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.

Related Posts

Illuminate Colorado is Giving Away 40,000 Pinwheels To Inspire A Conversation

Illuminate Colorado is Giving Away 40,000 Pinwheels To Inspire A Conversation

Illuminate Colorado, the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America , has given away 30,000 free Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. The nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities is calling on an additional 10,000 Coloradans to claim their FREE pinwheels and plant them in their front yards and neighborhoods.

Hero’s Health Grant from CHC: Creating Healthier Communities Supports Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs

Hero’s Health Grant from CHC: Creating Healthier Communities Supports Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs

Today Creating Healthier Communities (CHC) announced Illuminate Colorado as one of four awardees of its Hero’s Health grant. The $10,000 grants, awarded to CHC nonprofit partners committed to serving active and retired military communities through program and service delivery that is focused on mental health or housing insecurity, will be used to create meaningful impact for America’s heroes and their families. The funding that Illuminate has been awarded will support Fathers of Freedom, one of 44 Circle of Parents groups meeting throughout Colorado. 

“CHC is pleased to support Illuminate Colorado’s efforts to improve the quality of life for our nation’s active military and veterans,” said Stacie Dennis, director of nonprofit engagement at CHC: Creating Healthier Communities. “Illuminate goes above and beyond for our armed forces population in this country and the Hero’s Health grant is just one way that CHC is investing in vital programs and services that make life better for our communities.”

Built around the foundations of mutual self-help, parent leadership, family support and increasing all five Protective Factors in families, Circle of Parents® groups strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. Groups are parent-led and parent-driven and thus there is no curriculum – just a safe place for parents to share with each other and seek support and advice. Circles provide a friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers, where parents are the experts.  It’s a place where anyone in a parenting role can openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children.  It’s a place where they can find and share support.

Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. All parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or support. To help parents find that support in their lives, Illuminate Colorado is focused on growing Circle of Parents® in Colorado. 

“Illuminate Colorado is proud to serve as a nonprofit partner with CHC and delighted to receive a Hero’s Health grant as an award in recognition of our dedicated work of creating healthier communities for America’s military population, said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate. “Our military veterans often need to recuperate from both apparent and invisible wounds after sacrificing and serving our country, so after they fight for us, we work attentively to support them. We are proud to support and empower these two military fathers in making such an extraordinary difference in their community; and thankful for their leadership which ensures that any veteran father in the Colorado Springs area can get together for dinner every Thursday at 5:00 pm.” 

When asked what their hopes are for 2022 with support from this generous gift, the Fathers of Freedom Circle of Parent facilitators shared:   

Personally, what I look most forward to about 2022 within our fathers groups is the opportunity to provide engaging activities for the families we serve, watching the confidence in our fathers grow and seeing the excitement in their children ignite. It’s important for us all to have support systems and feel connected, but that sentiment is much more pronounced with combat veterans, where the name of the game tends to be “isolation. We strive to provide a safe place where veterans can come to meet other fathers and speak openly about the struggles they may be facing internally  that could be putting a strain on their family life and their parenting. We want to give them the support and resources to help heal so they can be the best role-models for their children that they can be. And sometimes, that just comes down to listening.

Adam Combs

What I hope for in 2022 is that we are able to reach more fathers in our community and continue to bring them together with their families while providing healthy family events and support! I truly believe that when our military and veteran fathers are healing, their families are healing as well. We need each other just as we did in the military!

Adrian Nunez

CHC: Creating Healthier Communities, formerly Community Health Charities, is a catalyst for good health, bringing communities, nonprofits, and businesses together around a shared commitment to better health and wellbeing. The organization represents thousands of high-impact nonprofits nationwide, working to address barriers to good health and connecting them with capital from corporate, foundation and government partners to power transformative change. By listening to partners and convening community and business leaders, CHC aims to act in the best interests of communities, directing resources and expertise where it is needed most. For more information, visit chcimpact.org or @chcimpact.  Find more information and how to support CHC’s Hero’s Health cause here

 

Community Leadership Award Presentation & Fireside Chat with Adrian Nuñez and Adam Combs

Each year, Illuminate Colorado honors the contributions of exceptional individuals and organizations who have furthered our collective mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment.

WATCH THE VIDEO 
Illuminate Colorado Executive Director Jade Woodard talks with Community Leadership Award recipients and veterans, Adrian Nuñez and Adam Combs, about the work they are doing with Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom in Colorado Springs.

November 11 @ 5:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Virtual Event

 

RSVP TO ENTER THE LIGHT THE WAY GIVEAWAY

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

Illuminate Colorado is Giving Away 40,000 Pinwheels To Inspire A Conversation

Illuminate Colorado is Giving Away 40,000 Pinwheels To Inspire A Conversation

Growing A Better Tomorrow, Together

Communities have a BIG influence in families’ lives. ​Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities.​

Every day, you can plant seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.   

DENVER, March 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate), the Colorado Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), has given away 30,000 free Pinwheels for Prevention® to inspire Coloradans to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. The nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities is calling on an additional 10,000 Coloradans to claim their FREE pinwheels and plant them in their front yards and neighborhoods as part of a national movement to recognize the importance of community-based support for all children and families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, and all year-long.

