Child Abuse and Neglect Expert Staffing (CANES) is Back!

Child Abuse and Neglect Expert Staffing (CANES) is Back!

We are back! Illuminate Colorado is excited to announce that consultation services for caseworkers, known as Child Abuse and Neglect Expert Staffing (CANES), has once again been funded by the Colorado Department of Human Services.

The CANES program utilizes a multidisciplinary team of experts to engage in critical thinking surrounding the dynamics and concerns at play in complex and challenging child abuse and/or neglect cases. CANES may be utilized at no cost to county child protection departments to determine next steps in a complex, challenging, and/or difficult referral, assessment, or case. The CANES program will facilitate the consultations online via Zoom using the Consultation and Information Sharing Framework to organize and analyze available information. By utilizing a diverse team of experts, CANES can ensure that questions are being asked that inspire solution-focused critical thinking and enhance creativity in managing child welfare cases.


The CANES program utilizes a multidisciplinary team of experts to engage in critical thinking surrounding the dynamics and concerns at play in complex and challenging child abuse and/or neglect cases.

In each consultation, the child welfare team and invited guests can expect Illuminate to create a space that is timely and responsive to the needs of the requesting agency, featuring a diverse pool of expertise specific to each case. This setting is appropriate for professionals and family participation, and is HIPPA compliant.

Requesting a Consultation

Requesting a consultation is easy, and requires a few moments to complete a short online application, and the approval of a Supervisor. Once the request is approved, Illuminate staff will contact the requesting party and discuss further needs and scheduling parameters. Most consultations can be scheduled in 2-3 weeks, depending on expert availability and the needs of the county. 

Purpose, timelines, and outcomes of consultation will be determined based on the desire of the requesting agency and the specific needs of each case. Consultations are designed to facilitate solution-focused critical thinking to encourage creative and strength-based discussions, considerations and recommendations. The CANES Consultation Team provides consultation services only. Neither Illuminate Colorado, its agents, or employees nor any member of the CANES Consultation Team, is responsible for any recommendations or actions taken/not taken as a result of the consultation or final report.

Complete the Online Application Here

It only takes a few minutes!

For more information, visit, or email Anne Auld at 

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Flourishing in Times of Change: A Recap of the 2022 Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference

Flourishing in Times of Change: A Recap of the 2022 Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference

As fall steadily moves its way into Colorado, we once again reflect on the opportunity last month to come together in person to celebrate, learn and grow at the 2022 Colorado Strengthening Families and Communities Conference (SCFCC). A huge thank you to the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) for prioritizing professional and community development by presenting the conference. With their leadership and dedication to Colorado families, this conference exists in collaboration across the family support continuum, from prevention and public health through restoration and child welfare. 

The Road to Pueblo

As was originally planned for 2020, this year we met in Pueblo to broaden attendees’ experiences in a new region of Colorado. With the support of both CDEC and CDHS for 2022, the conference committee began convening in 2021 to strategize and plan for the first in-person SCFCC since 2018.  Representatives from multiple disciplines, including both state departments, worked monthly to bring attendees together in person in a joint collaboration to provide a learning and networking experience to benefit both professionals and those serving in Family Voice roles.

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in how many have approached and engaged in their work and society in general, and it left many professionals, parents and caregivers tired for so many different reasons. The hope that this conference would bring new ideas and new energy sparked the theme of  Flourishing in Times of Change, which was an active and deliberate strategy to meet the needs of professionals and communities to help make our state the best place possible for our children and families.

Focus Areas

Getting to Equitable and Anti-Racist Practice,

Elevating Family and Youth Voice, Supporting Workforce Care,

Collecting and Leveraging Data,

Highlighting the Importance of Male Involvement,

Working Together to Maximize Resources,

Innovation Space,

and Policy.

Illuminate Colorado Executive Director, Jade Woodard, introduces the first keynote speaker of the conference.

At the start of each day, attendees were greeted with a small surprise– notebooks, succulents, and crafts!

