Advancing Child-Focused Policies in 2021

As we head into the 2021 legislative session, we know this last year has been especially difficult for children and families and they need to be prioritized now more than ever. Due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, there is still uncertainty around the process and priorities of the upcoming legislative session. Although Colorado’s economy has shown marked improvement, the uncertainty underlying economic forecasts coupled with potential federal stimulus will determine just how much can be accomplished in this legislative session. With this in mind, and considering input from other stakeholders, the Kempe Foundation has identified a list of child-focused issues that may be considered by the Legislature this session and are of interest to the Foundation.

  • Domestic Violence added to Children’s Code: Douglas County Human Services in partnership with Colorado Counties Inc is bringing forth legislation to define domestic abuse in the children’s code with the goal of capturing the emotional and psychological impact this behavior can have on children. The Kempe Foundation is part of a stakeholder group working on a draft bill.
  • Child Protection Ombudsman: The Child Protection Ombudsman Office plans to pursue two bills this session. First, they would like to introduce legislation that will allow the Ombudsman Office to access data held by the Child Fatality Review Team at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) so they can better address how to prevent child fatalities moving forward. The second bill would protect the Ombudsman Office and staff from having to disclose work products and also be subject to subpoenas to testify. We support both of these bill concepts.
  • Marijuana: Smart Colorado and Blue Rising are collaborating on a comprehensive bill to put in place stricter limitations on both the medical and recreational marijuana industry. Although not finalized, the legislation will seek to cap potency at 15%, control products and prohibit the use of butane, propane, and other carcinogens in marijuana products, require toxicology for all suicides and overdoses and accidental deaths, prohibit marketing to children, additional packaging requirements, and likely other provisions as well.
  • Behavioral Health: Access to behavioral health services is critically important, especially on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused increased trauma for children and families. In April 2019, the Governor created the Behavioral Health Task Force (BHTF). The Taskforce was charged with evaluating and setting a roadmap to improve the behavioral health system in the state. In September 2020, the Behavioral Health Taskforce released their behavioral health blueprint which included over 150 recommendations and findings. A main component of their recommendations is the creation of a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA). The BHA would be established as a central organization that threads together behavioral health services spread across multiple departments. This is intended to reduce fragmentation within the system and create a single point of entry for the consumer, as well as reduce administrative burden for providers.
  • Budget: Kempe also will actively engage and advocate for continued full funding of three programs the Kempe Center implements in partnership with the state: The Child Welfare Training System, SafeCare, and the CARENetwork.

The Kempe Foundation is committed to advancing child-focused policies. We will continue to provide important policy updates throughout the 2021 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.

The Kempe Foundation Announces New CEO, Jon Kruljac

Kruljac brings nearly 30 years of past involvement with Kempe to his new role

AURORA, CO (January 5, 2021) – The Kempe Foundation is pleased to announce Jon Kruljac as the new Chief Executive Officer of The Kempe Foundation. Kruljac, a long-time advocate of the Foundation, is an accomplished, energetic and passionate leader with expertise in strategic planning and philanthropy.

“I am privileged to join such an esteemed organization that is leading efforts to achieve a safe and healthy future for children,” said Kruljac.

Kruljac has been involved with The Kempe Foundation for the last 30 years. He was first introduced to the Foundation in 1991 by Walt and Georgia Imhoff and has been a champion of their work ever since. He has remained involved with Kempe in a variety of capacities including serving as board chair and as an ambassador.

“I am honored that my journey has taken me full circle back to Kempe,” said Kruljac. “My vision for Kempe moving forward is to expand our reach and grow our spheres of influence, with the ultimate goal being for Kempe professionals to serve as many children in the community as possible.”

