every single one played a part in my healing process. What I found most life-altering was my home visiting program,” shared Alexa Chenoweth, a mother of two girls under the age of four from Rifle, Colorado. 

Another father opened up about his journey through parenthood having experienced homelessness. “I never thought I would ever become homeless until it happened. A number of events led me to a point in my life where I needed to find a temporary home so that I could start working to rebuild my life from the ground up and continue to support my basic needs and be there for my son,” said Dave Ehlert the Colorado Springs father of a nine year-old boy.  “Parenting isn’t always easy. There’s no book to follow on how to be a perfect parent and it can be difficult at times. The good news is there’s so many resources in all of our communities that are reaching out to us to provide services, programs and support as we navigate our parental journey.”

 

In addition to the more than 50 campaign partners displaying pinwheels in April as a show of support for the prevention of child maltreatment, promoting the campaign messaging on social media using #GrowingBetterTogether, and encouraging Coloradans to take part in the campaign; campaign sponsors including the presenting sponsor SafeCare Colorado of Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood, and organizing sponsor Colorado’s Office of Children, Youth & Families and media sponsor Colorado Parent, also supported the event.

As added incentive to make a commitment to strengthening families this month, one person who takes the pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together will be selected at the end of the month to win an opportunity to choose a Colorado nonprofit, school or child care organization to receive a $2,500 grant, thanks in large part to the campaign sponsor Colorado Child Welfare Scholars Consortium, part of a statewide effort to invest in the education of selected students in order to attract qualified social work professionals into the field of public child welfare services in Colorado.  For more ways you can to strengthen families and take the pledge to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together and learn more about child abuse and neglect prevention and activities happening around the state all-month long, visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org

Following a message from Governor Jared Polis, Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, and Mary Alice Cohen, director of the Office of Early Childhood from the Colorado Department of Human Services addressed the crowd to thank the thousands of professionals, parents and caregivers who have strengthen families throughout the pandemic. “I’ve seen amazing collaboration happen with partners across the state throughout this pandemic to take care of families in their communities and ensure they have what they need to be successful and help their kids grow up healthy, strong and ready for school,” said Castillo Cohen. “We know that when families are connected and have access to concrete support in their communities, child maltreatment can be prevented. It truly takes all of us to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

“The last two years have been so challenging for children and their families. I know many of you have first hand experience with this,” shared Cohen. “Our routines and our support systems were changed abruptly. In the Office of Early Childhood we were heartened to see the creativity and resilience all of our partners showed to ensure the youngest Coloradans continued to thrive; yet we also recognized the significant needs families faced, and continue to face.”

The event ended on a heartfelt note with Besha Moore share a personal story after reflection on the work going on inside the Capitol. “You see, I was a teen mom. When he was just three and half years old. At that time, I was handling the financial struggles of being a single mom. I found myself in a position when I was wondering do I purchase diapers or purchase sanitary items that I needed. And of course, the diapers won. So I swallowed my pride and I did whatever was needed. But, just imagine if there was such a thing as not having a tax on diapers back then,” shared Besha Moore referencing a bill Colorado lawmakers are working on this legislative session to make essential items, like period products and diapers, more affordable.  “That definitely could have helped me. And If I had really felt confident about these wonderful services that we have here in Colorado, if those things were made available to me, I definitely would have taken them.” 

Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in your community.

Take the pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

Show your support for strengthening families in Colorado and take the pledge to build protective factors and prevent child abuse in your community.

Get Your 10 FREE Pinwheels

Illuminate Colorado, a statewide nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, is giving away 10 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® to Coloradans to inspire our communities to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together.

>>Interested in getting more involved or sharing your lived experiences?

Parents: It’s Time to Talk About Strengthening Our Families

Parents: It’s Time to Talk About Strengthening Our Families

For more than ten years now, you may have seen gardens of pinwheels planted at your child’s school, day care or a local hospital or nonprofit organization, and wondered, why? It’s because pinwheels are the national symbol for child abuse prevention meant to start a conversation about how to strengthen families. 

“What research has shown, and what our experiences have borne out, is that people respond to the pinwheel. Child abuse is a hard topic for most people to think about, let alone talk about. By its very nature, the pinwheel reminds us all of the bright childhoods we want for all children,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado, the statewide nonprofit organizing this annual grassroots effort to raise awareness during child abuse prevention month. As the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the organization leads the national Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado which has grown exponentially over the years, giving away more than 40,000 FREE pinwheels last year as many families were under significant stress doing their best to parent during a pandemic. 


