Do you know if your playdate’s house is a safe place to play?

Do you know if your playdate’s house is a safe place to play?

Sending your kids over to play at a friend’s house to play is one of the best ways to make it through the summertime while school is out, child care is limited and the need to find activities to entertain our kids is endless. But, it can also be a scary decision for any parent to make to entrust the safety of your child with another adult. Do you know if it is a safe place to play at your playdate’s house? 

Parents and other primary caregivers have the right and responsibility to make decisions about how best to protect their children, even when someone else is caring for them. Whether child care is family, a friend, neighbor or licensed child care provider, parents need to communicate their safe-storage priorities to anyone who cares for their children. Making sure dangerous items are out of reach is one of the easiest ways to keep your kids safe. However, it always seems like conversations with those closest to us are the most uncomfortable, especially when they are doing you a favor, like hosting a playdate or helping out with child care when you are in desperate need of help.

Things to Think, and Talk, About Before a Playdate

As Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” reminding us all that it is easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair damage after a tragedy. This is certainly true when it comes to the storage of harmful substances and dangerous items. The list of things that can be harmful to children is long, and it can be difficult to wrap our minds around safely storing anything and everything that could be dangerous. 

There is wisdom in prioritizing those things that can be most harmful to children for safe-storage. By prioritizing a list of things to store safely away from children, we can prevent harm before it occurs.  Some things to prioritize talking about before sending your kids over to play include:


It’s now required by law to safely store your guns. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately from each other in lock boxes or gun safes. Trigger locks offer added protection and can be used in tandem with these safe storage options to increase security.


What to Say

“My child is always getting into things around our house.  I wanted to let you know so that you can put anything that could be harmful things away before he\she\they come over.”


Prescription medications should be kept in their original, labeled, childproof containers. But childproof containers offer only the minimum of protection, therefore, the containers themselves should be stored in such a way as to prevent children and others from accessing them.


What to Say

“Steve has proven that he can get into just about any kind of container.  We’ve talked to him about boundaries, but he is so curious!  I’d like to ask you to put any medications or other harmful substances away where he can’t get to them just in case.”


Substances can be found in a majority of homes across America. Alcohol, nicotine and marijuana are a few examples of substances that are commonly and legally used by adults.  Illicit substances can also be found in many homes where children may be present. Both legal and illicit substances can cause great harm or death, and therefore should be stored in such a way that children and youth cannot access them. Safe-storage bags and other locking containers can greatly increase safety when used appropriately and consistently. 


What to Say

“I’m sure this goes without saying, but please store any substances that might be around the house where my children can’t get to them.  Childproof containers are helpful, but they aren’t really enough to prevent children from opening them.  It is something that I have been really conscious of ever since I read a blog post about.” 

In every household where children are or might be present, parents, caregivers and others should think ahead, make decisions around what should be stored away from children and youth, and choose how to store it safely. That is easier to do in our own homes. There are a number of programs that can provide families with locking safe-storage bags, lock boxes, trigger locks, etc. Talk to a family support worker at a human services agency or family resource center near you to begin to identify resources that you can use to be protective and preventive, and to keep your family safe.


Share What Works for You

Once you’ve made smart choices at home to keep your kids safe, share your lessons learned and recommend the community resources that helped you strengthen your family with the people that care for your kids.   

About the Author

About the Author

Jason Read, M.Ed., is an education program manager with Illuminate Colorado and regular blog contributor sharing his professional guidance, as well as personal experiences as a father of three children. Jason leads Smart Choices Safe Kids conversation guide trainings for professionals working with children, parents and caregivers.

Patience is a Virtue: The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

Patience is a Virtue: The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

Being patient with children is often hard but is absolutely essential. Gentle parenting is not always as easy as it seems and can often be tested when we least expect it. It may seem easier to yell at our kids or get angry with them, but over time those moments will catch up to us in terms of how we feel about ourselves, as parents, and how our children perceive us. When raising children, it’s important to teach them patience in addition to the many other lessons you’ll want to pass on to them.  An idea that is much easier said than done—at least for my household.

