A year ago this month, Kathryn Wells, MD, became the new Executive Director of the Kempe Center. A board-certified specialist in child abuse pediatrics, Dr. Wells has brought tremendous experience to this role over the last year. She shared some of her thoughts on the year’s highlights and what we can expect to see from the Kempe Center moving forward.
Q: What was your greatest takeaway from the last year? What successes are you most proud of?
A: What I’m most proud of is the staff and faculty at the Center. They are committed to the work and to our ongoing growth, development and innovation. They have all shown a willingness to engage actively during this time of transition and I’m truly humbled and impressed by how everyone has stepped up; from strategic planning to researching the field to looking at what we bring to the table and what we can all contribute moving forward together.
Another highlight this year was building external relationships. We are most successful when we’re informed by partners and experts in the field about where we are best equipped to engage. Our partnership with the Foundation has also continued to flourish, allowing us to best serve our most vulnerable kids and families with efforts like the CARENetwork.
Q: In what ways is the Center connecting communities and systems to support families and children?
A: Over the past year, we have made steps to further integrate tele-education and consultation services to expand our reach and offer our expertise across multiple disciplines to a broader community. The CARENetwork has allowed us to communicate with a network of designated healthcare providers in a community response to child maltreatment. We have also deepened our longstanding commitment to the support of systems facing complex and complicated cases of child maltreatment through a major restructuring of our START program.
Q: What originally inspired your work in the child maltreatment field?
A: I can recall several experiences in my early career as a general pediatrician in a small rural community that influenced my beliefs and commitment to the work we are doing at the Kempe Center. One particular example is a child I saw in my practice who had injuries that I believed were concerning for abuse, resulting in a mandatory report to child welfare and law enforcement. The investigators sought a second opinion from the Kempe Center that ultimately led to the opinion that the injuries could have been accidental. It was at that time I learned about the Kempe Center and the expertise it held and became driven to not only seek additional training but also is the basis of my deep commitment to improving systems that serve our most vulnerable children and families and the professionals that serve them. I am now honored to lead the Kempe Center in that work.
Q: What are some things we can expect to see from the Center in the future?
A: During this past year, the Kempe Center has initiated an intensive strategic planning process that will focus on achieving our mission and vision. We have evaluated our scope of work and are considering how we can adapt our current efforts to expand our reach and promote collaboration across disciplines to better serve our community. This process has included a tremendous amount of work including an internal culture and climate survey, an all staff retreat and over 50 key interviews with stakeholders in our professional community.
The Kempe Center will announce a strategic 5-year plan this April that will include the tactics and timeline for how Kempe plans to move into the future. To learn more about the Kempe Center, click here.
In 2019, Colorado returned more than $1 billion in refunds to 1.9 million state taxpayers. Imagine if state taxpayers chose to donate just a portion of their refunds; this outpouring of support would re-energize local community causes across Colorado and make a massive positive impact on our state.
This year, Coloradans who receive a state income tax refund will have a chance to donate all or some of it to a local nonprofit they trust like the Kempe Foundation. For our organization, this provides a new way to fund our ongoing work in the community to keep all children safe and healthy.
Whether you do your taxes yourself or use a tax preparer, RefundWhatMatters.org provides simple instructions for how to make sure your refund donation goes to your chosen nonprofit.
- Decide how much of your refund to donate.
- Enter The Kempe Foundation and our registration number  in the Donate to a Colorado Nonprofit Fund line on your state income tax return or tax software – or just give this info to your tax preparer when you share your tax documents.
- Smile knowing you’ve helped a cause that matters to you.
Donations from your 2020 tax refund will go toward Kempe’s efforts to support experts in the field, advocate for children and engage with communities. You can learn more about ReFUND CO at RefundWhatMatters.org.
Heading into the 2020 legislative session, the Kempe Foundation has a robust and proactive agenda. Last fall, we held stakeholder meetings with legislative allies and partner organizations on proposed legislation. We also held a series of fact-finding meetings to explore the issues below, on which Kempe will be actively engaged this year.
- Children’s Code Revision: For five years, Kempe has worked with the Department of Human Services, county departments of human services and other child advocacy organizations to revise the part of the Children’s Code that dictates the processes and procedures when a baby tests positive for harmful substances at birth. Although past efforts have not been successful, Kempe will remain involved to ensure that the safety of the child is at the forefront every step of the way.
- Children’s Testimony: Under current law, a county judge has the power to compel a child to testify in front of their perpetrator for their case to move forward. Kempe has started initial conversations with experts including the Office of the Child’s Representative, the District Attorney’s Council, county human services partners, and legislators to determine if there are changes that can be made to address this issue to better reflect a child’s best interest.