“Families get overloaded with stress when facing significant challenges like unemployment, substance misuse or mental health struggles, making it incredibly hard to parent and keep your child safe. That’s when kids are at greater risk for abuse or neglect. Just like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when other parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors, community organizations and even elected officials increase protective factors around families, then we lighten the load. That’s how we prevent child abuse and strengthen families,” continued Woodard. “We are encouraging Colorado communities to have a conversation about helping families upstream- reducing stress on parents and building resources and systems that work together to help us raise our families. Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving.” 

Locations where pinwheels tend to sprout up are usually: 

  • organizations that are working every day with young children like elementary schools, child care centers and home visiting programs; 
  • organizations that recognize their role in strengthening families like family resource centers, medical offices and hospitals; 
  • businesses supportive of family-friendly work environments and the children and families in their communities;  and, of course,
  • nonprofit and human services agencies doing the incredibly hard job of helping children and families heal from child maltreatment. 

This year, many of those same organizations are doing more to empower parents who are passionate about making sure their neighborhood protects children and strengthens families. On April 1st, parents are joining Colorado legislators and representatives from more than 50 campaign partners to gather on the West steps of the Colorado State Capitol at 11:00 am to promote positive childhood experiences and launch a month-long campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Organizers plan to share more about ways to show your support and earn a $2,500 grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit, school or child care provider at the event. Illuminate is also giving away 10 FREE pinwheels to anyone who wants to get more involved and join this movement. You can order your free pinwheels online at COPinwheelsForPrevention.org or stop by the public family-friendly campaign launch event to pick up your pinwheels. Each pinwheel comes with a small greeting card to give to someone else or display to help inspire other people in your community to learn more about how we can strengthen families.

Five Way to Use Pinwheels for Prevention®

Display your pinwheels in a pot in your front yard or window to show your support and get people talking about strengthening families.

Organize a pinwheel parade in your neighborhood, school or child care center.

Give your pinwheels to a child you care about along with the Pinwheels for Prevention® coloring sheet, available in the campaign community activity guide

Ask your favorite restaurants, pediatrician and dentist offices to display a small bouquet of pinwheels at the front desk to let customers know they support children and families in the community.

Leave one pinwheel on the doorstep of 10 of your neighbor’s homes to build the movement or say “thank you for keeping me strong.”

“We’ve done this for many, many years in person at the Capitol with our pinwheels and we are so excited to be back together in person for the first time since 2019. We definitely did our best virtually during the pandemic, but it is just nothing like the energy that we get when we are all together at the Capitol to launch Child Abuse Prevention Month,” continued Woodard.

Five Ways to Build Stronger Families

Protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities. Protective factors help buffer from the negative consequences of exposure to risks by either reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person responds to the risk. Consequently, enhancing protective factors can reduce the likelihood of problem behaviors arising.

Research by the Center for the Study of Social Policy has shown five protective factors increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. Throughout the month of April, campaign partners will be highlighting ways parents, employers and community members can build the following protective factors to strengthen families.

1 – Be Strong in the Face of Stress – Build Parental Resilience 

Resilience is managing stress and dealing with your life, even when things get difficult.

Right now, stress is HIGH. You’ve likely felt a little short-temper, yelled or not been your best-self at moments. Everyone needs to practice self-care right now, especially parents. Take care of yourself, to take care of your kids. Share a mindfulness or stress management tip, encourage others parents to give themselves permission to not be perfect.

2 – Connecting With Other People Matters – Build Social Connections

Having a network of friends and family helps us feel secure, confident and empowered. Accept help from others and look for opportunities to give back. Reach out to others, talk about what is going on in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Focus on nurturing relationships where you feel respected and appreciated.

3 – Grow Your Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development – Build Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

There is no perfect parent, but knowing what to expect does make the job easier. Discover what to expect as your child grows. Try new skills and tips to help your child progress and thrive. Pause to understand why your child is acting out and respond in a positive, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate way.

4 – Every Parent Needs Support Sometimes – Build Concrete Support in Times of Need

Some problems are too big to solve alone. Knowing where to get help in the community can make life easier. Know what help is available in your community. Make a plan for what programs you might need if you were faced with unemployment or severe illness. Reach out and ask for support when needed. Share your story with others about programs and resources that have helped you along the way.

5 – Help Your Child Manage Feelings and Relationships – Build Social and Emotional Competence of Children

Help children develop skills so they can manage their emotions and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults. Respond warmly and consistently to your child. Allow your child to express their emotions. Model how to be kind and interact positively with others.

