Topic: Advocacy

Q&A with Susan Payne, Founder of Safe2Tell

The Kempe Foundation 2020 Luncheon: Championing Healthy Childhoods will celebrate the professionals working every day to ensure children have the opportunity to develop and grow in safe, healthy and nurturing environments, and to inspire community action to keep children safe and healthy for generations to come.

One of those professionals is Susan Payne, a 28-year law enforcement veteran, retired special agent and Founder of the Safe2Tell prevention initiative, developed as a response to the Columbine tragedy. She is also Safe2Tell’s former Executive Director and Special Agent in Charge of Safe Communities and Safe Schools for the Colorado Attorney General and Department of Public Safety.

Susan, who was recently appointed to the National School Safety Task Force and is an Expert Adviser to the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, has worked extensively with the Secret Service on Protecting America’s Schools and participated in the Bystander study of 2004, the 2018 Secret Service Guide for Preventing School Violence, and the 2019 U.S. Secret Service Analysis and Comprehensive Study. Susan has been asked to speak at the White House on several occasions but most recently after the tragedy in Parkland. She also works with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Clearinghouse for School Safety.

We look forward to welcoming Susan as our 2020 Luncheon keynote speaker. In advance of the event, she is offering some insights into her work, experience and how Safe2Tell and other organizations, such as Kempe, are working together to provide our kids with safe schools.

What prompted you to start Safe2Tell, and how has it helped since its introduction in Colorado schools?

Susan: Safe2Tell was created out of necessity. After the horrifying shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 15 people dead, many more wounded and countless others’ lives changed forever, Colorado’s Attorney General Ken Salazar and Governor Bill Owens convened a statewide study to develop a plan for preventing a shooting of this magnitude in the future. As a direct result, the Safe2Tell Initiative was created: To provide an anonymous venue for parents, students, teachers, school administrators, and law enforcement to share information.

Safe2Tell is the first framework for prevention and early intervention. The program helps identify and create a multi-disciplinary team in every school in Colorado. This unique, yet sophisticated approach enables information sharing between law enforcement and teams at schools with a systematic approach to accountability and follow-up. A core element is building a positive culture and climate and a protected method of communication for youth to share information concerning their safety or the safety of others.

One of the findings in our research showed that in 81% of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker/actor knew it was going to happen but did not have an informed way to report it.

Safe2Tell has created a safe, anonymous mode for all individuals to report such information, and has helped to prevent not only school shootings, but also bullying, suicide, substance abuse and other health concerns.

I’m proud to say Safe2Tell is now keeping our children and schools safer across the entire state of Colorado.

What are you doing at schools with Safe2Tell?

Susan: If you want to truly focus on intervention and prevention, you have to start at the epicenter — schools. For a lot of kids, school is the only place they feel safe. Safe2Tell works proactively with schools to help its teachers, administrators and others, through extensive education, outreach, training, and presentations, to know the indicators and signs of potential violence and other youth concerns, to be knowledgeable about resources and how to intervene.
Safe2Tell also works very closely with other key stakeholders, like Kempe, which is making a crucial impact through research and multi-disciplinary approaches to find solutions to better protect our children and youth.

Together, we are truly creating an environment of ‘Not just see something, say something… but also adults DO something.’ There really is strength in numbers, and we want to educate as many people as we can, so these life-changing issues don’t get brushed under the rug.

What are we as communities, organizations and schools doing to prevent school shootings and accelerated mental health crises from happening?

Susan: Prevention is the key. Being informed on childhood trauma — how to prevent it and how to recognize signs of such trauma is absolutely necessary in order to educate and empower our youth on how to stay safe.

It’s really scary stuff but we’re trying to make it not so scary by offering practical and proactive intervention and prevention tips. By operationalizing those things, we can reduce the violence and number of traumatic events taking place in our schools.

What do you hope people walk away from your presentation having learned?

Susan: We can all agree that we don’t want bad things to happen to our children. The key is working together to intervene and prevent potential violence and other youth issues. Together, we can provide more hope and health. Most people truly want to make a difference, they just don’t know how. Our goal is to show them how.

Visit the Safe2Tell website to learn more about its programs. You can also hear Susan speak at Kempe’s 2020 Luncheon on Friday, March 13 in Denver. Tickets are available here.

Kempe Policy Priorities: What We’re Focused on in 2020

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 Colorado Sun: Colorado is creating a network of doctors to diagnose child abuse and keep kids from slipping through the safety net

Jennifer Brown from The Colorado Sun reports on the need for the CARE Network, a new program created via legislation this year. The CARE Network will allow the state to build a network of doctors to diagnose child abuse and keep kids from slipping through the safety net. Currently Colorado has just six doctors board certified in child abuse pediatrics all located on the Front Range.

Read about the Kempe Foundation’s work to advocate for this new program and how it will impact Colorado’s children online.

 

Updates from Under the Gold Dome: May 2019

The Kempe Foundation was very active in the 2019 Legislative Session introducing legislation, advocating for critical funding for Kempe programs, weighing in on important policy changes, and continuing to be a resource for legislators under the Gold Dome.

