by Lex Loutzenhiser | May 25, 2023 | Advocacy
This legislative session, Illuminate Colorado advocated for 25 bills that would promote protective factors to prevent child maltreatment and strengthen families. These bills ranged across many areas of focus, including access to healthcare, economic supports, housing stability, child welfare system involvement, and more, all aligning with our 2023 policy priorities. Of the bills Illuminate supported, 21 passed. Illuminate also advocated for two budget priorities, both of which succeeded.
We at Illuminate Colorado are grateful to our partners for their collaboration, leadership, and dedication to advocating for legislation that strengthens families and prevents child maltreatment.
Highlights from the 2023 session included:
- In support of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) budget request, Illuminate Colorado sought continuous funding for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training. Included in the Long Bill (SB23-214), the legislature restored an annual $150,000 in funding to the Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund for the purpose of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training. This funding dedicates resources to evidence-informed trainings that prepare adults with tools to prevent, identify, and respond to child sexual abuse. Interested in getting trained and becoming one of over 8,000 adults in Colorado committed to preventing child sexual abuse? Visit Tip Colorado to learn more about this free 2-hour training.
Visit Tip Colorado to learn more about the free 2-hour training.
- Colorado banned use of corporal punishment in licensed child care settings, public schools, and group facilities. As one of Prevent Child Abuse America’s 2023 state policy priorities, eliminating the use of corporal punishment in schools, such as spanking and paddling, is an important step to shifting culture surrounding discipline and promoting positive responses and discipline strategies for children. HB23-1191 seeks to promote healthy child development and positive, evidence-based discipline approaches by eliminating use of corporal punishment in child care settings, public schools, and group facilities.
- Legislators in Colorado focused on building sustainable funding and increasing access to vital healthcare for youth, pregnant people, and new parents who receive Medicaid through SB23-002, SB23-174, SB23-288, and HB23-1300. These bills will increase access to community health services, doulas during pregnancy and postpartum periods, and youth behavioral health services without a diagnosis, and will establish continuous eligibility for children ages 0-3. These bills aim to utilize evidence-based measures to reduce gaps in care and increase equity in the healthcare system for underserved communities that experience increased health risks due to social determinants of health, including racism and poverty.
- Several bills sought to increase economic supports for families through Colorado’s tax code, including HB23-1006, HB23-1112, and HB23-1311. These bills will result in additional income for low-income families through increased awareness of vital tax credits, increased access to larger amounts in tax credits, and a ballot measure that, if passed, would result in a flat TABOR rebate for all Coloradans who file taxes.
- Legislators also addressed concerns within the child welfare system, and passed several bills that clarify and enhance processes to increase kin placement and reduce family separation. HB23-1024 and HB23-1043 are two bills that will increase relative and kin involvement when a child is removed from home. In response to concerns that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) may be overturned later this year by the U.S. Supreme Court in a judgment on Haaland v. Brackeen, legislators developed SB23-211, which further implements ICWA and its related federal regulations into Colorado statute, in partnership with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
- The legislature aimed to increase equitable outcomes in eviction proceedings through HB23-1120 and HB23-1186. In recognition that the majority of people who face eviction do so without legal representation, these bills will make court and eviction processes more accessible by requiring mediation before an eviction is filed for people who receive cash assistance, including SSDI and TANF, and requiring remote options for court participation in eviction proceedings.
In doing so, these bills aim to increase participation of tenants in these processes and create additional opportunities for families to remain housed.
- In addition to addressing child welfare through legislation, the Legislative Council approved a request to form the Child Welfare System Interim Study Committee. The committee is tasked with studying various topics, including prevention services, intervention services, system processes, social determinants of child welfare system involvement, and more. The committee will consist of 11 members of the legislature and may introduce 5 bills in the 2024 legislative session to address issues studied. We at Illuminate Colorado were grateful to be included in the list of agencies that may provide assistance and information to the Committee and are excited to lend our expertise to this process.
- Advocate for family strengthening and policies that build protective factors to prevent child maltreatment through policy implementation activities.
- Provide support and expertise to the newly formed Child Welfare System Interim Study Committee.
- Provide support and expertise to the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee.
- Continue to identify family strengthening policy needs and challenges through the coalitions Illuminate convenes. Join us!