Most parents, including those known to child protection, are truly doing the best they can and want to do well by their children. All families need help sometimes. Some are overburdened and close to breaking points as they struggle with child care and work, the threat of unemployment, food or housing insecurities, and other intense pressures. Creating better outcomes for children starts with ensuring families are supported and strengthened when they need help – rather than penalized. 

The Colorado Department of Human Services recently reported that calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 844-CO-4-Kids (844.264.5437), have rebounded after a significant drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most of the calls that come into the hotline are really around a parent’s lack of resources, so, one of the ways that we can really support families is by making sure that we are connecting them to those resources -those concrete supports that families need,” said Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families, one of three organizing sponsors of the campaign. 

“I am very excited about the campaign because it gives us an opportunity to work outside of our child protection system and really talk about human services, so instead of child welfare, thinking about child well-being,” said Castillo Cohen. “ I just really hope that people put out the pinwheels in their yard, encourage their elementary schools and the businesses in their own communities to get involved and recognize strong employees who have families are even stronger when they have a support network,” said Castillo Cohen.

“I am very excited about the campaign because it gives us an opportunity to work outside of our child protection system and really talk about human services, so instead of child welfare, thinking about child well-being,” said Castillo Cohen. “ I just really hope that people put out the pinwheels in their yard, encourage their elementary schools and the businesses in their own communities to get involved and recognize strong employees who have families are even stronger when they have a support network,” said Castillo Cohen. 

Ways to Get Involved

Join Together on April 1

You can promote positive childhood experiences and preventing adversity by wearing blue on April 1 – National Wear Blue Day – and share your picture online letting others know you support #GrowingBetterTogether. 

Colorado Campaign Launch to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together
April 1 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Colorado State Capitol West Steps
200 E Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203

RSVP to let campaign organizers know you plan to support the cause and help the campaign get off to a strong start. 

Come down to the Capitol to meet other parents passionate about making sure their neighborhood protects children and strengthens families. Be the first to learn more about how you can WIN a $2,500 grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit, school or child care provider! 

Organize Your People

Become a campaign partner, download the campaign community activity guide and encourage your friends, other parents and your child’s school or day care to order their FREE 10 Pinwheels. 

Join the Movement

Follow #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community and tag us on Illuminate on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to show you support. 

Meeting Parents Where They Are – Bringing Child Care with Us

Meeting Parents Where They Are – Bringing Child Care with Us

Before any parent goes back to work, gets into treatment or tries to tackle any one of life’s challenges that may take them away from their child, they need to find child care. It’s a problem all parents can relate to, but solutions depend entirely on what access to child care looks like in your community.

Options for all families in Colorado will look very different by the fall of 2023 when the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood Education rolls out the voluntary universal preschool program. Two years from now, families with 4-year-olds will have access to 10 hours of childcare per week through community-based centers, a program in a family’s home, a local Head Start program or a school-based provider. Senator Janet Buckner, one of the sponsors of a bill to implement the program shared with CPR News that “[t]he legislation talks about 10 hours but for low income students, they’re going to get additional hours.”

Reports also indicated that the voluntary universal preschool program is estimated to save families about $4,300 a year. That’s great news for all families, but the child care crisis isn’t just impacting families, it’s impacting everyone and every part of society. In particular, it’s impacting local behavioral health providers and community-based nonprofits’ ability to address some of Colorado’s most complex issues like substance misuse and poverty. Those agencies are getting creative when it comes to increasing access to child care for their clients.

Mile High Behavioral Healthcare provides a continuum of behavioral healthcare —offering affordable care and housing services with focused programs to help adults and young people address life challenges – offering hope for individuals on a journey of recovery—recovery from trauma, substance use and mental health challenges and homelessness. “We are really trying to expand and do things from a family lens, compared to just the identified patient,” said Jessica Courtney, chief clinical officer for Mile High Behavioral Healthcare. 

Listen to Raven’s Miracle Story

HONEY Serves the Denver Metro Area

The organization is one of several organizations utilizing Honey, the Illuminating Child Care on-site child care classroom visiting locations in the Denver Metro Area, to increase access to child care for their clients. Courtney estimates that 95% of the women in the Miracles program engaged in treatment related to substance misuse and mental health challenges have children. The program offers traditional and enhanced outpatient programming to meet the individual needs of the women. Classes include life skills, job readiness, parenting, healthy relationships, cooking, yoga, and quilting to support sobriety and recovery.

“Our belief is that the opposite of addiction is connection. Sobriety is fine, but that’s not living. Most of our clients don’t know how to live, they didn’t grow up with trusted adults in their lives. Our clients average an ACEs score of more than seven.” The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score is a guideline used to measure childhood trauma including physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect developed in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. This pivotal study also highlighted the negative–and often lasting–effects childhood trauma can have on health, well-being and opportunity which Miracles’ moms are working to overcome.