Being the posterchild for patience is not a quality I exemplify very well in my household, at times.  Like all parents, I have a ton of stuff going on. I overcommit to things, I always think there is more time in the day, and when I feel the crunch of obligations begin to weigh down on me, the dictator starts to come out.  I rarely give myself or my daughter any wiggle room for the inevitable unknowns that may arise in life, like an accident on the freeway when we are already running late. I also underestimate the time it will actually take for my daughter to accomplish a task, like simply finishing her breakfast and putting on her shoes. Being familiar with my own short comings in this arena, there is no doubt in my mind that she gets this from me. 


Patience is a Virtue The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

To sum it up—through my actions, I have taught her zero time management skills, which then helps to fuel impatience in me, which I then model for her, which she then mirrors back to me…and the cycle continues.  Taking accountability for the role I play in my daughter’s actions, reactions and general behavior is always my first step when trying to address undesired behavior.  Children have their own temperaments, we cannot always account for everything they do, but there is a large portion of how they deal with the world that comes from us. Through the introspective process of challenging my own undesirable behavior and working on steps towards improvement, I try to keep a few key strategies at the forefront of my brain to help minimize the frequency of my impatient outbursts as we move through uncharted waters. 

Strategies for Gentle Parenting

Strategies for Gentle Parenting

Here are five main strategies for gentle parenting I’ve learned over the years through books, research, parenting classes and from talking with the outstanding dads I spend time with every week through my Circle of Fathers group:

Create Clear Boundaries

As parents, our first priority is to keep our children safe and secure. Setting clear boundaries and expectations allows us to accomplish that while also giving them some control over their own lives and actions. When we don’t set boundaries, it doesn’t teach our children how to control themselves or be responsible for their actions. We can help kids learn about boundaries by being patient with them (no matter how challenging they may be) when they make mistakes or exhibit bad behavior.

Establish Routine

Your baby needs structure and you need to be calm. Make sure your day-to-day routine stays consistent and that your child always knows what to expect from you. This will make it easier for him or her to follow along, know when it’s time for different activities, and feel confident in your ability to care for them on an everyday basis. We all know how quickly babies learn—so once they figure out what works best for them, they’ll stick with it!

Don’t Forget to Smile

A smile sends an unspoken message to your child, telling them you love them and that they’re safe. Maintain eye contact with your child when you speak to them. Keep as much skin-to-skin contact as possible; hug, kiss, pick up and hold your children frequently throughout each day.

Be Consistent

You’re going to have really good days and really bad days. One day, you’ll feel like you have parenting down and other days you may feel like nothing could be more challenging. But consistency is key in gentle parenting. If you tell your child one thing today, follow through with it tomorrow. This will help instill trust in your child that they can depend on what you say to them.

Have Patience, Give Yourself Grace

Patience can be hard to come by for any parent. However, being patient with your children will be some of your greatest challenges and successes in parenting. Though it might be difficult, you must try to remain calm at all times in order to properly teach your child how to handle certain situations. It might be tempting at times, but always remember that actions speak louder than words.

About the Author

About the Author

Adam N. S. Combs is a blog contributor helping to illuminate the protective factors in his family’s life by sharing his experiences as a father, military veteran and Circle of Parents facilitator through storytelling.

Fatherly Advice That Will Change Your Journey Through Parenthood

Fatherly Advice That Will Change Your Journey Through Parenthood

I wanted to share some love and support for all of our fathers out there on this Father’s Day. As a stay at home father with two daughters who is married to my best friend, life is good, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard and we’ve got to talk about it more.

About two and a half years ago, Adam Combs, who is now like a brother to me, and I started a couple of parenting groups for fathers in Colorado Springs, CO. In this space we provide support, connection to resources and encouragement for the fathers in our community. We encourage our fathers to try to create a community of trust, where fathers can come in, as they are, and share their accolades or their concerns and struggles in parenting. It’s a place a father can have their confidence built and at the same be vulnerable in our relationships, most importantly those with our own children.