- Advocate for federal legislation that promotes and invests in programs that strengthen families, including advocating for the reintroduction and advancement of the FASD Respect Act.
- Advocate for ballot measures that strengthen families, including Proposition EE resulting from HB23-1290, which would retain funding for Universal Pre-K.
- Advocate for legislation that did not pass this legislative session, including policy that promotes economic security and substance free spaces.
- Continue to collaborate with our partners in prevention and the Colorado General Assembly to advocate for future state legislation that promotes Illuminate Colorado’s policy priorities and mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment.
Visit the full 2023 Legislative Session Recap to learn more about all the bills impacting family well-being that passed this session and what is next for Illuminate’s policy work.
by Lex Loutzenhiser | May 3, 2023 | Advocacy
As Colorado is nearing the end of its legislative session, we at Illuminate Colorado are continuing to advocate for family strengthening at the capitol.
While several bills have already crossed the Governor’s desk, many are still making their way through the legislative process.
Two of Illuminate’s priority bills have already been signed by Governor Polis.
HB23-1006 will require employers to notify employees of the availability of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) to increase awareness of these crucial economic supports. In addition, Illuminate was invited to witness the Governor’s signing of HB23-1191, which prohibits corporal punishment in public schools, licensed child care settings, and group facilities.
Governor Jared Polis signs HB23-1191, accompanied by Representative Regina English.
Left to right: Illuminate Deputy Director Jillian Fabricius, Representative Regina English, and Illuminate Policy Manager Lex Loutzenhiser.
Many bills that Illuminate supports have passed the House and Senate and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.
HB23-1187 would expand access to alternative sentencing options for pregnant and postpartum people, increasing access to medical and behavioral healthcare and reducing family separation.
SB23-002 would enable Colorado Medicaid to reimburse community health workers services, which are integral to enhancing equity and access to healthcare.
SB23-211 would adopt the Indian Child Welfare Act and related federal regulations into Colorado state law, strengthening tribal engagement in the child welfare system when indigenous children are removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.
HB23-1091 would continue the Child Care Contribution Tax Credit, which incentivizes individual investment in early childhood care and education.
HB23-1300 would require Colorado to seek federal approval to offer continuous eligibility for Colorado children ages 0-3 without annual redeterminations if they are initially eligible for Medicaid, reducing administrative burdens and gaps in coverage for young children.
We’re still watching several bills that are scheduled or waiting to be scheduled in committees or on the floor this week.
HB23-1112 would increase the amount families can receive through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), enhancing families’ financial wellbeing.
HB23-1120 would require landlords to engage in mandatory mediation before filing an eviction against a tenant who receives cash assistance, including Colorado Works (TANF) program participants, increasing equitability and accessibility in eviction processes for low-income families.
SB23-288 would strengthen the process for Colorado to begin reimbursing doula services through Medicaid to expand access to these supportive and culturally responsive services for pregnant people and postpartum parents.
Use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills that we are tracking through May 9th, the final day of Colorado’s legislative session.
by Lex Loutzenhiser | Apr 26, 2023 | Advocacy, FASD
In the US, 1 in 20 school-aged children are estimated to have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).¹ FASDs are caused by prenatal alcohol exposure and can result in a wide range of mild to severe symptoms, including intellectual and learning disabilities, difficulty paying attention, vision or hearing impairment, language and speech delays, and more.²
Although FASDs impact thousands of Colorado families, many have limited access to information, diagnostic resources, and healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about these conditions. Policy change is needed at a state and federal level to ensure children and families have the resources and support needed to thrive.
Early Identification Strengthens Families
Knowledge of parenting and child development is one of five research-informed protective factors to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment.³ FASDs are often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed, inhibiting a child’s support system, including their parents, healthcare providers, and school, to help a child reach their full potential. When families and support systems have access to early intervention and information about how FASDs may impact a child’s development, they can better respond to a child’s needs and prevent child maltreatment. Policy change is needed to ensure all families impacted by FASDs have access to these vital services for children and families.
How Can Policy Change Support Families Impacted by FASDs?
