Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead– Being FASD Aware is a Year-Round Endeavor

Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead– Being FASD Aware is a Year-Round Endeavor

At the beginning of September, we called on you to Show Your Respect This FASD Awareness Month. As the month comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on all of the efforts that were made to spread awareness this month and look ahead to all that is still needed to work toward prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) and appropriate support for individuals and families in Colorado who are impacted.

 

A Month in Review: FASD Awareness Month 2022

Illuminate kicked the month off by focusing on FASD during our quarterly Luminary Lift Up session. Sharon Langendoerfer, a member of the SuPPoRT Colorado FASD Awareness Work Group and a retired neonatologist and pediatrician, helped attendees to become FASD aware with a presentation on the basics of FASD. The Work Group’s Chair and fierce FASD advocate, Marilyn Fausset, shared highlights about what the work group has accomplished – including the development of a list of Colorado Providers Equipped to Diagnose Under the FASD Umbrella– and what they are working toward moving forward. 

Susan Shepard Carlson, founder of Proof Alliance and FASD United board member, shared an overview of critical pending federal legislation known as ‘The FASD Respect Act’, which would reauthorize funding for prevention, screening, identification, research, and FASD-informed services, and Illuminate staff member, Cassie Davis, shared what the legislation would mean for Colorado and how to get involved in advocating for it.

Illuminate was thrilled to be able to put a major opportunity to advocate for the FASD Respect Act into action during the FASD United Affiliate Summit in Washington D.C. by meeting with the offices of Colorado representatives Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse and Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper to educate them about FASD and share information about and request their support of the pending legislation. 

Throughout the month, Illuminate was also proud to sponsor and participate in Run FASD, a virtual 5k to raise awareness and funds for FASD.

And it’s not just our organization who knows how important it is to be FASD aware, work to prevent FASDs from occurring, and support those who are impacted by it. Governor Jared Polis signed a proclamation in recognition of FASD Awareness Day, which reaffirms that “the health and well-being of the people of Colorado are enhanced by efforts to educate about, prevent, and support those impacted by FASDs”. 

The Work Does Not End Here

While the official FASD Awareness Month is a wonderful time to place a particular emphasis on FASD, creating awareness and advocating for the prevention of and appropriate support for those impacted by FASD is a year-round endeavor. 

Here are just a few of the ways that we need you to continue to spread awareness and advocate beyond September: 

We are so grateful to all of our partners across Colorado and nationwide who tirelessly advocate for visibility and support for the FASD community, and we look forward to continuing to do so together!

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Act Now! Support the Reauthorization and Expansion of Critical Home Visiting Funding

Act Now! Support the Reauthorization and Expansion of Critical Home Visiting Funding

Ensuring children’s earliest relationships and experiences are positive and nurturing lays the foundation for their lifelong health and well-being. At scale, stronger childhoods lead to stronger families and more successful communities. 

Home visiting programs support the creation of these conditions by using a two-generation approach that is proven to reduce child maltreatment, improve positive parenting practices, and increase family economic self-sufficiency by helping parents tap into the skills they already possess and bring out the best in themselves.

Continuing and improving this support to families cannot wait

Despite the proven success and critical nature of these programs, existing Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) funding is both insufficient to meet the needs of all families who need these services and is set to expire on September 30th. 

The unmet need for these services in Colorado is significant: While some level of home visiting services is available in all counties, according to the Child Fatality Prevention System’s 2020 Annual Legislative Report, “Not a single county in Colorado… has home visiting programs to meet the overall needs of families in the county.”

Hope is here!

Thanks to the advocacy of the Home Visiting Coalition, Prevent Child Abuse America, and home visiting advocates around the country, a critical piece of legislation that would both reauthorize and make drastic improvements to federal MIECHV funding– the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act– was recently introduced and unanimously passed by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

This exciting bill would:

  • Bolster the capacity of existing evidence-based programs that are proven to reduce child abuse and neglect by increasing funding for program implementation 
  • Advance equity by doubling the amount of funding that is set aside for Tribal home visiting programs
  • Enable programs to support families in the way that works best for them by continuing to allow visits to be conducted virtually 
Learn more about the proposed legislation here.

What can we do to help? 

Illuminate staff had a chance to meet with Senate and House offices in DC last week to reiterate the importance of this funding for Colorado families– but you don’t have to go to DC to support getting this bill passed!

The Home Visiting Coalition suggests the following key actions in support of this legislation:

  • Reach out to your representative about the need for bipartisan reauthorization. The House Ways and Means Committee’s vote is a big step forward, but Congress needs to enact these policies to realize the opportunity they offer. Meet with, call, and email your Members of Congress to urge them to prioritize a bipartisan MIECHV reauthorization that lifts up the priorities of increased funding, doubling the Tribal set-aside, and allowing virtual home visits.
  • Reach out to U.S. House members requesting their co-sponsorship. Further co-sponsors will help demonstrate the broad bipartisan support for this bill to Congressional leadership. You can see a list of current co-sponsors here.
  • Engage policymakers on social media using this toolkit. Please use these sample messages and tag your Members of Congress to thank them for supporting and co-sponsoring, or to encourage them to do so.

