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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
AURORA, CO (May 23, 2019) – The Kempe Center and Foundation are pleased to announce the creation of the Colorado’s Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network (CARENetwork) by the Colorado Legislature through HB19-1133. The CARENetwork is a program to provide quality assessments for suspected victims of child abuse and neglect by building local capacity in communities. As the Resource Center for the CARENetwork, the Kempe Center will recruit designated health care and behavioral health providers in communities across the state and train them as to the signs of child abuse and neglect and resources available to families to address risks that may lead to child abuse and neglect.
HB19-1133, sponsored by Representatives Caraveo and Pelton and Senator Fields, was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis on May 23, 2019.
“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 for improving the safety, health and well-being of children and youth across Colorado,” said John Faught, CEO of The Kempe Foundation. “The CARENetwork will ultimately expand the safety net for children, and likely contribute to a reduction in severe incidents of child abuse and neglect, including fatalities.”
The CARENetwork is a state program within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and in coordination with the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS).
The Kempe Foundation worked closely with various stakeholders including the CDPHE, CDHS, American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Advocacy Centers, Children’s Hospital Colorado and Colorado Children’s Campaign to pass the legislation. The bill received unanimous support in both the House and Senate.
About The Kempe Foundation
The Kempe Foundation is a 501c (3) nonprofit organization focused on the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Kempe works to keep all children safe and healthy by supporting experts in the field, advocating for children and engaging with communities. www.kempe.org