With such limited awareness among communities, service providers, schools, and other systems that frequently interact with children with FASDs, there is tremendous opportunity for comprehensive legislation to address gaps in awareness and resources for families and children.⁴ Policy change is needed to:
- Expand funding for FASD prevention
- Enhance research efforts to increase understanding of FASD
- Expand funding to increase access to early intervention and treatment
- Train a widespread range of youth-serving professionals, including child welfare, medical, behavioral health, school, early childhood, and juvenile justice system professionals
In 2022, FASD United and its state chapters, including Illuminate Colorado, advocated for the FASD Respect Act, which would have expanded the federal response to FASD as a public health issue, including by establishing grant programs to meet the needs of people with FASDs. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass. FASD United is working to introduce the FASD Respect Act 2.0 during the 2023-24 federal legislative session. Illuminate Colorado and our network of Colorado FASD advocates will stay engaged to advocate for the success of this groundbreaking legislation.
Hear from Colorado FASD Awareness Advocates
Marilyn Fausset, M.Ed, Co-Chair FASD Awareness Work Group:
“What made it so hard for our family was that not a single medical or behavioral health professional was knowledgeable about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); none realized that prenatal alcohol exposure was at the root of the problems for my child. Finally, I educated myself and sought out a provider able and willing to diagnose for FASDs. We finally got a fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) diagnosis at age 23. This diagnosis led to the developmental disability (DD) services my adult child now receives. It is sad that we received so many incorrect diagnoses, which led to inappropriate interventions and delayed DD supports.”
Domenica Steele, MA, LPC-C, Co-Chair FASD Awareness Work Group
“I have nine children, five of whom have an FASD. My triplets were identified young and received early intervention services including speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and developmental intervention. I am convinced those services have changed the trajectory of their lives for the better! In addition to being an adoptive mother to children with an FASD, I am also a professional supporting families affected by FASD.
Caregiver distress rates are very high among caregivers supporting individuals with an FASD and part of the reason is struggling to obtain services for their family, managing difficult behaviors, and having limited resources available to them. Early intervention is critical not only for the affected child but for the whole family system. Accessibility to early intervention supports the whole family and helps families build a strong team of professionals for support and guidance.”
To learn more about the Colorado FASD Awareness Work Group, please contact Kelli Sutton, Strategic Initiatives Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get a diagnosis of a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) for yourself, your child or loved one here.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Data & Statistics on FASDs. Retrieved From: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/data.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Basics about FASDs. Retrieved From: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html
- Center for the Study of Social Policy. (n.d.) About Strengthening Families and the protective factors framework. Retrieved From: https://cssp.org/our-work/projects/protective-factors-framework/
- Seibert, J. H., Council, C. L., Besser, A. J., Hinde, J. M., & Karon, S. L. (2019). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Policy challenges and opportunities. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). Retrieved From: https://www.rti.org/publication/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorders
by Lex Loutzenhiser | Mar 29, 2023 | Advocacy
This March, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments expired, impacting families who benefited from this additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislators, community-based organizations, and local communities are considering how to ensure families have the tools needed to maintain food and nutrition security.
SNAP and Food Assistance Strengthens Families
In Colorado, 1 in 11 residents receive SNAP benefits and 64% of those receiving SNAP are families with children.¹ SNAP and other programs that provide cash benefits and groceries strengthen families by serving as concrete supports in times of need, a research-informed protective factor in preventing child maltreatment.² Continuous food insecurity can result in chronic stress for parents, caregivers, and their children. Children experiencing food insecurity encounter impacts on psychosocial development, behavior, and school outcomes. In addition, food insecurity impacts parental wellbeing by increasing rates of stress, anxiety, and depression.³
When families have access to concrete food and nutrition support, the whole family experiences better emotional and physical wellbeing. Many communities and changemakers are considering avenues to enhance food security for families who are impacted by the expiration of SNAP COVID-19 emergency allotments.
Expanding Access to Food and Nutrition Support through SB23-027
This legislative session, Illuminate appreciates Hunger Free Colorado’s leadership on SB23-027 and is excited to support this bill, which would devote $3,000,000 annually to the Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program. This crucial program provides grants to food pantries across the state to purchase food and distribute it to people experiencing food insecurity. Through a Farm to Food Pantry model, this program seeks to put money back into the Colorado economy, while providing families with fresh, locally grown food.⁴
SB23-027 would strengthen families, organizations, and communities by ensuring food pantries have the financial resources needed to provide families with concrete food and nutrition support, reducing chronic stress, enhancing family wellbeing, and preventing child maltreatment. This bill passed through the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services and is waiting to be heard in Appropriations. As this bill moves to the House, Illuminate Colorado will submit testimony to share why SB23-027 continues to build a foundation for strong families and communities.
