Prioritizing Families Under the Dome: 2024 Policy Priorities and Promoting Protective Factors

Prioritizing Families Under the Dome: 2024 Policy Priorities and Promoting Protective Factors

This January, legislators returned to the Colorado State Capitol to kick off the legislative session. Through early May, the Colorado General Assembly will be introducing bills, engaging with constituents and stakeholders, and working with one another to turn legislation into laws. During this exciting time, Illuminate Colorado will be at the Capitol, advocating for policies that strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment.

Policy Change and the Five Protective Factors

In order to make informed decisions and advocate for policies that make a positive, sustainable, and long-term impact in Colorado, Illuminate utilizes several data-driven frameworks. When considering whether a policy will strengthen families and prevent maltreatment, one of the frameworks we look to for guidance is the Five Protective Factors, developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Research shows that when families cultivate the following Five Protective Factors, they can better face life’s challenges, preventing child maltreatment

The Five Protective Factors Are:

  • Build Parental Resilience

  • Build Social Connections

  • Build Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

  • Build Concrete Support in Times of Need

  • Build Social and Emotional Competence of Children

By advocating for policies that promote these protective factors, we can make research-informed policy change that strengthens families and prevents child maltreatment.

To learn more about our guiding frameworks, visit our Strategies & Frameworks webpage.

2024 Illuminate State Policy Priorities

To bring focus and momentum to our policy work, we at Illuminate have set four policy priorities this 2024 Colorado legislative session. By reviewing relevant research, engaging with our partners in prevention, and listening to families impacted, we have established the following priorities:

1. Support a comprehensive family strengthening system by:

    • Increasing prevention funding to optimize resources dedicated to primary prevention
    • Promoting the coordination of prevention efforts
    • Narrowing the front door to the child welfare system

Comprehensive family strengthening systems strive to promote all five protective factors. For example, Family Resource Centers offer key support within a larger family strengthening system by connecting families to resources, such as food and nutrition services that promote Concrete Supports in Times of Need, parenting resources to gain Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, and youth mental health resources that promote Social & Emotional Competence of Children. By advocating for policy change and increased funding to support a comprehensive family strengthening system that addresses families’ needs before and after child maltreatment occurs, we can build a foundation for families to thrive.

2. Increase economic support for all families to thrive by enhancing access to resources that promote financial wellbeing, economic security, and economic mobility

Increasing economic supports for all families regardless of child welfare involvement, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and direct cash assistance, strengthens families and reduces instances of child abuse and neglect. As Concrete Supports in Times of Need, economic supports reduce stress and increase opportunities for caregivers to create healthy environments that promote healthy child development. Illuminate will continue to advocate for economic supports as a primary prevention tool at the legislature to establish the building blocks for families to reach and maintain financial wellbeing.

3. Optimize resources dedicated to addressing substance use disorders in families

Optimizing resources for families impacted by substance use can promote several protective factors, including Parental Resilience through substance use and mental health services, and Social Connections through peer recovery groups. Illuminate will continue working towards the recommendations we made to the Interim Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee to advocate for broad systems of support and non-punitive strategies to respond to the unique needs of families impacted by substance use In addition, we will continue to advocate for increasing Colorado’s capacity to respond to the needs of individuals and families impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). 

4. Establish, and connect long-term funding pathways to sustain and scale Illuminate Programs including but not limited to Family Connects; Healthy Families America; Circle of Parents; FASD Navigation, Support, & Training; and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

Since founded in 2015, Illuminate has brought many evidence-based or evidence-informed programs to Colorado that promote protective factors to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. For example, Circle of Parents is an Illuminate program that promotes Parental Resilience, Social Connections, and Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development by offering a space led by peers for peers to share the joys and challenges of parenting and offer support. As we and our partners continue to expand programs like Circle of Parents across Colorado, we will continue to advocate under the Dome to fund family strengthening programs for all families, including those at risk of or involved in child welfare.

As we navigate the legislative session, we are excited to continue to share information about legislation that strengthens families, updates on our policy work, and opportunities to advocate for families. 

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Family Strengthening at the Polls: Prop ii and Other Election Updates

Family Strengthening at the Polls: Prop ii and Other Election Updates

This November, Coloradans headed to the polls to vote on state and local ballot issues that impact families. Proposition ii passed, enabling Colorado to retain tax revenue for Universal Pre-K. Proposition HH failed, maintaining Colorado’s current tax structure. Governor Jared Polis initiated a special legislative session to consider funding set aside for Prop HH and a newly available federal funding stream that would strengthen families through concrete food and nutrition support.