Dr. Wendy Ellis, the first keynote speaker of the conference, speaks on the importance of establishing the presence of and access to supports that communities need to thrive as the major factor in building resilience. 

Workshops, Keynote Speakers, and A Little Bit of Glitter

Nearly 600 people attended the conference, which included a diverse and multi-disciplinary group of professionals and Family Voice representatives from all over the state. The committee and Illuminate were dedicated to providing a space where each conference participant would grow in their knowledge of effective child abuse prevention strategies, family support and protective factors that strengthen families through active participation in workshop sessions, networking, dedicated time for well-being, and robust discussions. With attendee evaluations reporting nearly a 96% satisfaction rate, the conference was an overall success in bringing outstanding keynotes speakers, diverse breakout sessions, and time to network and unwind in the Pavilion to professionals and Family Voice representatives.

We want to hear from you!

If you attended the 2022 conference, there’s still time to fill out the Conference Feedback Form and Session Feedback Form.

Speaking of the Pavilion – this year we really focused on the well-being of attendees considering the hardships of the last few years. In the Pavilion, a quiet, serene, and welcoming environment was created to give a dedicated space to creativity, peace, and relaxation. There were crafts and activities available daily, and a feeling of child-like wonder and excitement exuded from the room. I know I have glanced at my conference succulent or glitter jar on more than one occasion and remembered to take a moment to breathe.

Mayra Avina, Senior Manager of Family Support Services at Focus Points Family Resource Center, presents on community care in the workplace with their colleague, David.

Attendees had the opportunity to create their very own glitter jar, as a reminder to let the mind settle during times of stress.

Looking Forward

Thank you again to all who attended, supported, volunteered or in any way participated in this year’s conference. Without your individual and collective contributions, this year would not have been such a success. If you are interested in joining the planning committee for 2024, please contact Justine Von Arb at For more information on the 2022 conference, and the upcoming conference in 2024, visit The conference app will be available through August 5th, 2023.

As a final farewell to the 2022 conference, perhaps you can put your succulent and glitter jar in eye sight of your desk or work area. Remember, taking care of this plant is a reminder to take care of yourself. The little plant doesn’t need too much care, maybe watering once a month. As it grows, and possibly blossoms one day, know that you are just as important to feed and grow. You are valuable. You are deserving. You are special. Love on your plant, and use it as a reminder to love on yourself as well. And when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, shake your jar and give yourself a moment to let your glitter settle. Breathe.

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Do You Work with Children and Families? There is a Network Waiting for You.

Do You Work with Children and Families? There is a Network Waiting for You.

Since 2007, Colorado has maintained a commitment to best practices related to the protective factors in communities and families. The Colorado Strengthening Families Network hosts a quarterly online learning community for professionals across sectors in an effort to embed the Protective Factors in the work of child and family serving agencies of all types. 

Colorado Strengthening Families Network

The network is halfway through the year, and we have already had two exciting and impactful meetings, with two to go, as well as the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference in September. The conference will be the first time in over two years the Network will have the chance to collaborate and socialize together, face to face!

So far this year, the Network has had presentations, and opportunities to collaborate with other family-serving professionals, on grounding in the Protective Factors.


Flourishing in Times of Change
September 19-21, 2022
Pueblo, CO

In the 2021 Strengthening Families Network Survey we learned there are many new members of the Network with an interest in better understanding the foundational history of the Protective Factors and how they are being utilized in Colorado. So, we began the year by Gail Mendes and Kathy Kennedy sharing their vast experiences using and embedding the Protective Factors into their work. The large group had time to network and share in small groups how the Protective Factors are present in their local communities.

If you are looking for a refresher on the history of the Network and/or an introduction to the Protective Factors, the recording includes a presentation on both. The recording of February’s network meeting can be found here.

In May, we had a visit from our friends at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) on new and innovative ways to embed the Protective Factors into practice. Here is the link to view the recording of the presentation which included a discussion of Youth Thrive, an initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy. It is the companion framework to Strengthening Families that focuses on older children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 9-26).