Although the session presented a new political landscape with Democrats in control of the Senate, House and Governor’s Office, we were able to garner bipartisan support for a number initiatives to improve the safety, health and well-being of children and youth across Colorado. Read on for a summary of our involvement.

Kempe Initiated Legislation

Spearheaded by Dr. Antonia Chiesa and CEO John Faught, The Kempe Center and Foundation partnered to pass House Bill 1133. This bill sponsored by Representatives Caraveo and Pelton, and Senator Fields creates Colorado’s Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network (CARENetwork), a program to build local capacity to provide quality assessments for suspected victims of child abuse and neglect in their local communities. By recruiting designated providers from communities across the state and training them about the signs of child abuse, the CARENetwork aims to ensure all children for whom physical or sexual abuse or neglect may be suspected receive access to high quality medical evaluations and behavioral health assessments. It also ensures that designated providers will be equipped to provide families information about resources available to help address risks that may lead to abuse or neglect. The Kempe Center will serve as the Resource Center for the CARENetwork

Governor Polis signed House Bill 1133 into law on Thursday, May 23, 2019.  

Other Kempe Initiatives

Throughout the session, The Kempe Foundation tracked over 40 bills and joined coalitions to support the following legislation:

  • HB 1122: CDPHE Maternal Mortality Review Committee
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.
  • HB 1193 Behavioral Health Support for High-risk Families
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.
  • HB 1194: School Discipline for Preschool through Second Grade
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.
  • HB 1197: Protect Social Workers’ Personal Information on the Internet
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.
  • HB 1262: State Funding for Full-day Kindergarten
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.
  • SB 049: Statute of Limitations Failure to Report Child Abuse
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.
  • SB 177: Background Checks for Persons Who Work with Children
    • Status – Passed and waiting for Governor’s signature.
  • SB 195: Child and Youth Behavioral Health System Enhancements
    • Status – Signed by the Governor.

Additionally, Kempe supported an amendment by Rep. Singer to SB19-228: Substance Use Disorder Prevention, to require the Colorado Department of Human Services to conduct research concerning the incidence of prenatal substance exposure or related newborn and family health and human services outcomes. SB19-228, as amended, has been signed by the Governor.

Budget Priorities

The Kempe Foundation actively supported several budget items and was successful in securing funding for our various priorities. These included:

  • $6,776,141 for the operation of the Child Welfare Training System.
  • $6.2 million for additional child welfare caseworkers.
  • Continued funding for operations of SafeCare within the Office of Early Childhood in the Colorado Department of Human Services.

The budget was signed by the Governor on April 18, 2019 and goes into effect at the start of the state fiscal year – July 1, 2019.

Kempe’s Child Abuse Prevention Month Activities

The Kempe Foundation was active at the State Capitol promoting Child Abuse Prevention Month. We participated in the drafting and introduction of the annual resolution to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month on the House and Senate Floor. Both Foundation CEO John Faught and Kempe Center Executive Director Dr. Kathi Wells joined for the presentation in the Colorado General Assembly.

We also participated in a press conference with Governor Polis to acknowledge his proclamation of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, and produced and distributed four one-page fact sheets to all one hundred legislators. The fact sheets included the announcement of Dr. Wells’ appointment as the Kempe Center Executive Director, as well as information on Kempe Center programs such the SafeCare program and ECHO Colorado.

Join us in asking legislators to ensure quality health assessments for child victims

Each year, there are more than 100,000 suspected cases of child abuse and neglect in Colorado. This number represents 100,000 children who deserve access to proper evaluation, diagnosis and care to ensure their physical and mental health and safety. Unfortunately, Colorado does not have the critical expertise throughout the state to provide this service.

The number of experts qualified to conduct these medical and behavioral health assessments is extremely limited. There are only six board-certified specialists in the field of child abuse pediatrics in Colorado. Five of these specialists live in Denver, and the other in Colorado Springs. Their distance to most of the state’s 64 counties limits the access our children have to expert evaluations following suspected abuse or neglect.

A new bill sponsored by Representatives Caraveo and Pelton, and Senator Fields aims to ensure all children who may have experienced physical, sexual abuse or neglect have access to high quality medical evaluations and behavioral health assessments.

HB 19-1133 creates Colorado’s Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network (CARENetwork), a program to build local capacity by recruiting designated providers from communities across the state and training them to provide quality assessments for suspected victims of child abuse and neglect in their local communities.

These designated providers could include family care physicians, nurses, advance practice providers and behavioral health providers. Each provider will be required to complete advanced training on the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as the risk factors for maltreatment. They will also be equipped with education about the resources available to support families who present these risk factors. Not only will these providers ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, they will also serve as a bridge for families who need continued care by specialists or multi-disciplinary teams.

The CARENetwork will ultimately expand the safety net for children, and will likely contribute to a reduction in severe incidents of child abuse and neglect, including fatalities. If Colorado passes HB19-1133 and creates the CARENetwork, we will take a significant step toward improving the safety and health of babies, toddlers and young children in all Colorado communities.

Kathryn (Kathi) Wells, MD, FAAP
Executive Director | Kempe Center for the Prevention and

John D. Faught
Chief Executive Officer | The Kempe Foundation