For me, the biggest reason I decided to create this space is because I, myself, struggled with the transition of becoming a stay at home parent. It wasn’t something I thought I would ever be doing or could do. I didn’t have all the answers, no parent does. I questioned myself in many ways and my pride and ego kept telling me that I should be out there working “like a man should”. I guess the way I was raised, and in society, there was a stigma that mothers should stay home, while the father goes out and works hard to earn big money. Well, I figured out quickly that this is hard work and, in fact, the most important – and I love it!

I must say I struggled at first, especially as a combat vet struggling with my own issues. I didn’t struggle with the physical aspect of it, but I struggled with my emotions, identity and insecurities. For some reason, in the beginning, I also had some resentment. See, physically I could always run circles around most people, but to be with my children every single moment of their life and be their life mentor and coach, while holding the fort and myself down, well that takes a special person. It has tested my will and patience, but I have become a whole new person.

Our fathers group has helped me to realize it takes every day intention to be a stay at home parent. It takes so much unconditional love and forgiveness, yet I have also learned that a majority of that forgiveness is for myself! Nothing will ever be perfect in the life of a stay at home parent. Eventually, I had to let that go and realize that there is no way I can do this alone. I need the support of other stay at home fathers, parents and a community to help me get through the harder times. That was especially true during the lock downs from COVID. When they say, “it takes a village”, essentially it doesn’t just apply to our mothers, but it applies to fathers too!

We need each other and building strong, trusting relationships is crucial to any parent, child and community. So fathers, I say to you, it is ok to not have everything figured out all the time and it’s ok to have feelings and let it be known.  The answers will come if you open up your circle, invite more people to join you on your journey through parenthood and share what you are going through. This is the greatest father’s day gift you can give to yourself – and your children. 

About the Author

About the Author

Adrian Nunez is a blog contributor helping to illuminate the protective factors in his family’s life by sharing his experiences as a father of two children, military veteran and one of the founding members of the Circle of Parents groups Fathers of Freedom and Circle of Fathers.

Family Connects Colorado to Offer Free Home Visiting to All Families Starting Late 2022

Family Connects Colorado to Offer Free Home Visiting to All Families Starting Late 2022

Illuminate Colorado is partnering with Family Connects International® to begin to bring FREE home visiting to all families with newborns in Colorado. Family Connects Colorado, a new Illuminate Colorado program, has the potential to impact every baby born in Colorado. As the State Intermediary for Family Connects in Colorado, Illuminate is facilitating the implementation of the evidence-based model to ensure effective scaling and sustainability of Family Connects in Colorado. “The idea of ensuring that all families have access to this kind of support upon bringing home a baby could be transformational for our our state, for our country, for families everywhere,” shared Jade Woodard executive director of Illuminate Colorado during a virtual meeting with the Illuminate community. 

The new program was a focus of the latest Luminary Lift Up, a quarterly online opportunity to start your day in a positive way by lifting up solutions to issues children and families are facing today. The virtual discussions traditionally begin with a focus on resilience and self care with a panel of parents. Tara and Hilary each recently welcomed a new baby into their homes – for the second time. The two moms’ openness in sharing what the first few months have been like for them during the discussion underscored the importance of providing in-home nurse visits to every parent in Colorado. 

Hilary, a mom of two boys, has no family here in Colorado. Her youngest, Ari, is just 5 months old and she recognized that bringing home a baby has been a big adjustment. “Self care has looked very different with baby number two.” She’s been prioritizing the things that are really important to her as a way of building her own resilience. “Sleep is a big thing for me. Ari slept through the night for the first time last night and you can imagine my excitement. I feel like a new person,” said Hilary.  

