Topic: Child Abuse and Neglect

Updates from Under the Gold Dome: End of 2021 Session

The 2021 legislative session wrapped up work on June 8, about a month later than the typical Sine Die adjournment date. This delay was due to the legislative recess taken from mid-January to February to ensure lawmakers and their staff could be vaccinated. There were 678 bills and resolutions introduced, 502 bills passed, and as of June 24, 326 bills have been signed by the Governor, who has exercised one veto. As The Kempe Foundation looks back on the session’s accomplishments, we’d like to thank our legislators for their tireless efforts in representing the people of Colorado and the many stakeholders and agencies that play an important role in the legislative process.

BUDGET

A combination of factors led to the state having significant revenue above expectations. State revenue came in well above the economic forecast and federal legislation brought in $3.8 billion in relief funds to the state government. This session, the legislature was able to restore the budget cuts made in 2020, provide additional funding to core areas of the budget, prepay future state obligations, and increase the end of year reserves to a historic level. Kempe programs including the CARE Network, Child Welfare Training System and SafeCare received full funding for FY 2021 – 2022.

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST 

The mental and behavioral health of our children and youth is a high priority in Colorado. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought Colorado to an inflection point in the care and well-being of our children and youth. They’ve suffered disproportionately from lockdowns, closed schools and general isolation. The trauma children and youth are experiencing is certain to have major, short- and long-term damaging impacts for them individually and for our communities, state and country.

We are already seeing negative impacts on our children and youth. The last week in May, Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) declared a state of emergency for pediatric mental health as suicide attempts rise. The hospital is seeing three to four kids a week who have tried to kill themselves. The top overall reason children arrive in the emergency department is a suicide attempt. CHCO also reported that mental health emergency visits were up 90% in April 2021 compared to April 2019.

The crisis for our children and youth is not just a recent development because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado Public Radio News in September 2019 reported on a study by the United Health Foundation that Colorado’s teen suicide rate increased 58% from 2016 to 2019. That increase was more than twice that of any other state.

The protection and well-being of Colorado’s children and youth were high priorities in the 2021 legislative session. The following bills were passed and signed by the Governor or awaiting his signature.

Behavioral Health

  • HB 1258: Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth
  • SB 154: Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network
  • HB 1097: Behavioral Health Administration
  • SB 137: Behavioral Health Recovery Act
  • HB 1317: Cannabis Concentrate Regulation

Early Childhood

  • HB 1304: Early Childhood Department and Systems

Child Welfare

  • HB 1248: Colorado Children’s Trust Fund Act
  • HB 1272: Supporting the Child Protection Ombudsman
  • HB 1099: Policies and Procedures to Identify Domestic Abuse

LOOKING AHEAD

Several legislative committees will meet prior to the 2022 session including an interim committee on school finance, a task force to recommend policies to spend federal stimulus dollars that provide economic relief and stimulate the economy, the Legislative Oversight Committee on Tax Policy, and two working groups on higher education issues.

The Kempe Foundation will be actively engaged over the summer and fall in agency and stakeholder work groups and interim committees addressing the forming of the Behavioral Health Administration, domestic violence taskforce, Colorado Children’s Trust Fund, Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth, forming of an Early Childhood Agency, and research and education related to THC potency in marijuana concentrates. We also have been approached by certain legislators to work with them on exploring legislation for next session regarding concerns they have about the protection and well-being of children and supports for families.

We will continue to provide important policy updates as we approach the 2022 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.

 

The CARE Network Expands its Impact Across Colorado

Since 2020, the Kempe Center’s Child Abuse Response and Evaluation (CARE) Network has undergone substantial growth. The CARE Network engages health care and behavioral health providers – pediatricians, family doctors, school nurses and more – with the best education and training on conducting medical exams and behavioral health assessments to identify signs and risks of child maltreatment or trauma. Established in 2019 to address a lack of access to expert evaluations in cities and towns across the state, the CARE Network continues to increase capacity and ensure quality care for Colorado’s children and families.

