With aligned values and goals, four founding partners, including the Center for Violence Prevention Research, the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, Illuminate Colorado, and Protect Our Children (Oregon) are excited to announce the launch of Connect to Protect Kids.  

Utilizing a collaborative approach with shared governance and decision-making, Connect to Protect Kids will develop and disseminate a best-in-class prevention education toolkit to protect children from sexual abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and other types of online, peer, and interpersonal violence. Illuminate Colorado is proud to be a founding partner in this process to develop the next generation of prevention.

Why now?

Schools, organizations, child advocacy centers, and larger networks and initiatives have been asking the founding partners for more. More content for adults and youth with consistent messaging, more flexibility and adaptability in programs to meet their specific needs, more learning opportunities with both traditional, live trainings and technology-based learning modules and resources, and more collaboration. The idea for Connect to Protect Kids was born from those conversations and needs. 

By responding to the needs of our communities and networks, and including stakeholders across the nation, we are collaborating to create the next generation of prevention together.

Central to the development of the program is ensuring content is developed at the intersection of research, traditional education, and technology. The Center for Violence Prevention Research has been studying the effectiveness and quality of prevention education for years. “There is a good deal of literature that shows prevention education works. But the challenge has been and continues to be providing this type of programming to students without negatively impacting classroom time given all the other demands placed on educators. Covid caused a shift to online prevention education and the research also shows it can work,” says the Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Melissa Bright. “The blending of some live, in-class education with longer-term follow up education online minimizes the challenge of finding enough classroom time for programs to be effective and actually extends the learning over a longer period, which we know is more effective than just delivering one or two prevention lessons,” says Bright. Dr. Bright, along with Dr. Jeff Todahl at the Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect at the University of Oregon will lead the research efforts that will inform the program development and ensure it’s efficacy. Dr. David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire has also agreed to an advisory board position to support their research efforts.

Working with communities to develop effective programming

Acknowledging the varied prevention needs of communities across the country is also critical. No community is the same and prevention education is provided and managed differently in each community. Having already established statewide networks to provide input, inform development, and test lessons is an enormous asset to this effort. Collectively, Connect to Protect Kids’ founding partners have been doing prevention work in their own states for several decades and have amassed amazing and effective networks who are now excited about the launch of this project.

“Our goal is to collaboratively develop this new program, but also collaboratively govern it’s dissemination, research, updates, etc. to ensure it is a highly effective and sustainable program,” says Tiffany Sawyer, Director of Prevention Services at the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, one of the founding partner organizations. “We have heard nothing but positive feedback on this new venture from our statewide network of facilitators and partners and have several organizations wanting to engage further in the process of program development and funding development, as well.” Anne Auld, Deputy Director at Illuminate Colorado, another founding partner organization, echoes Sawyer’s sentiment:

“We have informed our network of the plans and have received positive feedback and true excitement for this opportunity. We are thrilled to be a part of this collaboration as it aligns and supports our mission at Illuminate to strengthen families and communities.”


Anne Auld

Illuminate Colorado Deputy Director

The Connect to Protect Kids program will be a flexible and adaptable suite of prevention programs and resources giving organizations, schools, and communities a variety of ways to structure their prevention education initiatives and educate adults AND children/youth. Supported by experts with a combined total of more than 140 years in child abuse prevention, organizations will not only have the right tools, but the support needed to achieve greater impact protecting children in their local communities.

All programming and materials will be created from a collaborative process of engaging networks, partners, and the critical voices of youth and those with lived experiences.

Looking forward

Given the vast amount of content planned, Connect to Protect Kids program materials will be developed in stages over several years. However, within the next year, trainings for both adults and youth will be available for initial pilot testing. Stacy Vaughan, a long-time prevention expert who will be the Executive Director of Connect to Protect Kids, says, “We don’t want to create something and say to professionals, here is our program, go do it and let us know if it works. We are asking those professionals, what do you need? How does it need to work for you? What will be most effective in your community? And their responses, along with the most current research and updated prevention best practices, will inform what we create.”

Vaughan explains, “So essentially, professionals and communities will have a voice in the development of the program they will end up using for years to come. It’s a novel approach and people are so excited for the opportunity to be involved.”

Together, we can create real change in how we safeguard children. Illuminate Colorado is excited to be on this journey with such a collaborative group of partners who are aligned in our values and goals. We truly believe this will be an innovative strategy to help all of us better protect kids and will be the next generation of prevention.

Interested in supporting the development of Connect to Protect Kids, or in providing input or piloting materials as they are developed?

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