Tara is a mom of two, an eight year old and an 11 month old who came home to her family through adoption last summer with only a days notice. “With your second, it’s a game changer. The most important thing that I’ve learned from all of this is that I’m a better mom when I don’t lose myself in motherhood. There are certain things that I know I need for self-care – running is one of them,” said Tara. “Connection is really important. Having a newborn during the time of COVID was also a tricky thing for us. The isolation is real anyway when you have young children, then you couple that with, is it ok to have people come over and bring meals, what do baby showers look like, all those things happened to us last year and it was hard.” Tara also encouraged others to ask for support. “If you need help and you need support, ask for it. It’s incredible how people will show up for you.”  

The two moms reflected on 8 ways parents say you can help after baby arrives and shared more thoughtful ways to build parental resilience for new parents before the panel discussion turned to the broader announcement with local, state and national partners to talk about how partners are working together to bring Family Connects to Colorado. 

As Woodard shared a little bit about why Illuminate Colorado is starting this new program,  she shared her personal story after having her first baby at 22 and then a second child years later.

“My second, she is amazing and independent and has a mind of her own, but my baby whispering ability went away. It didn’t work with her. I’ve been able to soothe every other baby that I’ve ever held, why can’t I do this with her,” Woodard shared as she reflected upon those first few days and weeks together with her second child. Thanks to her health care provider at the time, she was sent a nurse. “I have no doubt that that visit from that nurse changed the trajectory of my family – it strengthened our family.”

Illuminate Colorado has been working with Bethany Kuerten, also a Luminary Lift Up panelist, and other members of the Family Connects International® team over the last several months to bring Family Connects to Colorado. Family Connects International envisions a world where all children and their families have access to a continuum of community-based care to support their health and success.

Family Connects – coming soon to Colorado – is an evidence-based model and successfully demonstrated program that connects parents of newborns to the community resources they need through postpartum nurse home visits.  The program is in 19 states across the country.

“Our goal is to start families on a really positive path to health care at a really vulnerable time,” said Kuerten. Illuminate Colorado is currently working in Boulder and Eagle counties to begin to offer Family Connects to all families in these areas starting in late 2022 and Denver and Jefferson counties in early 2023. 

After listening to Kuerten explain what families can expect from Family Connects to help support them in the first few weeks after coming home, each of the parent panelists talked about how much they could have used this support in their lives.

“Wow, I just want to shout this to the hills because you know we had a little extra support with our daughter because she was adopted, we had a social worker that would come by. But, honestly having a nurse would have been so incredible. We often didn’t really know what we were dealing with or how to deal with it and waiting to take her to a pediatrician felt very daunting. And, the opportunity to have some come into our home and help talk us through some of that, and her care, would have been incredible. What a wonderful program,” said Tara.

“I second that! I honestly feel a little bit jealous. I can mentally go back and think right around 8-10 weeks, right around there. That is when things started to get hard for me mentally because the baby was just different than baby #1. To be quite honest with you, that is when I reached out to a therapist to start working through some of the things I was feeling, not necessarily postpartum depression, but more anxiety of going back to work and him not sleeping through the night. There are a lot of things that maybe a nurse could have helped me with a bit more than someone who was a talk therapist,” said Hilary.  

What Families Can Expect

  • 3 weeks in: Expect a visit around 3 weeks after birth
  • No cost: As a parent(s) of a newborn, there is no additional cost to you, no matter what your income level
  • Registered nurses: All nurses are highly skilled professionals
  • For all: Helping all families in a community with a newborn who delivered at a partner hospital

“Everybody who is focused on early childhood knows the most important time in a child’s life is that space in the 0 to 5 age. That’s when over 90% of brain development occurs in a child. We know that in birth to one year old [children] that is also an important time. That is a time when we see increased numbers of child welfare and protective services calls and emergency room visits,” said Jeff Zayach, a public health expert and consultant who came out of retirement to help support Family Connects in Colorado. During the virtual discussion Zayach explained some of the benefits of Family Connects for communities needing to bridge families and community support that already exist for families today, highlighting much of the work that has already been done in Boulder to begin to use Family Connects as a bridge between hospitals and new and expanding families.  