Voters Supported Retaining Tax Revenue for Universal Pre-K

Colorado voters overwhelmingly voted in support of Prop ii, which will enable Colorado to retain $23.65 million in collected tax revenue to fund Universal Pre-K (UPK) and maintain current tax rates on nicotine and tobacco products to continue funding this program. Illuminate is proud to support Prop ii, which promotes healthy child development by increasing access to high-quality experiences and loving relationships by retaining funding for UPK. Funding retained through Prop ii will be utilized to continue the important work that was approved by voters through Prop EE in 2020 to build a universal preschool system. Illuminate is grateful to Colorado voters for prioritizing public investment in UPK and to the early childhood advocates who led this work. For more information on why Illuminate supports Prop ii, visit our pre-election blog.

Proposition HH Failed to Pass

Coloradans voted in opposition of Proposition HH, a ballot measure that, among other provisions, would have lowered property taxes and temporarily raised the TABOR cap. This ballot measure failed, maintaining Colorado’s current tax structure.

Legislators Will Address Property Taxes and Summer Food and Nutrition Support in a Special Session

During the 2023 regular legislative session, Colorado legislators voted to set aside $200 million for property tax relief, which would have been utilized upon the passage of Prop HH. Due to the failure of this ballot measure, Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order on November 9th to hold a special session that will begin on Friday, November 17th. During this special session, Colorado legislators must address specific, time-sensitive issues clearly named in the executive order, including:

    • Immediate, one-time property tax relief
    • Utilization of newly available federal funds to provide food and nutrition support to Colorado children during the summer of 2024

Learn More about Ballot Measures and Election Results in Your Region

In addition to statewide ballot measures, Coloradans voted on many local issues that impact children and families, including school board elections, affordable housing measures, and more. Visit the Secretary of State’s election results webpage to view results in your area.

Don’t miss out on policy updates from Illumiante!

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2023 Ballot Measure: Prop ii Promotes Protective Factors and Family Well-Being

2023 Ballot Measure: Prop ii Promotes Protective Factors and Family Well-Being

Illuminate Colorado is proud to support Proposition ii, which would allow Colorado to retain tax revenue to fund Universal Pre-K (UPK). By ensuring continuous and adequate funding for UPK, Colorado would promote concrete supports, one of five research-based protective factors to prevent child maltreatment. By supporting Prop ii, voters can ensure funding goes towards the Preschool Program Fund for the purpose of UPK, rather than returned to nicotine and tobacco product distributors and manufacturers.

Universal Preschool is a Concrete Support that Promotes Healthy Child Development

Children need high-quality experiences and loving relationships to support healthy development. Concrete supports in times of need is a research-based protective factor that prevents child abuse and neglect.¹ Pre-K serves as child care, with added educational components, and Colorado’s newly implemented UPK provides parents and caregivers with up to 15 hours per week of preschool at no cost.²

In doing so, UPK expands opportunities for reliable, affordable, and high-quality preschool for families, promoting a concrete support in times of need and healthy child development. 

Prop ii Prioritizes State Investment in Concrete Supports

In 2020, Colorado voters approved Proposition EE, which enabled Colorado to utilize tax revenue from e-liquid and vaping products that contain nicotine and from tobacco products to fund a statewide UPK system. Under TABOR, all Colorado ballot measures that increase taxes must include an estimate as to how much revenue will be raised if the ballot measure is approved.³ However, when Colorado collects more in taxes than originally estimated due to increased cost or utilization of goods, taxes must be returned in rebates, unless Colorado voters approve an additional ballot measure that allows the state to retain collected revenue.

Last year, Colorado collected $23.65 million above the original estimate set forth in Prop EE. This 2023 legislative session, the Colorado legislature passed HB23-1290, enabling Coloradans to vote on whether to retain $23.65 million in collected tax revenue to fund UPK and maintain current tax rates on nicotine and tobacco products. In November, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to approve this ballot measure with a ‘yes’ vote and ensure current and future funding for UPK.

We at Illuminate recognize the original purpose and intent behind Prop EE, as approved by voters in 2020, to support families and increase affordability of preschool for all young children by building a universal preschool system in Colorado.

Continuous and sufficient funding plays an integral role in implementing an equitable system, as intended by voters, that extends additional hours to families with needs for increased support, including families of preschoolers with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Prop ii is an opportunity for voters to opt to continue the important work that was approved in 2020 to build a universal preschool system and prioritize state investment in early childhood and concrete supports for families.

Ballots were mailed out this week!

Already a registered voter?

