Topic: Advocacy

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.

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. 

 

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.