Identifying Additional Strategies for Promoting Financial Wellbeing and Food Security
CPTF hosts a Family Financial Well-Being Work Group, which has been engaging in community conversations to learn from Colorado families about financial wellbeing, identify existing efforts that positively impact families, and identify future efforts to impact family financial wellbeing. Through this process of information gathering and planning, the Work Group will identify potential intersections of financial well-being and food security, and how additional state and local efforts can strengthen families.
For more information on participating in the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families Coalition and the Family Financial Well-being Work Group, contact Hattie Landry at email@example.com.
Get Food and Nutrition Resources
Has your family been affected by reduced SNAP allotments? Visit Hunger Free Colorado’s Food Finder page to get local resources!
Do you receive SNAP?
Login to your Colorado PEAK account to view your redetermination date and complete needed steps to avoid gaps in coverage.
by Lex Loutzenhiser | Feb 28, 2023 | Advocacy
This year, Colorado legislators are pursuing policy changes that will enhance financial well-being and help build a foundation for Colorado families to thrive.
By focusing on economic security for working families, Colorado has the opportunity to promote the five research-informed protective factors that increase family strengths and prevent child maltreatment.
How are lawmakers addressing economic security this legislative session?
Legislators have introduced three bills that would enhance economic security, promote awareness of supportive tax credits, and ensure families have the concrete support they need during times of need.
- HB23-1112 Earned Income And Child Tax Credits – In Colorado, working families who are low and middle income can participate in earned income tax credits (EITC) and child tax credits (CTC). If passed, this bill would increase the amount families can receive through state tax credits and broaden the CTC’s definition of an eligible child to include children 17 and under, matching the age of eligibility for the federal credit.
- HB23-1006 Employer Notice Of Income Tax Credits – Although many families are eligible for the EITC, only 76.1% of eligible families in Colorado participate and receive these tax credits. (1) If passed, this bill would require employers to notify employees annually of availability of the state and federal EITC and CTC.
- HB23-1078 Unemployment Compensation Dependent Allowance – When unemployed, Coloradans have the opportunity to claim unemployment insurance benefits to meet basic needs while seeking new employment opportunities. This bill would enable eligible Coloradans to collect an additional $35/week per child or adult dependent.
How does promoting economic security strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment?
Economic supports promote protective factors that reduce instances of child maltreatment.
Investing in concrete support in times of need for families is one of five crucial research-informed protective factors for preventing child maltreatment. (2) Chronic stress spurring from financial hardship can result in toxic stress, increasing the risk of child maltreatment. Building concrete economic supports to enhance financial well-being can reduce stress and increase positive interactions. Research has shown states that increased the EITC, CTC, and unemployment benefits saw a reduction in substantiated reports of neglect and hospital admissions for injuries resulting from abuse. (3)
Increasing the EITC and CTC promotes financial well-being, providing families with a tool to maintain a healthy environment.
When parents have access to economic support, they can build and maintain environments that promote healthy parent and child development. Families use the EITC and CTC to pay for everyday necessities, such as rent, mortgage, groceries, and to pay off debt. (4) In addition, families with school-aged children commonly use these credits to pay for school supplies, while families with children under 5 commonly use credits to pay for child care. Increasing the EITC, CTC, and unemployment benefits promotes healthy parent and child development by providing families with tools to build and maintain a healthy environment.
How is Illuminate Colorado involved?
Illuminate is excited to take action alongside our partners in the Helping Colorado Families Get Ahead Coalition to advocate for the passing of these three impactful bills. As these bills move through the House and Senate, we will lend our voice to share how these bills strengthen families, organizations, and communities to prevent child maltreatment.
Have you and your family benefited from the EITC or CTC? Have you received unemployment benefits? Contact your legislator to share your story and urge them to vote ‘yes’ on HB23-1112, HB23-1006, and HB23-1078! Click Here!
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