The Miracles program lasts all day, every day. And, while the program loves babies, parenting while trying to engage in treatment and recovery comes with some unique challenges. “Babies need time to be away from the high stimulation that is going on with the women talking, doing group or eating together. If a baby is fussy or difficult, it really disrupts the group, and, if a baby is calm and cute, it also disrupts the group,” explained Courtney. “At the same time, we know the importance of a mom being with her kid and learning skills to regulate herself while her baby is dysregulated, all of that is super important. Illuminating Child Care seemed like a natural fit. Having something on site, that they can easily access and run out [of the building] if something major happens, is a really comforting thing.”

The partnership between Mile High Behavioral Healthcare is a great example of multi-generational child maltreatment prevention. “It is nice to have access to [the Illuminating Child Care] team looking out for missed developmental milestones. They have access to different resources than we do and even bring a pediatrician every now and then. When we’re decreasing maternal stress and increasing the maternal community, then we are also decreasing a baby’s future ACEs scores. We’re catching it more upstream,” shared Courtney.

CrossPurpose is also partnering with Illuminate Colorado to increase access to child care for their clientele working to gain sustainable careers and get out of poverty for good. The Denver nonprofit is working to abolish relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through career and community development. Their core program offers six months of intensive classes, for four hours a day, focused on personal and professional development. 

Meet Mariah – A CrossPurpose Graduate

In addition to skills building and personal development for careers in the trades, construction, administration, customer services and medical fields, CrossPurpose also brings together allies, or community volunteers, and alumni to network and build community. “Once a week, we utilize Honey when we have everyone come together – doctors, business owners, retired professionals – a dynamic mix of people from our community, with current students, to network, have a meal, talk about what is going well and what is not going well and offering a couple hours of alleviated stress while our students are in the program,” said Sianna Gomez, director of a new Fellowship Cohort for Alumni at CrossPurpose. 

“Honey takes child care out of the equation for that weekly dinner. One of the other things we are looking to tap into is Illuminate’s navigation services to help our parents find more services, including quality-rated child care services,” said Gomez. “Access to child care is not easy right now. If a parent has two to three children and is a single mom – and we get that all the time – it’s common to take an hour and a half to drop off each kiddo at three different locations since more access to child care isn’t available closer to her, and then we expect her to potentially get a job or to come to training when she doesn’t even have a car to get to those places either. Child care is a barrier to getting a full-time job, and in the grand scheme of things it’s a barrier to getting out of poverty. We have to find creative solutions to help parents find child care close to their job, or they run the risk of losing their job in the future.” 

While many local behavioral health providers and community-based nonprofits have seen people less willing to come back to their brick and mortar locations for services, child care remains among the most important barriers to remove to bring them back. “It’s a super important partnership to have, even if it isn’t totally utilized, everyone knows when Honey comes. Our folks are so distrusting of everybody because people have told them they are terrible for so long. By showing them that another person can be safe, another agency has their best interest in mind, we are growing their community, decreasing barriers to coming to treatment,” said Courtney. “So often facilities focus on the adults, they get a little scared of the children. [Illuminating Child Care] relieves some stress that the provider doesn’t have to do it all, there is a partner that is specializing in this, you can be that connecting person to help make it safe for them to trust somebody else. Our clients are the kids that got missed. Partnering together we’re teaching them that there are systems in place to help them and their children succeed.”

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

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

Organizational Statement Opposing the Actions of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Providing necessary and adequate medical care to your child is not child abuse, and transgender and non-binary children need access to age-appropriate, individualized medical care just like every other child. 

Recently Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion classifying medically necessary gender-affirming care to youth as child abuse. AG Paxton’s statement stands in direct opposition to the evidence-based care recognized by numerous professional societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, Endocrine Society, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Illuminate Colorado can not stand idly by without speaking out against such an action simply because our programs and initiatives are focused on creating a Colorado where all children and families thrive. The children and families of Texas deserve our love and support as well as those in our own communities.

Our organization is proud to join our national partner Prevent Child Abuse America and numerous medical providers and child welfare advocates throughout our nation in opposing this legislation and laws that would deny healthcare access to any child, regardless of their gender identity. Such laws threaten the safety and security of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — children and youth.

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

Additionally, transgender youth are subject to violence based on their gender identity, and suffer substance misuse, homelessness, suicidality, child welfare involvement and other negative outcomes at distressingly higher rates. Medical and mental health care can reduce serious risks to their health and well-being and lead to healthy, resilient children, youth, and families.

