Topic: Child Abuse and Neglect

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.

Addressing Childhood Trauma through Positive Youth Development

Although youth who have experienced trauma and are placed in foster care are at risk for adverse outcomes, they are also capable of demonstrating remarkable resilience. Fostering Healthy Futures® (FHF) is a positive youth development program, which rejects the deficit model and focuses on the promotion of strengths. FHF employs 1:1 mentoring and group-based skills training to promote healthy youth development and reduce trauma-related symptoms and behaviors. This innovative program was developed at Kempe in 2002 by Heather Taussig, Ph.D. and her colleagues and it has demonstrated numerous positive outcomes. 

FHF was initially designed for preadolescent children in out-of-home care but a teen adaptation has also demonstrated positive outcomes.  This year, the FHF program will become more readily available for pre-teen and teen participants, as The Kempe Foundation provided a grant in 2019 to expand the availability and implementation of the program in Colorado communities.

Jessica Corvinus, Director of Dissemination for Fostering Healthy Futures, is trying to scale the program and make it available to more youth. One way to do that involves identifying other organizations that may be able to run the FHF program, thereby expanding programming.

Jessica and her colleagues are also piloting the “Acing Healthy Futures” program for youth ages 9-11 who are not in the foster care system but do have a history of involvement in the child welfare system and have experienced one or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

“With the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, the child welfare landscape is shifting and the system is changing,” said Ms. Corvinus. “We are trying to align with the goals of Family First which calls for keeping families together.”

How does it work? FHF builds on youth’s strengths and interests by engaging pre-teens and teens in visioning and goal-setting exercises, skills training activities and workshops to build on their competencies and reduce adverse outcomes. 

The results don’t lie. Key findings from the FHF-T program, which was tested in Colorado, demonstrated the following:

  • Children in the FHF program experienced reduced mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety) and trauma symptoms
  • Children were less likely to be receiving mental health treatment at the follow-up, which suggests cost savings of the program.
  • Finally, children who participated in FHF had fewer placement changes and greater permanency.

Findings also suggest that the FHF program is very well received, as these quotes illustrate:

“I want to say thank you. Like a million times over, like thank you, thank you, thank you, ‘cause she was such a big impact. When I thought that no one really wanted me, she was right there.”

“FHF showed me that there is people other than my family that want me to succeed, and that’s behind my back, and, you know, is rooting for me. It gave me joy to my life when it wasn’t too much joy.”

The Kempe Foundation has provided fundraising and advocacy support for the experts at The Kempe Center since its inception. The Center has been recognized as a leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect for more than 45 years. Today, the Center’s programs include medical and behavioral health services, training for child welfare professionals and research on the causes and impacts of abuse.

Visit www.fosteringhealthyfutures.org to learn more. 

Our Impact in FY 2018

For nearly 60 years, the Kempe Foundation has worked to improve the care and well-being of all children by strengthening families, communities and the systems that serve them.

In FY18, Kempe’s programs directly helped many children and families in Colorado and across the U.S. We also provided coaching and consultation for professionals who work with families and children but may not otherwise have access to expertise from professionals like those at Kempe who have dedicated their lives to this work.

The total impact of Kempe’s work can be seen in the way we advocate for children at the capitol and collaborate with our local communities. With the generous support of donors, we hope to continue having a profound impact on thousands of children and families.  

We invite you to learn more about our impact in our FY 2018 Annual Report. 

Thank you for your commitment to keeping children safe and healthy for many generations to come.

Sincerely,

John Faught
President & CEO
The Kempe Foundation

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

Child Maltreatment and Trauma: Treating the Whole Family

Over the past three months, we’ve been exploring the topic of childhood trauma and its impact on mental health. Child maltreatment is the most common cause of trauma for youth and commonly the adult perpetrators, who were also subject to maltreatment in their youth. The perpetrator’s experience is then transmitted to their family. Trauma may also be the result of other events. Trauma is the reaction to frightening, often life-threatening, and violent experiences and while our focus is on child maltreatment, a traumatizing event may be experienced by any or all members of a family and then may lead to maltreatment, disruption of relationships and impede family functioning. Regardless of the trauma type, every trauma is a family trauma.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network notes that all families experience trauma differently, and some factors such as a child’s age or the family’s culture or ethnicity may influence how the family copes and recovers from a traumatic event. Trauma changes families as they work to survive and adapt to their circumstances and environment. While this adjustment may be less difficult for some, for others the stress and burden cause them to feel isolated, overwhelmed, and less able to maintain vital family functions.

At Kempe, we believe that every family who has faced trauma deserves access to treatment so that they may heal and recover together. That’s why the Kempe Center’s IMHOFF Clinic takes a whole family approach and provides services for children, as well as their parents, caregivers and siblings who may also be dealing with symptoms related to stress, trauma and adversity.

We recently connected with Dr. Steven Berkowitz, a visiting professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus who is working in collaboration with Kempe to grow the IMHOFF Clinic’s whole family care approach.

Why is a family-focused approach a more effective way to address trauma?

Very often, children who experience trauma have parents or caregivers who were also traumatized in their youth and never received treatment to address the emotional, cognitive and behavioral consequences. Because trauma can be transmitted across generations, we see these children experience the same things that happened to their parents and caregivers. As a treatment provider, it is important to assess everyone in the family to identify any significant issues or psychological symptoms that may be related to an intergenerational history of trauma. In order for the child to successfully recover from their own traumatic experiences, we must take a whole family perspective and treat everyone in the family unit.

What is unique about your work at the IMHOFF Clinic?

We are building the IMHOFF Clinic into a family-focused clinic that provides services for children, youth and adults dealing with symptoms related to stress, trauma and adversity. Our multidisciplinary treatment team works together with children and their families in a much more integrated way. In the past, if we saw a parent or caregiver struggling alongside their child, we would have to refer them to another treatment provider in a completely different location. Here, the treatment is in one place and we offer a range of individualized therapies and pharmacology to any family members who need it.

What are you hoping to achieve at the IMHOFF Clinic?

This group is on the forefront of providing the most comprehensive and evidence-based assessments and treatments that focus on stress and trauma throughout the lifespan. We are working to develop a model program that helps to unify the various departments of the University of Colorado, School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado in order to better serve the families that come to Kempe for help. We’d also like to develop an effective home-based program for children and families so that treatment can happen in the least restrictive, most normative setting possible, with the goal being to help families live and function successfully at home.

(more…)