“We can build healthier, safer and thriving communities if we take the same approach to raising families that we do to tending a community garden on a shared piece of land. Just like a plant is more likely to thrive in a garden with good soil and plenty of sunlight and water, families are more likely to thrive in nurturing communities,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado.

Throughout the month of April, Illuminate and other PCAA chapters, as well as local supporters in more than 150 cities in Colorado, are planting pinwheels and using this community garden metaphor to reinforce the message that “every day, we help positive childhood experiences take root.” Planting a pinwheel represents the bright childhoods we all want for children.

“Research shows that positive childhood experiences in nurturing environments provide fertile ground for physical and mental health, learning, and social skills,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “By preventing child abuse and neglect we aim to holistically improve the lives of all families and the communities they live in.”

The Coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent losses have changed the world and prevention professionals are still working to understand the pandemic’s repercussions for incidents of child maltreatment to reduce adversity in childhood. The pandemic experience has had a consequential impact on an entire generation of children, sadly some more than others. Too many of our children have likely experienced at least one adverse childhood experience by now. Communities must nurture them going forward to heal.

The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. COVID-19 has added stressors to the lives of parents and caregivers, such as loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings that necessitate new child care and homeschool arrangements, and food insecurity. The social connections and community services and activities that serve as protective factors against child abuse and neglect may not exist in this extraordinary time of physical distancing.

But few news reports since the COVID-19 pandemic began have focused on issues related to child abuse beyond the volume reports of child abuse, with an Associated Press analysis released this week highlighting a national total decrease of 18 percent in both total reports and investigations. Media coverage has overlooked the importance of protective factors that help buffer families from the negative consequences of exposure to risks, like isolation, unemployment, substance use and mental illness, by reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person parenting responds to the risk.

Families get overloaded with stress or risks and, like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors and community leaders know how to lighten the load by increasing the following protective factors, that is how tragedy can be avoided.

Having the Pinwheels Conversation 
Far too many people, parents and professionals alike,  don’t know how to prevent child abuse. Research has shown five Protective Factors have the power to prevent and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

“It is time to have a different conversation about helping families upstream. There is more than one narrative connected to child abuse prevention than whether or not reports are down or up, in fact there are at least five different stories to tell. If there is a child at home or in your neighborhood then every day, you have a responsibility to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy and we all have a responsibility to help you grow a better tomorrow,” continued Woodard.

When we increase these five protective factors for all families, we strengthen families, prevent child abuse and build brighter childhoods.

1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

5. 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.

So this April, during child abuse prevention month, the hope is at least 10,000 more people will plant a pinwheel.  And, by the end of the month, with 40,000 pinwheels planted in front yards and neighborhoods throughout the state, more people will know how to plant the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.

Illuminate also recommends the following ways that people everywhere can dig in and help raise awareness and impact virtually during child abuse month:

  • Thursday, April 1, wear blue to show support for positive childhood experiences. Post a photo or video on social media and include the #WearBlueDay2021. Join together at 10:00 AM with Governor Jared Polis for the virtual launch of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in Colorado on Illuminate’s Facebook page.
  • Enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest. Submit a pinwheels photo for a chance to win a grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit serving children and families! Photos with the most votes on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 1:00 pm (MTN) win the opportunity to select a Colorado nonprofit serving children and families to receive grants of $1,000, $300 and $200. See the campaign website for official rules.
  • Join a FREE two-hour interactive virtual introductory course to learn how to “bring the protective factors to life” at home, work and in your community. Offered April 19, from 10:00 am  12:00 pm and April 21 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Get inspired to move from knowledge to action in your community.
  • April 8 is World Day for Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse — every survivor and their loved ones need access to services for healing and resilience. Together, we can reach a tipping point in Colorado where children grow up happy, healthy and safe in communities that prevent children from experiencing sexual abuse. If enough adults in a community take a FREE two-hour interactive online training then, together, we can create a new standard of child safety in your community and throughout Colorado. Visit TipColorado.org to help your county reach the tipping point.
  • Join PCAA, sorority partners at Kappa Delta and Sigma Delta Tau and Illuminate in a Digital Advocacy Day. Contact your elected officials and spread the word about policy change that’s vital to the well-being of children and their families. Visit IlluminateColorado.org/2021policy for a guide to what policies and legislation in Colorado build protective factors.
  • Use the hashtag #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community, find other ways to get involved and signify your commitment to helping children, families and entire communities to thrive. Illuminate Colorado is by no means the only organization in Colorado working to strengthen families or raise awareness during this time. Look for pinwheels in your community to begin to pop up soon as a sign of a family-friendly organization or home committed to planting the seeds for all children to grow up happy and healthy.

Visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org to get involved, enter the #GrowingBetterTogether Photo Contest and learn more about how to strengthen your family and the families in your community.