Please take action to strengthen the foundations of love, safety and support that enable all of our nation’s children to thrive. 

Contact Your State Legislators

Let them know you do not want similar legislation that prevents access to medically necessary care for any children and youth, including those whose gender identity is transgender or non-binary here in Colorado.  To find your state legislators, click here.

Share this Statement on Social Networks

Let others know you too recognize that providing necessary and adequate medical care to your child is not child abuse, and transgender and non-binary children need access to age-appropriate, individualized medical care just like every other child.

Make a Similar Statement From Your Organization

This is one way we can protect the children of Colorado and create an environment where they are valued, healthy and thriving. 

Thank you for building brighter childhoods, together.

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. 

Illuminating Leadership Award Recipients Light the Way Toward Brighter Childhoods

Illuminating Leadership Award Recipients Light the Way Toward Brighter Childhoods

For several years, Illuminate Colorado has honored the contributions of exceptional individuals and organizations who have furthered our collective mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. “The work that we do at Illuminate is never done in isolation, but always in collaboration. That is why we want to continue the tradition of lifting up others who are lighting the way toward better childhoods in Colorado,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado, who hosted several virtual award presentations over the course of the last several weeks.  

Read about previous Illuminating Leadership Award recipients:

Ray Washington – Lori Moriarty Leadership Award

The Lori Moriarty Leadership Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a career that exemplifies the achievements and character displayed by the late Commander Lori Moriarty. Lori Moriarty, a former Children’s Trust Fund Board Member, 20 year law enforcement veteran, and founder of both the Colorado and National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, was unyielding in her efforts to educate professionals on prioritizing drug endangered children.

Ray Washington, founder and executive director of Bigger Than Me and Fatherhood Support Services was presented with the Lori Moriarty Leadership Award in recognition of his career of service to strengthen families by strengthening fathers. Washington is a father, grandparent and kinship provider. He is proudest of his children and his faith.

“I’m just a vehicle that’s gonna bring them to the services, that’s gonna help them understand it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to share your emotion. It’s okay not to be where you might want to be, but have a plan to get there,” Washington said in the 2014 documentary “Finding Fatherhood: New Hope for Families in Colorado.” 

He has mentored and advocated for fathers across Colorado and filled the vacant father role for young men in his community for years. “When dads are involved in their children’s lives, the children do better – financially, educationally, emotionally and socially,” Washington said in a 2010 Colorado Community Media article. “When you stabilize the dad, you stabilize the family, and that helps stabilize a community.”

We were unable to hold a fireside chat with Ray, but the impact of his work cannot be overstated. Illuminate Colorado’s Executive Director Jade Woodard shared, “Over many years and in many spaces, you have been relentless in your advocacy to ensure community is represented and voices are lifted. You are a beacon of light and in our hearts, we believe that your advocacy and leadership has made Colorado a better place to raise a family and be a father.” 

Lisa Thomas – Courageous Leadership Award

The Courageous Leadership Award recognizes a person in elected office or public employee for distinguished service focused on the prevention of child maltreatment and strengthening families.

Lisa Thomas received the Courageous Leadership Award for her work supporting youth and families in Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Prowers counties as the About F.A.C.E. coordinator for the Collaborative Management Program. She is involved in leading child sexual abuse prevention efforts, building protective factors in families, and implementing Circle of Parents in southeastern Colorado.

Due in part to Thomas’ efforts, Kiowa County was the first county in the state of Colorado to reach the tipping point to create a new standard of child safety in the community. “That was our dream come true,” she said. “We thought, you know what, if we can do anything, we can certainly tip Kiowa County!”

Hopefully with the work that we are doing well here down in southeastern Colorado, we can lead the way for other people, other counties as well,” Thomas said.

Constellation Philanthropy – Catalytic Leadership Award

The Catalytic Leadership Award honors an individual or organization that has invested or inspired philanthropic investment to accelerate the prevention of child maltreatment and strengthen families in Colorado.

Constellation Philanthropy received the Catalytic Leadership Award for its work connecting individual funders who work and learn together to make a difference in Colorado’s early childhood landscape. Members learn about issues affecting early childhood in Colorado, discover organizations creating change, and explore opportunities to co-invest, but members retain complete control of their philanthropic dollars

Kate Reinemund, executive director of Constellation Philanthropy, said that the organization is most proud of “seeing all of these awesome innovations, awesome ideas that have been deployed in the ecosystem really grow and come to life.” For the last seven years, Constellation has been “supporting leaders in however they want to be taking on the idea of innovation in their own work,” she said.