The inaugural group of providers, comprised of 30 medical professionals, received their first CARE Network training in May 2020. One of these providers is Dr. Mary Vader, DO, a pediatrician in Montrose, Colorado. Dr. Vader had a very strong relationship with the Kempe Center for many years before she was invited to join the CARE Network.

“I’m always interested in learning more about health and getting advice to bring back to my own practice,” said Dr. Vader. “I was excited to get involved.”

CARE Network providers meet annually to connect with the Kempe Center and participate in a training that incorporates the newest research on evaluating child abuse and neglect. The Kempe Center also regularly surveys CARE Network providers to understand their needs and adapt the training to provide the most relevant resources. In a survey distributed to the first cohort, many providers expressed an interest in increasing their behavioral health training.

“Behavioral health is definitely one of my weaker areas,” Dr. Vader said. “When I was studying years ago, pediatricians didn’t talk much about the social determinants of health.”

Though Dr. Vader has a behavioral health specialist at her practice, she was eager to broaden her knowledge. On April 29, 2021, the second annual CARE Network provider training focused on addressing this gap.

The second group of CARE Network providers received their first training May 2-3, 2021. Like the first cohort, this group of providers are located in cities and towns across the state. Unlike their predecessors, this group includes 17 behavioral health providers in additional to 20 medical providers. This cohort will join the Network with Dr. Vader and her colleagues this coming July for a follow up training.

Dr. Vader is thrilled to witness the expansion of the CARE Network’s expertise and resources. She is hopeful for the impact it will have in the state.

“One of the components of the CARE Network that I think new providers will find most useful is the mentorship that it provides. You feel like you are part of a community that’s doing the same thing you’re doing. It’s empowering,” said Dr. Vader.

As the CARE Network continues to grow, they are actively seeking to partner with community organizations and agencies across the state. These partnerships will allow the Kempe Center to create a broad field of health care and behavioral health professionals which will become an integral part of the safety net for children in Colorado.

“When we don’t have the resources, we go to the Kempe Center,” said Dr. Vader. “We can send over a report and get pretty instant expert feedback. We’re so far away from these accessing these resources in person, but the CARE Network makes it so much easier.”

By supporting The Kempe Foundation, you allow Kempe Professionals to continue forming partnerships and expanding their reach to benefit more children and families in Colorado. Click here to get involved today.

Letter from CEO Jon Kruljac on Child Abuse Prevention Month

April represents renewal in many aspects of our lives, but for school age children it means the end of the school year is just around the corner. While we all long for a return to normalcy as vaccinations for COVID-19 increase and larger social gatherings become permissible, the stressors that many children have experienced during the pandemic are still prevalent in their lives. For many children, social isolation will increase as they lose access to many services and primary supports they receive during the school year.

As a society it is our obligation to protect children from harm and to do so we must first better understand responses to trauma and building resiliency in children to assist them in making progress both socially and academically. Kempe’s Trauma-Responsive Schools program provides interventions and services to school specialists, teachers, and staff to mitigate the impact of trauma and promote healing. One of our goals is to enhance opportunities for all Colorado children to be resilient and equipped to reach their full potential in and outside of school. We know that many children who have experienced trauma do build resiliency when presented with positive experiences. We can all be part of that positivity by fostering inclusion for all and promoting thriving, safe, healthy and nurturing environments through our relationships with children and in the community.

As we approach the mid-point of Child Abuse Prevention Month, it is important to remember the work to improve the well-being of children is pertinent every month of the year. While the heightened awareness during April leads to more discussion and action, we must continue to build on this momentum in the months ahead.

Please support the Kempe Foundation today and help us reach as many children and families as possible.  Thank you!