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Art for Advocacy: Register Today for Strolling Thunder Colorado 2022!

Art for Advocacy: Register Today for Strolling Thunder Colorado 2022!

Make your voice heard with and for Colorado families with young children! Join Illuminate Colorado and our partners on Oct. 1 for the fifth annual Strolling Thunder Colorado. This year’s family-friendly event will be held virtually from 9:30 – 11 a.m.  

Join families and advocates from around the state as we raise our voices using art for policies that families with young children need. Illuminate is proud to be a hosting partner of Strolling Thunder because child care, paid leave, and other family supports strengthen the foundation for families and communities to thrive. 

 

Learn more from our friends at the Colorado Children’s Campaign and register for the event below:

At Strolling Thunder, attendees raise their voices for babies and their families in a fun, family-friendly setting. The event celebrates recent wins at the legislature, brings attention to what families need to thrive, and helps participants connect with their state and local elected officials. This year’s event theme is “Art for Advocacy.” Register today by clicking here. All who register by Sept. 17 will receive an art kit for the art activity and a care package before the event.  

 

Strolling Thunder Colorado brings together people who care about babies and their families at an event featuring guest speakers, story time, a dance party, an art activity, and an advocacy training. Each year, it encourages elected officials to make pregnant people, babies, and their families a priority when policy decisions are made. The event is hosted by Raise Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, Colorado Association for Education of Young Children (COAEYC), Colorado Children’s Campaign, Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance (ECCLA), Illuminate Colorado, and ZERO TO THREE.  

As a part of this event, Raise Colorado is asking community members to share photos of them and their children strolling – whether that be taking a walk in a park or pushing their child in a stroller, as well as a quote sharing why they think it is important to prioritize pregnant people, babies, and their families in Colorado. This is optional, and photos and quotes will be shared at the event and possibly on host organizations’ website. To make a submission, please click here.

Register for Strolling Thunder Today!

Register by clicking here before September 17th to receive an art kit for the art activity and a care package prior to the event!

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Illuminate Colorado Is Seeking a Family Connects Medical Director (POSITION FILLED)

Illuminate Colorado Is Seeking a Family Connects Medical Director (POSITION FILLED)

Illuminate Colorado is seeking a Family Connects Medical Director to lead the State Intermediary functions related to medical and clinical leadership in partnership with the demonstration and local communities in Colorado.

Family Connects is an evidence-based approach to supporting all newborns and their families. As a universal home visitation model, Family Connects implementation is designed to create mechanisms, building on local community capacity and interests, that will provide all new parents, prenatally or at birth, systematic opportunities to discuss and learn about their concerns and be connected to the parent support resources available in their communities. The home visits are performed by registered nurses and include both an infant and maternal physical assessment, with the infant assessment being more comprehensive. As the state intermediary, Illuminate Colorado is partnering with Family Connects International to work with communities to plan for the model’s implementation and sustainability across Colorado.

Qualifications: M.D., D.O.

Area of Specialty: Pediatrics, OB/GYN, Family Medicine

Compensation & Schedule: At least 0.1 FTE is necessary for this role to begin, with the potential to increase according to the scaling of the implementation of the program within Colorado. Illuminate Colorado is open to various staffing structures (individual contract, contract with another employer, hourly employee, etc.) in order to best meet the needs of the program and the candidate.

 

View the complete job posting here.

 

To Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume, references, and salary requirements via email with “Family Connects Medical Director” in the subject line to afox@illuminatecolorado.org.

Application Deadline: Aug 19, 2022

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Prevention Through Partnership

Prevention Through Partnership

“Prevention happens in partnership” is a phrase often repeated by the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), Dr. Melissa Merrick. As the Colorado chapter of PCAA these words rang especially true for us at Illuminate Colorado in 2021. As we began to emerge from the pandemic and find our new normal, only to experience resurgences and continued restrictions, the power of connection and innovation was continually underscored.

Despite the ever-changing environment around us, 2021 brought more partnerships, opportunities and successes to Illuminate than ever before:

  • Illuminate participated in the Home Visiting Investment Task Force and deepened our engagement in home visiting as a prevention strategy by becoming the state lead for Healthy Families America, PCAA’s signature evidence based home visitation program and beginning exploration of Family Connects, a universal model for supporting families welcoming a new baby.

  • Illuminating Child Care launched its second classroom, Acorn, supporting families in the San Luis Valley, and established a new partnership with Children First, the Pueblo Early Childhood Council, to serve as the home for a third classroom.

  • Two additional educational curricula were released and Illuminate led the development of research and recommendations focused on the prevention of child sexual abuse.