Keep an eye on your mailbox for your mail-in ballot. Mail in or drop off your ballot by the posted deadline to make your voice heard! If you are registered, but did not receive your ballot, you can find a polling location to vote in person.

Unsure if you are registered to vote?

Visit the Secretary of State website to check your Voter Status.

Not registered?

Good news! Coloradans can register to vote up through Election Day. Visit your local polling location to get registered and vote in person.

Citations
  1. 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/
  2. Colorado Department of Early Childhood. (n.d.) Universal Preschool Colorado. Retrieved from: https://cdec.colorado.gov/universal-preschool-colorado
  3. Colo. Const. art X, § 20.
  4. Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. (n.d.) 2023 State Ballot Information Booklet. Research Publication No. 793-2. Retrieved from: https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/images/blue_book_2023_-_english.pdf

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Responding to the Needs of Families Impacted by FASD through Influencing Policy

Responding to the Needs of Families Impacted by FASD through Influencing Policy

This Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Month, we at Illuminate Colorado are reflecting on our advocacy throughout 2023 to increase awareness of FASD among legislators and expand Colorado’s capacity to respond to the needs of individuals and families impacted by FASD.

Moving forward, we are excited to continue advocating at the federal and state levels to ensure legislators are FASD-aware and to elevate the voices and experiences of Colorado families.

Jillian Fabricius (Illuminate Colorado Deputy Director) and a staffer for Senator John Hickenlooper.

Advocating at the State Level

This past 2023 Colorado legislative session, advocates from SuPPoRT Colorado’s FASD Awareness Workgroup and Illuminate staff engaged with state legislators to highlight the need for a stronger system of services and support for individuals and families impacted by FASD.

This summer, Illuminate has continued this important work by engaging with the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee, an interim bi-partisan committee made up of 10 state legislators tasked with responding to challenges associated with substance use disorders in Colorado by identifying gaps in prevention, intervention, harm reduction, and treatment– and identify possible legislative solutions. 

In August, Illuminate Policy Manager, Lex Loutzenhiser, testified to urge the committee to continue the work started in the 2023 legislative session to address challenges associated with FASD experienced by Coloradans. Illuminate will continue to work with state legislators to highlight the need for increased capacity to serve individuals and families impacted by FASD and provide considerations for future legislation.

August 30, 2023 Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee. Left to Right: Rep. Elizabeth Epps, Jade Woodard (Illuminate Colorado Executive Director), Jillian Fabricius (Illuminate Colorado Deputy Director), Lex Loutzenhiser (Illuminate Colorado Policy Manager), and Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy.

To learn more about Illuminate’s engagement with Interim Study Committees, read Advocating for Family Strengthening Throughout the Year.

Advocating at the Federal Level

This June, the FASD Respect Act (H.R. 3946/S.1800) was introduced to the House by Representatives Don Bacon (R-NE) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) and in the Senate by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). To ensure widespread national support for this important legislation, FASD advocates from across the United States have been reaching out to their Congressional offices to share their support of this comprehensive bill. Alongside advocates who are parents of children and adults with an FASD, Illuminate staff have met with staffers from the offices of five of Colorado’s Congressional Delegation. We are grateful to Rep. Joe Neguse, representing Colorado House District 2, for prioritizing the needs of constituents and co-sponsoring the FASD Respect Act.

Today, September 21, Illuminate staff, as the Colorado affiliate of FASD United, and advocates from the FASD Awareness Workgroup will be participating in Hill Day during FASD Impact Week (hosted by FASD United). Throughout the day, Illuminate staff and FASD advocates will be in Washington D.C., meeting with Congressional offices to share the experiences of Coloradans impacted by FASD and asking Colorado’s Congressional Delegation to co-sponsor the FASD Respect Act.

2022 FASD Hill Day. Left to Right: Kelli Sutton (Illuminate Colorado Strategic Initiatives Manager), Jillian Fabricius (Illuminate Colorado Deputy Director), and a staffer for Rep. Joe Neguse.

To learn more about the FASD Respect Act, read Introducing the FASD Respect Act or visit the FASD United Policy and Training Center.

Join Us to Advocate for the FASD Respect Act!

Use your voice to join Illuminate and advocates across the country in urging Congress to pass the FASD Respect Act.

Coloradans can learn more about how to advocate for this impactful legislation here. If you live outside of Colorado, utilize FASD United’s FASD Respect Act advocacy tool to learn about how to be an advocate in your state.

Check out what else Illuminate Colorado has planned for FASD Awareness Month here! 