Some of the evidence of positive benefits to communities and families after Family Connects is offered to all families in a community include: 

  • Emergency room visits and hospital overnight stays were reduced by 50% in the first year of life; these results were sustained but did not increase through the second year of life.
  • Mothers were 28% less likely to report possible postpartum clinical anxiety.
  • Community connections increased by 13-15%


The Family Connects model has also been shown to yield significant health-care cost savings (based on emergency room visits and hospital overnights) – as much as $3 saved for every $1 spent.

Kelly Stainback-Tracy with Denver Public Health, one of the local partners working with Illuminate to bring Family Connects to the Denver community, spoke about the program’s impact on building family connections to community programs. “One piece of data that was exciting to me, when I was looking at all the evidence and outcomes related to Family Connects, is that they looked at Family Connects families that received a visit when the baby was five years old. And what they found was even when the baby was five years old, they were more likely to be connected to more community resources than babies who had not received Family Connects. This is an outcome that holds over time,” said Stainback-Tracy. “[Family Connects] makes sure that every family gets a light touch and it helps those families who may otherwise fall through the cracks get connected to more long-term and on-going support.” 

Bringing this evidence-based program to all of Colorado, let alone one county,  will require many groups to contribute to its launch and success. It is an important part of the ongoing work of the the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families (“the Partnership”) which aims to create conditions where children and the adults in their lives can thrive. 

The Partnership is guided by three priorities: systems alignment, early touchpoints and community norms. Family Connects Colorado is a critical strategy related to early touchpoints, and through the Partnership; Denver Health, Denver Public Health, Denver Human Services, Jefferson County Public Health,  Jefferson County Human Services, Boulder County Public Health and Boulder County Housing and Human Services are all receiving support to demonstrate how to integrate Family Connects Colorado into the community.

The initial launch of Family Connects Colorado in these communities is funded through grants from the Zoma Foundation, as well as a Family Support through Primary Prevention Grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services through the Colorado Office of Early Childhood. Recurring gifts of Luminaries, have also provided stable and consistent support to Illuminate to grow this new program and strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. Illuminate is also seeking additional philanthropic support to ensure effective scaling and sustainability of Family Connects in Colorado.

The Mother of All Advice Columns

The Mother of All Advice Columns

You often don’t know the value of what you’ve lived through until it’s in the past. If you’ve had kids at home throughout this pandemic, you have so many life lessons to share with other parents. But putting the pandemic aside for a moment, traveling the long road through parenthood has always given us valuable lived experiences to share with those following in our footsteps. 

We asked parents, without any other pre-text other than I was planning to reflect on where I was three years ago on my parenthood journey, “if you met yourself three years ago – what parenting advice would you share?”

What Parents Told Us They Would Tell Themselves About The Road Ahead

All you can do is the best you can with the tools you have. If they have a smile on their face and a full belly that’s a win itself.

Makita Cotto

Looking back in time, it’s easy to remember who I was as a parent. Reflection is a great tool, not for regret… but to learn the lessons that can be applied now and forward. Three years ago, I was a different parent. I just came out of homelessness and was struggling with depression, bi-polar disorder, alcoholism and finances. I did the best I could to shield my son from all my shortcomings, but as we all know, kids are sponges to what we project. He knew there was stuff going on. Somehow, through all the layers of junk I was dealing with, he remained my number one priority; I kept up with visitations, made sure his education continued, and gave him my full attention.

If I could travel back and talk to this earlier version of myself, I would have shared my current strengths, wisdom, and instilled the power of abundance the universe delivers. I would have said this; 

‘The who you are now will not be the who you are going to be in the future. You WILL manage your bi-polar disorder and depression. You WILL quit alcohol and embrace the strength of strangers who love you. You WILL inspire others with your successes and become an amazing role model to your child as your dreams become reality.’


The parenting advice that I would give myself would be, that it’s important to do self care. If we want to be happy parents, we have to be happy with ourselves. The things you don’t get done today, will still be there tomorrow, so just relax! To celebrate the small things and also to not sweat the small stuff. We only have this one life and our kids will only be this little for a short time.