About Illuminate Colorado
Illuminate Colorado is a statewide nonprofit strengthening families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. With a research-based approach that emphasizes building promotive and protective factors, we address systemic and multi-sector issues by collaborating with families and partners at the community, state and national level to develop and implement powerful programs, policies and initiatives that keep kids safe in Colorado. Visit www.IlluminateColorado.org to learn more.

About Prevent Child Abuse America
Prevent Child Abuse America is a leading champion for all children in the United States. Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Chicago, we are the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect, working to actively prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect before they occur. Our success is founded on a nationwide network of state chapters and nearly 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites, which directly provide parents and caregivers a wide variety of services and resources that help children grow up to be productive, contributing members of their communities and society. Our comprehensive approach is informed by science—we translate and disseminate innovative research to promote proven solutions that our vast network then puts into action. And we raise public awareness and advocate for family friendly policies at the national, state, and local levels to support transformative programs and promote the conditions and contexts that help children, families, and communities across the country thrive. Visit preventchildabuse.org to learn more.

Illuminate Colorado Takes On New Role Supporting Home Visiting in Colorado

Illuminate Colorado Takes On New Role Supporting Home Visiting in Colorado

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Denver, CO (March 23, 2021) – Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) announced the organization has become the state office for Healthy Families America (HFA), Prevent Child Abuse America’s (PCA America) signature home visiting program and one of the leading family support and evidence-based home visiting programs in the United States. 

This expansion of Illuminate programs and services strengthening families, organizations and communities in Colorado means the organization will coordinate communication with HFA sites within the state, serve as a conduit of communication to the national office and provide a voice in Colorado for HFA, while advocating for a continuum of home visiting services in Colorado.

A wide range of studies show that when parents participate in HFA, children are healthier, experience fewer adverse childhood events and demonstrate long-term improvements in school performance.

Dr. Melissa Merrick

President and Chief Executive Officer, Prevent Child Abuse America

“Our organization has a strong history of partnering on national, state and local levels to promote the benefits of home visiting in Colorado. We know that early, nurturing relationships are the foundation for healthy development and essential for children to reach their full potential. As the Colorado Chapter of PCA America, we are excited to take on this new role supporting the local HFA sites here in Colorado,” said Jade Woodard executive director for Illuminate. “Home visiting programs should be a critical component of every community’s plan to prevent child maltreatment. Places where everyone recognizes our shared obligation to help parents be the parents they want to be are societies where children and families thrive,” continued Woodard. 

HFA is a two-generation home visiting model proven to demonstrate powerful outcomes for children, parents and communities. The home visiting model has the highest rating of “well-supported” by Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse, giving states and county human service agencies the ability to pay for HFA services with federal resources made available through the Family First Prevention Services Act

“A wide range of studies show that when parents participate in HFA, children are healthier, experience fewer adverse childhood events and demonstrate long-term improvements in school performance,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and chief executive officer of PCA America, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing child trauma. “Additionally, we see an increase in family functioning and self-sufficiency, as well as broad health and fiscal benefits—these are among the many positive impacts HFA has on communities, and we’re proud to be partnering with Illuminate Colorado to extend home visiting across the state.”

Studies of HFA show parents experience dramatic gains in education, leading to increased family income and tax revenues for the community. Children in families involved in HFA score higher on tests measuring cognitive development and improve academic performance. Healthier birth rates, lower complications, and reductions in child neglect and abuse are also correlated with participation in HFA, with rigorous studies showing a 70% reduction in pregnancy complications and 48% fewer cases of low-weight births. 

Much is being done right now to ultimately ensure home visiting is available to families in all Colorado communities. The Early Childhood Leadership Commission Home Visitation Investment Task Force is working to develop a strategy to scale a home visiting continuum in Colorado. In addition to serving on this task force, Illuminate is proud to support and collaborate through multiple coalitions working to strengthen and advance effective home visiting services across Colorado and prevent infant and maternal mortality. 

There are two community-based organizations currently using the HFA home visiting model in Colorado; Early Childhood Partners Healthy Families Vail Valley (Healthy Families Vail Valley) program serves families in the Eagle River Valley and the Family Visitor Program Healthy Families Aspen to Parachute program (Family Visitor Programs) serves families in that Colorado region. 

“Since Family Visitor Programs brought the Healthy Families America model to Colorado in 2011, we have anticipated the day HFA could be represented by a state office,” said Sandy Swanson, executive director Family Visitor Programs. “Illuminate’s willingness to take on this role will strengthen and expand the model by making it available to all communities in Colorado.” 

“Healthy Families Vail Valley is thrilled to see the HFA model strengthened in Colorado with the development of Illuminate Colorado as our state intermediary, ” said Megan McGee Bonta, manager, of the Healthy Families Vail Valley program. “It will help build a stronger network to serve and build resilience in Colorado families and children and we look forward to continuing to partner with the organization and the incredible work they are doing!”

Related Topics

Home Visiting in Colorado – 

Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice or concrete supports. Home visitors help parents bring out the best in themselves by tapping into the skills they already possess. Home visiting programs are proven to have positive impacts on children, families and communities.

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Learn more about Health Families America in Colorado

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