Topic: In the News

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. 

One Year Later: A Q&A with Dr. Kathryn Wells

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

 

Tax Time Creates a New season of Giving to Support Kempe’s Work

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.

  1. Decide how much of your refund to donate.
  2. Enter The Kempe Foundation and our registration number [20023003007] 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.
  3. 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.

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.