Constellation will be sunsetting at the end of 2021, but over the last seven years, the organization has supported 74 innovative projects with over $7 million, and 37 families are now equipped to continue funding work and innovation in the early childhood landscape. 

Dr. Courtney Everson – Innovative Leadership Award

The Innovative Leadership Award is presented to an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to the field of child maltreatment prevention.

Dr. Courtney Everson received the Innovative Leadership Award for her work as a member of the Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee, co-chair of the Substance Exposed Newborns Data & Research Work Group, and lead evaluator for the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. 

Everson said that her work as a researcher is at the intersection of public health, prevention science, and social policy. She is a senior researcher/project director for the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab at the University of Denver and concentrates on maternal and infant health, child well-being, positive youth development and family strengthening.

One of the big questions Everson’s work strives to answer is, “How can we think about using research and evaluation to really uplift health and well-being for families, to think about moving from a focus of ill-being to true well-being, to think about moving from intervention to prevention, to think about moving from disparity to equity.”

Community Leadership Awards

One of the most powerful gifts you can give to future generations of Coloradans is sharing your lived experiences with policymakers or contributing your story to the narrative in Colorado to promote positive community norms that strengthen families and create impactful systemic change. In recognition of this amazing gift, Illuminate created a NEW award category – The Community Leadership Awards – to recognize those individuals who have dedicated an extraordinary amount of their time and openly shared their experiences to further systemic change and strengthen families in Colorado. 

The Community Leadership Awards recognize those individuals who have dedicated an extraordinary amount of their time and openly shared their experiences to further systemic change and strengthen families in Colorado.

Adam Combs and Adrian Nuñez

Adam Combs and Adrian Nuñez received the Community Leadership Award for their work facilitating two Circle of Parents groups in Colorado Springs: Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom. Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom create a safe space for fathers to share their experiences, challenges and accomplishments with other fathers. Fathers of Freedom serves active duty and veteran fathers, and Circle of Fathers serves fathers statewide. 

Combs and Nuñez are looking forward to strengthening these Circles through in-person meetings and through Children’s Circle, a curriculum-based children’s program to build the social-emotional skills of the children of caregivers and parents attending Circles. 

Nuñez said that they were inspired to begin this work because “we realized that what we’re doing [with Circle of Parents], we’re able to break the cycle with a lot of things, especially when it comes to abuse.”

Combs said that this work is important for the community because “[t]he more we educate ourselves as parents, as fathers in our case, the better off our children can be to thrive.” 

In addition to this work, both fathers have been very open about their experiences parenting engaging with the media and even blogged on occasion to help create a stronger understanding in the community of how, together, we strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment.

A

Building a Fort on a Solid Foundation

by Adam Combs | Aug 25, 2021

Sometimes it is hard to quantify what it means to be a well-rounded parent, or in my case, father.  How many experiences should one provide their child?  How many activities should I be engaged in with her, personally?  How many lessons should she be signed up for?  I believe the answer is simple: as many as you both can handle.  That is just what we were doing until the pandemic hit and all our usual routines came to a screeching halt. 

A

RELEASE: One in Five Colorado Parents Say They Have No One to Turn to For Support

“The biggest reason I started this group was because being a stay at home father who is a combat veteran and has battled a lot of things over the years, at times have begun to feel isolated and withdrawn from the rest of society,” said Adrian Nunez, one of the founding members of the Circle of Parents group Fathers of Freedom, pictured with his two children.

Marilyn Fausset

Marilyn Fausset received the Community Leadership Award for her work as a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) advocate and co-chair of the Substance Exposed Newborns FASD Awareness Workgroup. 

Fausset was inspired to begin this work when she adopted two children with FASD. She said that when she retired from being a special education teacher, she wanted to work toward FASD awareness and education because she realized that “not everybody has that ability or that time.”

When asked what she would like to see change as a result of her advocacy, Fausset said, “I would like to see training for all professionals–anybody that we take our kids, even adults to–I would like all of them to know about FASD about the prevalence, and the effects, and the symptoms.” 

In addition to this work,  Fausset also helped launch the blog series Becoming FASD Aware, sharing the experiences of families impacted by FASD to strengthen families and build awareness, with her blog What good was his diagnosis anyway?

 

Diane Smith

Diane Smith received the Community Leadership Award for her work as a parent partner with Denver Parent Advocates Lending Support (DPALS) and chair of the Family Advisory Board to the Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee.

DPALS connects families with parent partners like Smith to help them navigate the child welfare system through peer-to-peer support, and Smith uses her voice on the Family Advisory Board to identify barriers in seeking support and services, raise awareness about best practices when working with families, and inform priority-setting within the SEN Steering Committee to best serve the needs of families impacted by substance use.