An Update on Kempe’s Trauma-Responsive Implementation & Practice Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought persistent anxiety to Colorado’s children and families. In uncertain times like these, trauma-informed care is crucial. The Kempe Center has made great strides in training and implementing this necessary care through the Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice (TRIP) Program, led by Dr. Evelin Gomez. This program fosters healthy, safe and responsive environments in children, youth and family serving systems across the state. Over the past few months, TRIP has made some notable progress. The Kempe Foundation is pleased to highlight some of this progress below:

Colorado Cross-Systems Training Institute
In collaboration with the Office of Behavioral Health, The Kempe Center is implementing trauma-responsive trainings for the Colorado Cross-Systems Training Institute (CSTI). Using the TRIP model, Kempe professionals developed trauma-responsive content and coaching for CSTI’s wide-reaching audience. These instructor-led (currently virtual) and self-paced web-based trainings are targeted to all professionals who work alongside children. This spring, they will provide training and coaching for school professionals on the Trauma-Responsive Schools Theory of Change Toolkit they co-authored.

NCTSN Breakthrough Collaborative
On a national level, Kempe professionals participated in an 18-month collaborative led by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). This collaborative was a call to educators around the country to keep children in the classroom. Research revealed that referrals, the term used for sending children to the principal’s office, are not a trauma-informed practice. Kemper Elementary School, located in the Montezuma Cortez School District, was enthusiastic about joining this collaborative with the Kempe Center. Kempe provided coaching, consultation and training to the school’s staff on how to implement trauma-informed care into their discipline. When these trauma-informed, individualized strategies were put into place, the school’s referrals decreased by 80%.

Aurora Public Schools
Many schools have behavioral intervention plans (BIP) and functional behavioral analysis (FBA) approaches that aren’t fully trauma-responsive and culturally informed. To improve their practices, Aurora Public Schools invited Kempe professionals to direct a workgroup to overhaul their BIP and FBA systems. The intent is to implement strategies and procedures to focus on regulation and be more individualized, culturally responsive, and cognizant of students’ trauma backgrounds and triggers.

Rite of Passage
Rite of Passage is a nationwide network of residential treatment centers which provides programs that empower youth and families to succeed. The specific center, based out of Arizona center, serves as a home and school for children who have lived through adverse experiences. After doing an assessment of the organization’s needs, Kempe’s professionals recommended training everyone, from educators to case workers to cafeteria staff, on trauma-informed care. In order to make sure this education was thorough and sustained, Kempe trained managers, directors, and supervisors to provide ongoing trainings to staff and new hires.

Challenges for Future
Looking to the future, there are a few key challenges that Kempe professionals acknowledge. Implementing trauma-informed care requires organizational policy change. Without support from legislators, organizations don’t have the funds to support this work on their own. Further, there is much work to be done on identifying metrics and best practices for evaluation of trauma informed approaches, implementation and dissemination. To ensure that Kempe is able to address these challenges and continue this work, please consider donating to The Kempe Foundation. Your donation will go towards pushing child-focused policies forward, implementing trauma-informed care, and creating a better future for Colorado’s children and families.

Job Posting: The Kempe Foundation Seeks Chief Mission Officer

Are you “Our Person”? The Kempe Foundation is seeking a growth-focused leader, who is passionate about mission-driven work, to propel the Kempe Foundation in creating a seismic shift in addressing the wellbeing of children in the prevention of childhood trauma and imparting the most effective treatments for victims of child abuse and neglect.

Watch the message below from our CEO Jon Kruljac. If you feel he might be speaking to you, please reach out to us!

This role requires innovative thinking, collaboration, and determination to succeed. If you have the ability to turn vision into action, you may be our next Chief Mission Officer and play a pivotal role in achieving our vision for the future.

Our Chief Mission Officer will partner with the CEO to design and implement growth initiatives, including comprehensive digital and social media campaigns and products aimed at raising the organization’s profile, attracting new supporters, and increasing individual and corporate fundraising to further the mission. While you will be supported by our small but skilled team, you will be encouraged to take the lead implementing new ideas for fundraising, relationship building and increasing our brand awareness.

As a key leadership team member, you will be integrally involved in all activities to build and maintain revenue that contributes to the financial sustainability of the Foundation. This includes communications, donor database management, donor events, corporate partnerships, community partnerships, and annual giving campaigns.
To support you in your work, you will have access to our public relations firm who supports content creation, media relations, social media, graphic design, and creation of collateral.

Read the full job description and instructions for applying here.