Youth Thrive believes that all young people should be valued, loved, and supported to reach their goals. To achieve this, Youth Thrive works with youth-serving systems, community-based organizations, advocates, and other partners across the country. Our shared goal is to improve policies, programs, and practices so that they build on what we know about adolescent development, value young people’s perspectives, and give youth opportunities to succeed. Kaysie Getty and Francie Zimmerman, two staff members from Youth Thrive, shared a brief overview of the Youth Thrive protective factors and a variety of strategies, tools, and resources for partnering with young people to support their healthy development and promote well-being.

The August network meeting is canceled in lieu of the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference in September. In November, we will reconvene online and discuss takeaways from the conference, and share how we are individually and collectively taking care of ourselves, our coworkers and the families we serve. Self-care is more than a slogan. It is actively taking time to regroup, destress and ensure we are able to show up as the best versions of ourselves in both personal and professional settings. Don’t worry if you didn’t have a chance to attend the conference! There will be tips and techniques you can start incorporating right away. 

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We are always happy to welcome new faces, new professions and professionals. And, regardless of what work you do in or out of the home, if this sounds interesting to you, we would love to see you! For more information on attending the remaining meetings, visit our website. For more information on the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference, visit the conference website

About the Author

About the Author

Anne Auld is the director of education for Illuminate Colorado. Auld has worked with children and families for more than 20 years, training parents, professionals and community members on subjects including strengthening families, safe storage, child sexual abuse prevention and much more.

Back to BCEs – Strengthening Families through Benevolent Childhood Experiences

Back to BCEs – Strengthening Families through Benevolent Childhood Experiences

Having studied Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) for many years, Dr. Angela Narayan, an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver, felt like the field of child abuse prevention research was missing half the story by not also considering the impact of positive childhood experiences.  

Today, Dr. Narayan and the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University of Denver are leading a research effort focused on Protective Factors. The PROTECT Lab and their efficient yet effective methodologies for research and clinical purposes are working to assess the richness of behaviors, relationships and representations in parents and children – with a particular interest in instruments that can assess resilience processes in ethnically-diverse families.

One line of their work focuses on developing and validating the Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) scale, a 10-item checklist of favorable childhood experiences, relationships and resources that was first created and published by Dr. Narayan and colleagues in an article titled “Positive Childhood Experiences Predict Less Psychopathology and Stress in Pregnant Women with Childhood Adversity: A Pilot Study of the Benevolent Childhood Experiences Scale” (Narayan et al., 2017, Child Abuse and Neglect).

Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) are a counterpoint to ACEs, particularly useful to those in community mental health, pediatric and primary care screening and home visiting programs. After accounting for demographics and ACEs, this research has shown higher levels of BCEs significantly predict lower levels of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. This research also found that when someone experienced ACEs and not BCEs, there was evidence of aggressive behavior, alcohol abuse and substance use.

This BCEs research has highlighted “the pregnancy period as an opportune window to help buffer the transmission of trauma in families who are at risk for various types of adversity,” said Narayan during her keynote at the 2020 Strengthening Colorado Communities and Families Conference. The BCEs Screening Tool to build resilience in children and families’ lives features ten simple questions found to be culturally sensitive and applicable across a variety of demographic and socio-economic audiences.

If people working with children and families begin to incorporate the FREE BCEs screening tool, there is great potential to prevent child maltreatment and future chronic health problems, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood, found to be present in the lives of adults who experienced a high number of adverse childhood experiences.

Dr. Angela Narayan

Dr. Angela Narayan

Assistant Professor, University of Denver

Dr. Angela Narayan is an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver.

Narayan directs the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University of Denver examining the intergenerational transmission of risk and resilience from parents to children, with a particular focus on the perinatal period as a window of opportunity to buffer the transmission of trauma and promote resilience in both mothers and fathers, and their children. 

Strengthening Families Network

Illuminate Colorado coordinates the Colorado Strengthening Families Network, hosting a quarterly online learning community for professionals across sectors to stay on top of new research and best practices related to the protective factors.

Join the network to get invites to meetings and connect with others to share your work and learn from communities all across Colorado.