Smith said that “Family Advisory Board gave me an opportunity to share with others, to share my story, to share my worries and fears, my concerns with our system, be able to be that systematic change, implement our desires, and also be there for support for others.” 

Smith is also passionate about the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors framework because “we can foster that protective factor within our parents and the families that we’re working with, and we can strengthen and build them up to maybe have a voice of their own one day.”

She has been a mentor to countless other parents and caregivers and worked to inspire others to get involved in a deeper level to create and inform systemic change.

“It is important to involve families with lived experiences as voice partners in program improvements and systemic change because it is the best way for our systems to evolve. When people are trying to identify what works, what doesn’t work, and how we change things for the next family, it is important for families to give input and share their experience,” said Smith.

Toni Miner

Toni Miner received the Community Leadership Award for her work as a Circle of Parents in Recovery facilitator and outspoken inspiration to other families walking a similar path. Miner was inspired to begin this work because of her own recovery journey. “I want to be able to give back. I want help, like I said, really build that leadership in parents to help reduce that recidivism,” she said. 

Miner is most proud of watching parents in her Circles grow. “I watch parents come in very broken and feeling very alone . . . to see them become strong, wonderful people and wonderful parents, and to see them give back to each other and to help each other understand that they’re not alone,” she said.

In addition to hosting a local Circle group, Miner trains and coaches other Circle of Parents in Recovery facilitators helping to expand the capacity of other communities to support families impacted by substance use disorders.

Miner has seen the evidence that Circle of Parents strengthens families and builds protective factors. “Risk factors are not predictive factors because of protective factors, and I really believe that we are building those protective factors in families, and that we are serving families as a whole [through Circle of Parents],” she said.

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New Research Provides Insight and Recommendations for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

New Research Provides Insight and Recommendations for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Denver (Nov. 10, 2021) – New research from Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado and presents recommendations for preventing abuse statewide. The study also highlights known solutions to the problem of child sexual abuse for parents, professionals and policy makers alike. 

“We have a responsibility to help all children reach their full potential,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate. “Ultimately, building awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence with adults, who are supported by communities, systems and policies to create safe environments, leverages the best of the evidence and expertise available and can result in the prevention of child sexual abuse.”

As part of the study, Illuminate surveyed Coloradans attitudes, knowledge and behaviors related to the prevention of child sexual abuse, analyzed child welfare data in Colorado and estimated the financial impact associated with the problem. From January of 2014 through December 2020 alone, more than 7,400 children in Colorado were identified as having been sexually abused, with an estimated financial cost of $1.5 billion to support these children on their journey toward healing. 

The survey of Coloradan found several opportunities to prevent child sexual abuse through awareness efforts including a concerning lack of use of anatomically correct terms for body parts with children. This language used around children at the earliest of ages promotes positive body image, self-confidence and parent-child communication, all important factors to preventing child sexual abuse. The use of anatomically correct terms also discourages abusers and in the event of abuse, anatomically correct terms help children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process.

Some key findings:

  • Less than half of parents (47%) say they typically use anatomically correct terms 
    • When informed that using these terms is a way to prevent child sexual abuse, 71% of parents said they would consider using anatomical terms. 
    • It is particularly important to reach men aged 18-54 with this information given that less than half of men (42%) reported using the proper terms.

“We’ve repeatedly heard stories that affirm the need to have clear and thoughtful ongoing conversations with children, starting before they are even verbal. Sex offenders report that when children used the proper words for their private parts, it was a deterrent. They knew those kids were having open conversations with trusted adults,” said Margaret M. Ochoa, child sexual abuse prevention specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Safety and cochair of the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition.

  • Survey results showed that while nearly half of parents (49%) did not have “the talk” with their parents when they were growing up, 66% of parents plan to have ongoing conversations with their children about sex or puberty. 

“This is a positive indication that generational attitudes are shifting in a way that supports the prevention of child sexual abuse,” said Woodard. “ But we still have a long way to go. What this study does show is that awareness and recognition of how we prevent child sexual abuse makes a difference.”

Recommendations for creating a Colorado where children grow up free from sexual abuse also highlighted in the brief include: 

  1. Funding strategic multi-year public awareness campaigns reaching all Coloradans to shift the norms related to child sexual abuse prevention.
  2. Training adults on their collective responsibility to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.
  3. Expanding learning opportunities to support adults in building skills and confidence in approaching conversations about child sexual abuse prevention.
  4. Continuing to identify, engage in, and support policies and system improvements to prevent initial occurrence or reoccurrence of child sexual abuse.