Prior to being named Kempe’s CEO, Kruljac had a successful career representing public companies in capital markets and investor relations spanning more than 30 years. In 1998, Kruljac started his own consulting company, Monarch Consulting Inc., where he worked with companies in women’s health care, life sciences and oil and gas exploration sectors. After merging his practice and becoming a partner at GVC Capital, he managed financing and investor communications for Colorado based oil and gas companies before retiring in 2019. In addition to his involvement with Kempe, Kruljac also served on the board of Invest in Kids from 2012 to 2020.

Kruljac follows John Faught in this position after his six years of leadership at the Foundation. Kruljac and Faught have successfully collaborated with one another over the last 25 years in a variety of capacities to further child abuse prevention and treatment efforts. Faught stepped down from his role as CEO on December 31, 2020 but continues his work with The Kempe Foundation as the Executive Director of Public Policy. He feels confident in Kruljac’s ability to move Kempe’s mission forward.

“He will make an excellent CEO. Jon has years of experience in the private sector raising funds, but more importantly, Jon has an extreme compassion for children,” said Faught.

While the Foundation is changing leadership, Kempe remains dedicated to their mission of working to achieve a safe and healthy future for children and families.

Our Impact in FY20

 

The world of a young child is small, but the world that impacts a young child is much larger. Never has that broader world impact on children been more highlighted than in the midst of a global pandemic.

Long before we learned of COVID-19, the Kempe Foundation focused on funding work that interrupts the risks surrounding a child linked to childhood trauma. With your donations, we are able to support professionals leading programs at the Kempe Center who, day in and day out, are improving the care and well-being of children by strengthening families, communities, and the systems that serve them.

Throughout FY20, we advocated for the health and safety of children in collaboration with state agencies and state legislators. We helped secure funding for SafeCare, an early intervention program proven to address family risk factors linked to childhood trauma. We reinforced support for the Kempe Center professionals who are empowering resilience among youth in the foster care system through the Fostering Healthy Futures and FHF for Teens mentoring programs. We also invested in the role schools and educators play in a child’s life by advancing the Kempe Center’s Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice program. Finally, we directed resources to building the capacity of local communities to provide health and behavioral health care through a network of providers identify and evaluate childhood maltreatment and trauma.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it exacerbated the stress and trauma being experienced by Colorado’s most vulnerable residents. We know the pandemic has impacted many of the children and families who interact with Kempe and has intensified the need for practices and strategies built to respond to trauma.

As a result, we pivoted our work to support the Kempe Center and professionals dedicated to serving families and children, in this new world that strained the safety nets for children. We also focused on preserving state funding for key programs to support children and families even as Colorado faces a large budget shortfall.

I hope you’ll take a moment to read our Annual Report to learn more about our work in FY20, both prior to and during the pandemic. Thank you for your support in making all of this work possible.

Sincerely,

John D. Faught, JD

CEO, The Kempe Foundation

A Year of Change and Transformation for the Kempe Foundation

After six years of leadership, John Faught is stepping down from his role as Chief Executive Officer of the Kempe Foundation. Faught has been a champion of the Foundation for over 25 years, and his leadership will surely be missed by our staff and supporters. In the new year, he will transition into a new role where he will use his public policy expertise to advocate for legislation on behalf of the Foundation. Long-time Kempe advocate Jon Kruljac will step into the role of CEO effective January 1, 2021. While the Foundation is changing leadership, we remain dedicated to working together to achieve a safe and healthy future for children.

Kruljac is an accomplished, energetic and passionate leader with expertise in strategic planning and philanthropy. Professionally, he has more than 30 years of experience representing public companies in capital markets and investor relations. His history with Kempe dates back to 1991, when he was first introduced to the organization by Walt and Georgia Imhoff. In the 30 years that followed, he has remained involved with Kempe in various capacities.

“I have always cared deeply for children and civic responsibility,” says Kruljac. “The Kempe Foundation is a great marriage of the two and I am honored that my journey has taken me full circle back to this organization.”

In regard to his predecessor, Kruljac is admiring. “John Faught helped further the Foundation’s reputation as a public policy resource and advocated tirelessly for legislative funding. I am grateful he will remain with us in a public policy role.”