Toni Miner

Work on healing your inner wounds and traumas. Our kids are our greatest teachers and mirror what we need to heal within ourselves.

Alison Knight

My best advice that I give (and need to be reminded of) is: don’t take credit when your kids excel and don’t blame yourself when they don’t. We are not responsible for the choices our children make. We are here to guide them, but each child is an individual and will make a path that suits them.

Jill McIntire Green

There will be wonderful joyous days and hard exhausting days… and minutes. Embrace the joyous ones, breathe through the hard ones, practice gratitude, and hold on to your optimism.

Jade Woodard

You will be a better mother, if you don’t lose yourself in motherhood.

Tara Petersen

Work life balance is a myth it ebbs and flows.

Lisa Kjeseth

Each piece of advice is valuable and likely resonates with every parent reading this article. And so, let this serve as a reminder to you to share your pearls of wisdom with others to, at least, let other parents know they are not alone in their self-doubt, stresses or challenges.

Parenting Advice to Past Me 

As I outreached to other parents I promised to share my own advice to the mom I was three years ago when my daughter was little over a year old and my son was three; and I was working through depression. My mom died from Cancer two months after my daughter was born and the swirl of postpartum emotions and hormones, coupled with grief and loss, still had a pretty strong hold over me. When I set out to write this inspirational column I wasn’t sure what words of wisdom I had to share with myself during that time, but after reading everyone’s varying perspectives it is this: 

Talk to other moms. Make friends. Remember to ask for advice because their perspectives are amazing and insightful. And, above all else, ACCEPT help. You will need it to get through the days and years ahead, but I promise you, you will still be standing. And, as a friend recently told me, ‘if they have a smile on their face and a full belly that’s a win.’

Katie Facchinello

Not Everyone is Having a Happy Mother’s Day

Having struggled through infertility for many years and now having lost my mom, it seems like I’ve experienced more bad Mother’s Days than good. So, a word of advice: if you are having a Happy Mother’s Day with your mom or taking the time to celebrate with your kids, remember to see and comfort those who are planning to pull the covers over their heads and let it pass. 

Thousands of parents in Colorado whose children are growing up in foster care are doing their best to make it possible for their kids to come home. Love doesn’t disappear because mental health struggles, substance use disorders or whatever other significant challenges helped make home unsafe exist. It’s still a hard day. The same can be said for their children. No matter what trauma a child may have endured, it is natural to want love from your parents and to want to be together. This day is hard for them too. We are thankful for the foster parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and single parents who may feel unseen on this day of celebration. Thank you for strengthening your families. Your kids may, or may not, thank you for it, but Illuminate Colorado is grateful to you for helping to create a Colorado where all children and families thrive. 

To Future Us

Every year there are more than 61,000 babies born in Colorado.1 Those first days and months are full of joy and stress for every family. If you are celebrating someone in your life that is about to become a parent this Mother’s Day, let this be a reminder to make sure you are up to date on what safe sleep looks like at home and everywhere babies sleep.

When you walk into any store to buy something for a new baby on the way, you may assume that the products on the shelves are safe, but those who’ve spent some time learning about safe sleep recommendations and guidelines know that isn’t the case when it comes to infant sleep products. Thankfully, beginning in mid-2022, any product intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet a federal safety standard.

Of course, recalls and safety guidance aren’t the only thing new parents have to know, so, I’m passing along a word of advice that one of the parents we outreached to for this column recently shared with a friend.

A letter to My Dear (pregnant) Friend, 

Happy Mother’s Day.This day is very special for you and your little one. You will soon find out why our moms love us so much. There is no kind of love that can equal or surpass it. 

I never envisioned loving anyone more than my cat. I never knew it was possible to love another person so much. 

Some advice:

1) Get as much rest as you can now.

2) Enjoy your personal space, like having a daydream or a private thought.

3) Remember what your life is like now. You will soon look back and realize how simple it was.