Restoring Funding

Beginning in 2015, state General Fund resources had been addressing the need for adult education about child sexual abuse prevention through the The Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund. However, when tough budget choices needed to be made in 2020, the yearly $250,000 funding was cut. While Colorado has a brighter financial outlook than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, General Fund resources were not restored during the 2021 session despite being amended into the House version of the budget. Restoring general fund investments in the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund for successful child sexual abuse prevention programs allows the state to build from a place of strength and documented impact—ensuring Colorado children and families benefit from proven programming.

The Issue Brief “Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado.” was made possible, in large part, through the support of The Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund in the Office of Early Childhood at the Colorado Department of Human Services, and in collaboration with well informed by experts and advocates who make up the Coalition.

Background on the Research 

Child welfare data and trends in Colorado are examined in the brief. For the five years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children who were sexually abused had steadily risen in Colorado. From January 2014 through December 2020, more than 7,400 children in Colorado have been identified as sexual abuse victim/survivors. In 2020 alone, a year when reports of child maltreatment were dramatically down as a result of the pandemic, and subsequent quarantine and stay-at-home orders, over 1,000 substantiated reports  of child sexual abuse were made through the child welfare system in Colorado. Unfortunately, this does not account for all of the children who have not yet been identified. 

  • National research has shown that almost 73% of child victims don’t disclose their abuse to anyone for at least one year, 45% don’t tell anyone for almost five years, and many never disclose at all, making it difficult to confront the problem.  

The impact of trauma at a young age can last a lifetime, particularly without support and community programs to aid the process of healing. It is estimated that the average lifetime cost of sexual abuse per survivor is over $210,000. The brief estimates the financial price tag to support the Colorado children on their journey toward healing since 2014 at more than $1.5 billion.

Awareness & Social Norms

RECOMMENDATION 1: Fund strategic multi-year public awareness campaigns reaching all Coloradans to shift the norms related to child sexual abuse prevention by:

• Raising awareness among all adults of the need to model consent, healthy touch and safe, respectful ways to interact with children;
• Raising awareness among parents of the need to use anatomically correct terms with children; and
• Raising awareness among parents and caregivers of the positive norm of having ongoing conversations about healthy development.

Training & Practice

RECOMMENDATION 2: Train adults on their collective responsibility to promote healthy child development and prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse by:
• Promoting training to parents, caregivers, professionals and community members to become better equipped to promote healthy development and prevent, recognize, and respond to child sexual abuse;
• Institutionalizing training with early childhood professionals to deepen understanding of healthy childhood development to be inclusive of sexual development;
• Collaborating with various communities impacted by disproportionate rates of child sexual abuse and counties with higher combined six-year rates of child sexual abuse; and
• Increasing knowledge of parents, caregivers, professionals and community members to identify and address vulnerable situations and environments involving older youth or youth in a position of power.

Training & Practice

RECOMMENDATION 3: Expand learning opportunities to support adults in building skills and confidence in approaching conversations about child sexual abuse prevention by:
• Integrating the formation of language, scripting, and practice into training courses
when appropriate to include terms and phrases adults can use when having discussions with family, friends, neighbors, and community members on creating safe environments and
• Expanding access to opportunities for families, including training and resources, on
having conversations with children on healthy development and sexuality of power.

Policy & Systemic Recommendations

RECOMMENDATION 4: Continue to identify, engage in, and support policies and system improvements to prevent initial occurrence or reoccurence of child sexual abuse by:
• Supporting organizations that serve children and youth in identifying needed policy changes to prevent child sexual abuse;
• Building the five “Protective Factors” in and around all families;
• Expanding comprehensive sexual education in Colorado as an additional means to prevent child sexual abuse;
• Promoting coordinated and innovative research efforts to better understand the incidence and prevalence of child sexual abuse in Colorado; and
• Continuing the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition.

Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado, highlights efforts to prevent this trauma and presents recommendations to advance prevention statewide.

This publication was made possible, in large part, with the support of the Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fundin the Office of Early Childhood at the Colorado Department of Human Services, members of the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition and research conducted by Vitale & Associates, in partnership with WPA Intelligence.

 

During my 30 years serving children and families, I have developed a deep appreciation and understanding of community prevention efforts to reduce child abuse. Child sexual abuse is among the most egregious events that can happen to a child, and the report released today by Illuminate Colorado provides new insights into what we all can do to help prevent such tragedies. The Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman is appreciative of the information gathered by Illuminate and supports their recommendation of investing in strategies that can build strong community awareness around this issue.

Stephanie Villafuerte

Child Protection Ombudsman of Colorado

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