Looking ahead, Kruljac hopes to grow the Foundation’s spheres of influence with the ultimate goal of Kempe Center professionals serving as many children and communities as possible. He is a talented fundraiser and will work hard to ensure Kempe achieves its goals with financial support from the Foundation.

“We will continue addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and the stressors children and families are currently experiencing,” says Kruljac. “We want to reach more schools, communities and neighborhoods with the right tools to manage the impacts of this pandemic moving forward.”

We are thrilled to welcome Jon Kruljac into the role of CEO in the new year. We are confident that his expertise will build upon Faught’s successes and are grateful for the ongoing commitment of our supporters to making our work possible.

Hear more from John Faught and Jon Kruljac in the video below.

Kempe Advocacy Update: 2020 Election and Beyond

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In every election cycle, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to children. By voting for child focused policies, we can ensure continued funding and investments in early childhood and healthy child development. These investments are essential for strengthening Colorado families. With the 2020 election now behind us, we’re taking a moment to highlight local election outcomes and the 2020-21 state budget, plus how it impacts Kempe programs and children and families in Colorado.

Ballot Measures  

Many statewide ballot measures were successful, including Proposition EE which provides funding for education and access to free preschool. The revenue from a tax increase on vaping and tobacco products would go to K-12 education funding, an additional amount to rural schools, affordable housing, eviction legal assistance, tobacco education programs, local governments, and to expand pre-school programming. Beginning in 2023, every child in Colorado would be eligible for 10 hours per week of free preschool in their final year before kindergarten. Kempe applauds the passage of Proposition EE.

FY 2021-2022 Budget

Within the FY 2021-2022 budget request, the Governor has recommended restoring the $300,000 cut from the CARE Network last year. This means total requested funding is $911,776 General Fund. The Child Welfare Training System also received the full $6,797,102 Total Funds and the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Services, of which SafeCare is funded through a portion received $8,182,206 General Funds.  

The Joint Budget Committee commenced their briefing and hearing process on November 11th and will hear from each state agency about why their reuqests are critical. Our number one priority moving into 2021 is continuing full appropriations for Kempe’s state funded programs and partnerships. There is a lot of discussion percolating among stakeholders, agencies and legislators for improvement of behavioral health services.  

Moving Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought Colorado to an inflection point in the care and protection of our children and families. It has hit our most at-risk communities the hardest. Children and families in many communities are experiencing increased stress from loss of income, instability in housing, distance from social supports and an increasing inability to cover their basic needs. Children who were once connected to social support systems through schools and nonprofit programs are now disconnected due to social distancing and funding cuts. As we look to the future, we expect an unprecedented demand for services to help children and families.

In response to uncertainties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and other social unrest, Kempe is initiating new programs and expanding existing programs to address child trauma.  

  • CARE Network: The CARE Network was adopted by the Colorado Legislature in 2019 to build local capacity to provide quality medical and behavioral assessments for suspected victims of child abuse and neglect in their local communities, and ensures that designated providers will be equipped to identify child and family stresses that may lead to trauma. The designated providers will be equipped to provide families with information about local resources available to help them address these stresses. 
  • Trauma-Responsive Schools: Even prior to COVID-19, students who have experienced trauma were among the children experiencing the most challenges, in and out of schools. COVID-19 has created uncertainty, loss and fear, and has exacerbated inequities experienced by many families and their children. This uncertainty will likely increase the risk of long-term reactions for the children, families and school staff. The current challenging times may increase the ‘out of control’ behavior of students, as well as strain the self-regulation ability of staff to appropriately deal with behavior challenges. Through our Trauma-Responsive Schools program, we provide training to teachers, counselors, staff and parents to address these issues. We’ve continued to connect with school districts across the metro area about opportunities for Kempe’s Trauma Responsive Schools Programs.