  • Illuminate collaborated with cross-system partners on the Substance Exposed Newborns Rule Writing Work Group, the Plans of Safe Care Work Group, the Safe Child Care Task Force, and on the development of Colorado’s funded grant applications for Family Support through Primary Prevention and Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems.

As we continue in this work, our programs, strategies and initiatives are broad, and our subject matter expertise, partnerships and passion are deep. We remain dedicated to increasing our impact, deepening our relationships and building brighter childhoods in Colorado.

Read our latest annual report to learn more about Illuminate Colorado’s work in 2021.

Join Us!

This annual benefit dedicated to lighting the way for passionate individuals, dedicated professionals and impactful organizations to make a difference in the lives of kids in Colorado will be our in-person fundraising event since 2019.

Help us celebrate the release of our 2021 Annual Report and have fun raising funds to support strengthening families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. 

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It Can’t Just Be Me

It Can’t Just Be Me

Me:  “Will you please go downstairs and turn off the lights you left on in the bathroom, your room, and the den?!” 

My Son:  “Why?  Maybe later.”

Me:  “Well then let me rephrase it. If you don’t turn off the lights now, you’ll lose your device for the day! It’s not like I haven’t asked you to turn them off hundreds of times before. If you would do it in the first place I wouldn’t have to ask you!”

Welcome to an exchange between me and my son, more times than I’d care to admit, in telling him what I want him to do. Why this particular exchange?  Honestly, to save on the electricity bill.  Why in this tone?  Because of how frequently this conversation happens. More on this later.

Can I get an Amen?!  

On the night of my wedding, my brother advised me to, “not sweat the small stuff” in my marriage.  Of course, my brother wasn’t married at the time and that was over 20 years ago. Recently, I’ve heard this said multiple times in various conversations or digital platforms. This can’t be a coincidence, right? I’ve also heard it said in the following way, “what hill are you willing to die on?”  I can tell you this, when I hear these phrases being used it’s easy to receive, but not so easy to act upon. Especially, in the heat of the moment. Can I get an Amen?!  

I am a father who did, self-admittedly, a solid job of raising my children when they were infants, toddlers, and even somewhat into middle childhood. But, it was right about that time when middle school entered the picture that I started to become more of a parental tyrant. My biggest crusade has been to make sure the house is in order, but this has come with a price as it relates to the relationships I’ve had with my children.  

If you know middle-schoolers, this is about the time when they can become a BIT of a challenge in several ways, at least for me. It’s a particular attitude that they bring to the table that can press all of my buttons, including the ones I didn’t even know I had.  

I am a father who did, self-admittedly, a solid job of raising my children when they were infants, toddlers, and even somewhat into middle childhood.

But, it was right about that time when middle school entered the picture that I started to become more of a parental tyrant.

Anonymous

Can I get a Hallelujah?!  

My oldest son is on the FASD spectrum. I’ve put in hundreds of hours educating myself on FASD, after getting a diagnosis, and I can tell you several reasons why a child on the spectrum acts the way they do, and I can give you several ways how to properly respond. Here’s the challenge though, walking the walk is much easier than talking the talk. Can I get a Hallelujah?!  

To my credit, I’ve made some positive strides in parenting my son. Besides the consistency of my mindfulness practice, both he and I see therapists, and his therapist recently reported that he currently feels better about our relationship. Yes sir! I’d like to think it’s because I’m learning how to control ‘me’ rather than being so focused and frustrated on controlling my son.  Don’t get me wrong. I won’t let my son walk all over me, but there comes a time when I need to understand the importance of maintaining a loving relationship with him that will last for the rest of our lives. Nitpicking him in so many ways is not creating that road I want us to travel together. 

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t let my son walk all over me, but there comes a time when I need to understand the importance of maintaining a loving relationship with him that will last for the rest of our lives.

Anonymous

But, It’s Up to Me

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned with FASD is that my son’s actions are due to trauma to the brain, not an intentional act of defiance. But many times, that’s the way I take it, like a personal attack on my leadership. Honestly, in our family of five my son probably has the most tender heart of us all. The last thing he wants to do is hurt me or any other member of our family, we’ll maybe his younger brother just a little- just kidding).

When he doesn’t turn off the lights it’s not to annoy me, but that’s the way I take it. Instead, it’s up to me how I control my tone when I speak to him, and it’s up to me to come up with an idea that might work out better for him to turn them off more frequently than he does, including brainstorming together. To his credit, it’s not just me having to do all the legwork. As he is getting older, he is playing more of a central role in figuring out ways to be at his best in our family dynamic.   

Now, I’m not saying I’ve made it to the mountaintop yet as it relates to being a dad. Matter of fact, I still could be in base camp. But I can honestly say I’m taking steps in the right direction because my son is well worth it.

About the Author

About the Author

Anonymous

This article was written by a father of  four beautiful children, three of whom have been adopted.  He is committed to sharing the experiences of his family impacted by FASD, anonymously, through the Becoming FASD Aware blog series to strengthen families and build awareness.

This photo was taken by the author’s son. while they were on a walk together. 

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