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Expanding Access to Affordable Child Care through Federal Policy Change

Expanding Access to Affordable Child Care through Federal Policy Change

Child care is an essential tool to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment. However, many Colorado families face barriers to accessing affordable, high quality child care. This month, the US Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is considering proposed rule changes to expand access to child care by removing common financial and administrative barriers.

These proposed changes, along with the work of Colorado child care advocates, have the potential to expand access to child care, strengthening families and preventing child maltreatment.

Access to Quality, Affordable Child Care Promotes Protective Factors and Prevents Child Maltreatment

Promoting concrete support in times of need, which is 1 of 5 research-informed protective factors, strengthens families and prevents child maltreatment.¹ Chronic stress, resulting in toxic stress, can impact a parent’s ability to effectively respond to their child’s needs. Increasing access to quality, affordable child care, a concrete support in times of need, minimizes stress and reduces instances of child abuse and neglect. 

When parents lack access to quality child care, this can serve as a barrier to participate in the workforce, receive mental health and substance use services, and engage in other meaningful activities that reduce stress and enhance health, well-being, and economic security. Research shows that families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) experience a 20% increase in risk of supervisory neglect for each additional child care concern reported.²

In contrast, each additional month a low-income mother receives a child care subsidy results in a 16% decrease in the odds of a child neglect report and a 14% decrease in the odds of a physical abuse report in the following year.³

“Research shows that difficulty finding child care is a stronger predictor of maternal neglect than almost any other factor, including mental health, severity of drug use, history of abuse as a child, and use of public assistance.”

– Jade Woodard, Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado

Expanding Access to Child Care through Federal Policy Change

This year, the Biden-Harris Administration is directing public agencies to engage in rulemaking processes to expand access to affordable child care. In a July press conference, Vice President Kamala Harris made remarks discussing how the over 900,000 US families receiving child care vouchers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG), a federal program that funds state subsidized child care, still face barriers to accessing quality, affordable child care.

In Colorado, 32% of children ages 0-6 are eligible for subsidized child care under the CCDBG, but families receiving vouchers still pay between $1 and $584 in monthly out-of-pocket co-pays.⁴

In response to the President’s directive, the US Health and Human Services Department has proposed new rules.⁵ Among other changes, the proposed rules would:

        • Cap child care copayments at 7% of a family’s income for families receiving child care vouchers under CCDBG
        • Allow agencies to waive copayments for additional populations – including families with an income that is less than 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and families with a child with a disability
        • Exempt Tribal Lead Agencies from the requirement to establish sliding scale pay structures that require all families to pay copayments
        • Require agencies to implement new policies and practices that lessen the administrative burden placed on families when navigating the application process to receive child care vouchers
        • Increase sustainability of CCDBG program participation for child care providers by increasing the timeliness of provider payments and paying child care providers by enrollment, rather than attendance

A full list and explanation of proposed rule changes can be accessed here.

Have you received child care vouchers through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program or subsidized child care in another state?

Submit an official comment here (click green “Submit a Formal Comment” button) to share how the proposed rules would impact you and your family!

Advocacy in Colorado to Increase Access to Child Care

Illuminate is grateful to our advocacy partners who lead the charge in expanding access to child care in Colorado. We appreciate Colorado Children’s Campaign, Clayton Early Learning, Early Connections Learning Centers, Healthier Colorado, Early Childhood Councils across the state, and others who are leading this work.

We at Illuminate join our partners in expanding access to child care through Illuminating Child Care, a program that provides on-site child care to caregivers while they receive support for complex issue impacting their family, like mental health concerns, substance use disorders, or employment challenges. Through RVs that have been retrofitted into safe and enriching infant and toddler classrooms, our Early Childhood Teachers offer child care at no cost to caregivers accessing services at 15 behavioral health and family support facilities across 3 regions of Colorado.

Citations
  1. 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/
  2. Yang, M.-Y., & Maguire-Jack, K. (2016). Predictors of basic needs and supervisory neglect: Evidence from the Illinois Families Study. Children & Youth Services Review, 67, 20-26. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.05.017
  3. Yang, M. Y., Maguire‐Jack, K., Showalter, K., Kim, Y. K., & Slack, K. S. (2019). Child care subsidy and child maltreatment. Child & Family Social Work, 24(4), 547-554. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12635
  4. First Five Years Fund. (2023). Child Care & Development Block Grant in Colorado. Retrieved From: https://www.ffyf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2023_CCDBG-Fact-Sheet_CO.pdf
  5. Improving Child Care Access, Affordability, and Stability in the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), 88 FR 45022 (proposed July 13, 2023). Retrieved From: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/07/13/2023-14290/improving-child-care-access-affordability-and-stability-in-the-child-care-and-development-fund-ccdf

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