Strengthening Families Network Meeting

Monday, November 1, 2021



Strengthening Families Network Gets Back to BCEs

Dr. Narayan will join the November 1, 2021 Strengthening Families Network meeting to deliver a refresher on the BCEs tools, share new findings and provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss with peers how this research can be incorporated into the work they are doing with families to increase Protective Factors. During the November meeting, Dr. Narayan is also planning to discuss a conceptual framework for understanding intergenerational prevention strategies for deterring ACEs in families. Those who attend the meeting will have an opportunity to visit with Dr. Narayan in a smaller online setting, which will allow for questions and scenario work to improve application of how incorporating BCEs can strengthen families.

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Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

Few things are more exhausting than a new baby. Increased infant crying, perhaps a few older children to care for, and trying to get back to work after a few short weeks all result in very, very tired caregivers.


October is Safe Sleep Awareness month. There has been a great deal of information shared this month around what a safe sleep crib looks like. And although it can sound a bit boring, ensuring cribs are free of objects which could lead to suffocation is worth the mental shift from “cute” to “safe”. Talking with all the family and friends who come in contact with baby about safe sleep practices is important to ensure even good-willed intentions do not lead to tragedy.

Adding Substance Use to the Mix

Imagine the last time you were beyond tired. Maybe you found yourself dozing off driving to or from work. Maybe you fell asleep watching a movie you actually wanted to see. Or maybe that last zoom call was just too long to handle. Sometimes our bodies take over even when we have every intention to stay awake.

Now take a moment and imagine adding substances that can lead to additional depression of the body’s ability to function, like alcohol, marijuana, some over the counter and prescription medications, and illicit substances. When contemplating the use of substances with a newborn in the home (separate from breastfeeding risks and substance use) it is important to be extra vigilant in ensuring your baby has a safe place to sleep.


Caregiving of an infant is exhausting. Falling asleep when feeding a baby on a couch or in bed is not uncommon for a tired caregiver. The impacts and side effects of many common substances increases the risk of positional overlay, which is when a caregiver accidentally rolls over on a baby in bed or on a couch or large chair, suffocating the infant. If you are thinking right now you would totally wake up if you rolled over on a baby, remember the times noted above. You didn’t mean to fall asleep, but you did. And if a caregiver is exhausted, and impacted by substance use, whether they were feeding the baby, or in bed with a baby and an additional caregiver, the risk of positional overlay or entrapment increases. And sleeping on a couch with a baby increases the risk even more, especially when substances are involved.

Increasing Safety in Sleeping Environments

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are several ways to increase safety in sleeping environments, including:

  • Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night. 
  • Use a firm sleep surface. 
  • Room share—keep baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year. 
  • Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort.
  • Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
  • Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies. However, certain situations make bed-sharing even more dangerous. Therefore, you should not bed share with your baby if:
    • Your baby is younger than 4 months old.
    • Your baby was born prematurely or with low birth weight.
    • You or any other person in the bed is a smoker (even if you do not smoke in bed).
    • The mother of the baby smoked during pregnancy.
    • You have taken any medicines or drugs that might make it harder for you to wake up.
    • You drank any alcohol.
    • You are not the baby’s parent.
    • The surface is soft, such as a waterbed, old mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair.
    • There is soft bedding like pillows or blankets on the bed.
  • Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area. 
  • It is fine to swaddle your baby. 
  • Try giving a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. 

For more detailed descriptions of the above information, visit A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep.

You Are Not Alone

Being a caregiver for a newborn is exhausting. If you are a parent or caregiver reading this, know you are not alone and that feeling exhausted is normal. It will pass. You will find a new pattern and chances to catch up on sleep over the next few years. Following safe sleep practices now, including limiting substance use, and creating and using safe sleep environments, can reduce the risk of SUIDS and the risks of positional overlay. Reach out to parent groups, family or your community for support. Raising children is beyond hard!

For more information on resources to help provide safe sleep environments, call 1-800-CHILDREN, 2-1-1, or your local health department. For more information on finding support from other parents, visit

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