Kempe Child Protection Doctors Recognized for Professional Excellence

The Kempe Center’s Child Protection Team plays a critical role in our community, providing evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of children for suspected physical or sexual abuse or neglect. The professionals who make up the Child Protection Team share unmatched compassion and dedication to helping the children and families they serve. Two of the distinguished members of the team were recently recognized for their professional excellence and commitment in their work.

Denise C. Abdoo, PhD, cPNP has been elected to a two-year term to the Children’s Hospital Colorado Medical Board. Denise has been on the pediatric faculty at Kempe since 2003 and was nominated by a senior PNP colleague in the department. This important position is voted on by the entire medical staff and offers a great service to the hospital.

 

Andrew Sirotnak, MD, who has served on the Kempe Center Child Protection Team for over 25 years, has been selected as a faculty member in the Young Physicians Leadership Alliance Program (YPLA) of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Through this prestigious program, Dr. Sirotnak will, over a period of approximately 3 years, serve with other selected senior faculty members, working with one or more early career physician faculty members to create and present teaching sessions as part of the YPLA curriculum. Beyond the teaching role, these faculty members will also serve as coaches for an assigned group of program participants.

The Kempe Foundation joins the Center in congratulating Drs. Denise and Andy on these truly amazing accomplishments.

 

Kempe Continues to Adapt Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

During the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 crisis, Kempe is committed to supporting the frontline workers who continue to care for Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens – our children and youth. The Kempe Center recently launched its Kempe COVID-19 Virtual Village to allow these frontline workers to connect with experts, share best practices and generate solutions for protecting children and helping families during these challenging times.

The Kempe COVID-19 Virtual Village is an online, integrated learning environment and open space for all child welfare health professionals, legal experts, law enforcement and others who are working to prevent and treat child maltreatment.

The Virtual Village hosted its first two online learning sessions on April 8 & 9, featuring Dr. Steve Berkowitz, a child psychiatrist and expert in stress, trauma and resilience from the University of Colorado Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Berkowitz’s session centered on understanding what it means to be a professional working in service of children and families during this pandemic.

Following his presentation, attendees participated in a conversation highlighting the challenges they’re currently facing due to today’s unprecedented challenges. Both sessions were well-received, with both reaching maximum registration capacity.

The Virtual Village will continue to evolve as we gather additional feedback from professionals in the field. The goal is to provide the following:

  • A series of online conversations
  • A virtual library of resources
  • An ability to connect with local and national professionals from child welfare, healthcare providers/workers, kinship/foster parents, mental health professionals, legal experts, law enforcement and others working to prevent and treat child maltreatment
  • Vetted tools, data and information

The Kempe Center’s Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) program, a positive youth development program that uses mentoring and skills training to empower youth to foster their own healthy futures, has also transitioned online to continue to support these vulnerable youth.

The FHF program is structured into two key components — skills group curriculum and one-on-one mentoring, both of which have had 100% participation since launching just two weeks ago. Both the skills group and mentor/mentees are using phone and video conferencing to conduct all sessions.

Jessica Corvinus, director of dissemination for the FHF program, says the change from in-person to online communication was a quick adaptation — one that has been embraced fully by those who run the program and its participants.

“Many of the children we serve are vulnerable for a host of different reasons, so I think there’s a lot of uncertainly with everything else going on, and it’s nice that we’re able to remain consistent. Our mentors always show up and this further demonstrates that we’re all still here and that we are able to provide that stability in this uncertain environment,” said Corvinus.

For more information on how Kempe is adapting during this time, stay tuned for our next Kempe In Action email on April 29, 2020.

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 FY19

 

FY19 was a watershed year for the Kempe Foundation and Kempe Center. With the appointment of Dr. Kathi Wells as Executive Director of the Kempe Center on February 1, we are excited about the future of Kempe and the difference we can make in the lives of children and families.

By way of example, during the 2019 Colorado legislative session, the Kempe Foundation and Kempe Center partnered with counties, state agencies and other stakeholders to pass House Bill 1133. The bill, now law, created the CARENetwork to build local capacity to provide quality assessments for suspected child abuse and neglect and to identify family stresses and challenges that may lead to child maltreatment.

The CARENetwork also will serve as a bridge for families who need continuing care by ensuring coordinated hand-offs and referrals to available providers and coordination with multi-disciplinary teams. Engaging health care and behavioral health providers and providing them the best education and training about the signs that children may be at risk of maltreatment, and about resources available to families to mitigate those risks, will greatly expand the safety net for children.

We believe with today’s awareness about the broader issues of child maltreatment and trauma, and the resources available to help families address these issues before abuse or neglect may occur, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of ALL children.

Your support of the Kempe Foundation has allowed us to have a powerful impact on children in Colorado and beyond. Together we will accomplish even more.

We invite you to learn more about our impact in our FY19 Annual Report.

Sincerely,

John D. Faught, JD
President & CEO
The Kempe Foundation