4) Enjoy small stuff like bathing alone or going to the bathroom in a restaurant (which will soon be very complicated).

5) Savor the romance, travel… and sex (you will understand what I mean).

6). Enjoy reading as many adult books as you can now; because your next chance won’t be until  they go off to college. 

Being a mom is the most precious blessing in life. I can’t wait for you to join the club.

Eliza Sultan

About the Author

About the Author

Katie is the proud mother of two children, four and six,  sharing her lived experiences so that children and families can grow and thrive together. As the Director of Communications for Illuminate Colorado, she specializes in the development of strategic communications plans related to the field of child welfare, child abuse prevention, and the use of evidence-based communications aimed at improving the well-being of children and strengthening families in the State of Colorado.

You Don’t Have to Carry the Emotional Load of Parenthood Alone

You Don’t Have to Carry the Emotional Load of Parenthood Alone

A big reason I’ve become so involved in my community and eager to support parents is because of my own personal story and experience receiving support. In October 2018 I experienced every parents worst nightmare: my three and a half year-old son passed 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. 

Home visitors provided a listening ear, in-home coaching and support. They showed up and sat with me in my grief, my worry, my frustration. They listened to my struggles without judgement and genuinely created an atmosphere of friendship. My home visitors helped me to carry the emotional load of parenthood, as well as make sure my children were on track developmentally. Having that extra set of eyes helps you feel better about what you are doing as a parent. 

Not only do home visitors offer parenting advice and comradery, they can also refer you to social services if you lose your job or need a doctor or therapist. They can help you apply for social services like LEAP or TANF. They bring gifts. They bring new ideas and they’ll help you find a child care center. They are always there with the knowledge and the know-how to meet you where you are and give you the hand up to get to where you want to be. 

Home visiting support helped me through the most unimaginable grief a person can experience. And I will never be able to say thank you enough to those who have helped me become who I am now through all of that pain. 

After leaving my job in 2020 due to the pandemic, my home visitor suggested I join the Early Childhood Leadership Commission’s Home Visiting Investment Task Force as a parent voice as a way to stimulate my brain and give back to the community that gave so much to me. The task force works to guide the implementation of the home visiting strategic plan leading to the creation of a continuum of home visiting services in Colorado, something I am so looking forward to seeing. 

it was also suggested to me to enroll my children in the Colorado Head Start program, a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth to age five. After enrolling, I took on an additional role for my region’s Head Start Association. As a parent in Head Start, I’m given the peace of mind that my children are given great preparation in school readiness. They also ensure that my children are receiving social and emotional developmental support. I’m encouraged to be a teacher for my children and given the materials to support what my girls are learning. As a parent president and board member, I get to have a say in the future education of my children and other children who will go through the program. Centro de la Familia’s Head Start program is an invaluable resource that has helped me connect to my children on a deeper level.

Having the personal connections and support offered to me through home visiting helped me get out of the deep dark hole I was in years ago. A few short years ago I had no idea how to go on, how to move forward and show up everyday for the people in my life, including myself. And now, I get the opportunity to be present in my children’s lives on a new level. We love to play dress-up, cook together, read, swim, sing and dance. We get to be silly and happy. I have the confidence that I don’t know everything and I won’t get everything right, but I do have a team of people I trust to pick me up when I stumble. 

Concrete supports are among the five critical protective factors known to prevent child maltreatment and strengthen families. It is my hope that other parents and caregivers who find themselves in a hole, who want to better themselves as parents, or who would like a friend to come sit with them for awhile, remember that there is concrete support here for them. I am forever grateful that it was here for me. 

Alexa Chenoweth

Alexa Chenoweth

Alexa is from Rifle, Colorado. As a mom to two daughters- an almost one-year-old and four-year-old she is a parent representative on the Home Visiting Investment Task Force and a board member for the Region 8 Head Start Association. She is sharing her lived experiences so that children and families can grow and thrive together.  She has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced grief and high stress while parenting her young children.   

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