- School Active Shooter Drills: Concerns have been raised about how active shooter drills are used in schools and the unintended trauma for children that can come as a result of the drills. Kempe is working with Representative Michaelson Jenet to ensure that any study on this issue is impactful and can make a real difference.
- Home Visitation: Kempe has been actively engaged in stakeholder meetings related to providing additional resources to home visitation programs. We will continue to monitor this process as it unfolds.
- Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants: An important part of the Kempe Foundation’s work is not only engaging proactively on our own legislative priorities but supporting our partners’ legislative priorities as well. This session, Children’s Hospital Colorado, in partnership with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Mental Health Colorado, are bringing forth legislation to expand early childhood mental health consultants so that children who have experienced trauma or may need mental health support are identified early and connected to services as soon as possible.
- Budget: Kempe will also keep a close eye on the budget as it is reviewed and set for the upcoming legislative session. Kempe receives substantial funding for three programs the Center runs in partnership with the state: the Child Welfare Training System, SafeCare and the CARENetwork.
We will continue to provide important policy updates throughout the 2020 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.
The Kempe Foundation will host its signature fundraising luncheon on March 13, 2020 from 11:00am to 1:00pm at the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver. The luncheon celebrates Kempe’s work to ensure children develop and grow in safe, healthy, nurturing environments, and will inspire community action to keep children safe and healthy for generations to come.
“Each year, we have the privilege of honoring some truly amazing individuals who are championing healthy childhoods by supporting Kempe’s work,” said Julia Stone, President and COO of The Kempe Foundation. “Our work would not be possible without their support and tireless efforts on behalf of children and families throughout Colorado.”
The honorees at this year’s luncheon are:
Imhoff Family Community Award: Blue Ribbon Home Warranty / Terri Lane and Ellen Robison
Blue Ribbon Home Warranty, locally owned and operated since 1985, has long been involved in supporting the greater good of the community. Their support over the years and their belief in the work of Kempe and the children and families we serve is why we are proud to name them our 2020 Imhoff Family Community Award Honoree.
Kempe Ambassador of the Year: Tracy Rivera, Granite Imports
For over 17 years, Rivera has been a foster youth advocate for Kempe’s Fostering Healthy Futures program, an evidence-based intervention for pre-adolescent children in out-of-home care. She has raised awareness for children in the foster care system and has provided much needed support to Kempe and the children we serve to promote healthy youth development.
The 2020 luncheon will also feature keynote speaker Susan Payne, the founder and former Executive Director of the Safe2Tell prevention initiative. Payne, a 28-year law enforcement veteran, has assisted many states in establishing best practice intelligence gathering and information sharing initiatives to focus on violence prevention and early intervention in schools. She is currently an advisor and speaker for Safe and Sound Schools and was recently appointed to the National School Safety Task Force and is an Expert Advisor to the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center.
Sponsorships, tables and ticket sales from the 2020 luncheon will directly support Kempe’s mission to ensure that children develop and grow in safe, healthy, and nurturing environments and prevent the long-term impacts of child maltreatment and trauma. Tickets are available for purchase online at here. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Denise Jendrusch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, two of Kempe’s Child Welfare Training System (CWTS) professionals traveled to southern Belize to lead the first-ever international CWTS training opportunity. Michelle Mares, Foster, Kin, Adoptive Family Learning Manager and Paula Haugerud, Learning Logistics Coordinator spent a week at the Laugh Out Loud (LOL) Ministry orphanage providing their diverse team of program directors, educators and foster parents with professional guidance and educational training.
As one of only three orphanages throughout Belize, LOL Ministry has become a mainstay social justice organization for the country and leads the way in child welfare, human rights and other advocacy efforts. At any given time, LOL Ministry is caring for approximately 40-45 Belizean children. The orphanage is part of a 50-acre community featuring single family homes where children live on-site with their foster parents, as well as transitional housing for foster children that have aged out of the system.
Michelle and Paula worked with Melissa Fisher, Founder and Vice President of LOL Ministry to train the LOL team using curriculum from CWTS’s Foster Parent Fundamentals and Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TRBI) programs. Foster Parent Fundamentals helps parents better understand children who come from trauma backgrounds and how to look beyond their behavior. TBRI is a more holistic training focused on addressing foster parents’ own trauma and offering practical tools to support a child’s physical and attachment needs.
Over the course of a week, Michelle and Paula trained 15 foster parents and employees from LOL Ministry and will continue to stay in touch with the team to provide additional support as needed. They are also exploring the opportunity to offer direct coaching for LOL Ministry next summer, working side-by-side with Belizean foster parents in their homes to build and improve on the initial CWTS trainings.
To learn more about CWTS and the resources available to child welfare professionals, foster parents and family serving personnel, visit www.coloradocwts.com.