Building Connections and Breaking Down Barriers for Parents in Recovery

Building Connections and Breaking Down Barriers for Parents in Recovery

September is National Recovery Month and this week we are shining a spotlight on one of Illuminate’s most impactful programs: Circle of Parents

Circle of Parents groups are led by parents for parents and provide a free, confidential, non-judgemental space where caregivers can discuss the successes and challenges of raising children. 

In addition to general Circle of Parents groups, there are specialty groups offered across Colorado– including Circles for parents in recovery. 

Recently, we had the chance to speak with Circle of Parents Program Manager Toni Miner about Circle of Parents in Recovery and how she has seen it impact participants’ lives. Let’s talk about what we learned!

Social Connections are Essential to Recovery


The purpose of Circle of Parents in Recovery groups is to break down barriers and reduce shame for parents recovering from substance use disorders. Building community and social connections are critical components of recovery, and Circle of Parents provides a space where parents can do just that. 

Group discussions center around recovery and breaking down the associated stigma. Parents with substance use disorders face unique challenges, and Circle of Parents in Recovery groups give parents the hope that they might not find in other spaces.

Circle groups talk about the importance of social connections, how long (or if) group members have been sober, and the challenges specific to parenting with a substance use disorder. Toni explained how helpful it is for parents to discuss challenges with people who have been in similar situations and can relate to their experiences. That way parents don’t feel judged, but instead are building the connections that are so important to recovery.

Lived Experience is an Invaluable Resource

Group members are able to support each other at every stage of their recovery and parenting journeys. Toni has known group members for several years who are now able to encourage new members who are struggling with the beginning stages of recovery.

Some parents first join Circle of Parents when their children have been removed from the home. Toni has seen many of these parents progress so far in their recovery and parenting journeys that they can now share their story with new members who are dealing with similar situations and serve as examples of why not to give up.

The caregivers in Circle of Parents in Recovery groups are the experts on recovery resources in Colorado. Group members are able to recommend community resources for anything another parent might need, from sober living resources to detox support.

“The parents who come to these groups are the resource kings and queens.”

– Toni Miner, Circle of Parents Program Manager

Parents don’t need to be in active recovery to join a Circle. All caregivers are welcomed with open arms regardless of whether or not they are in recovery. Toni explained that parents in her group would rather a parent who is dealing with substance use join the group and receive the support they need than to see them turned away.

The Opposite of Addiction is Connection

When parents have the connections that are necessary for recovery, they are able to reach their full potential. By coming to Circle of Parents in Recovery meetings, Toni has seen parents gain self-esteem, start to believe in themselves, and become leaders in their families and communities. Parents truly become strong advocates for themselves and their children. 

Circle of Parents in Recovery groups have become genuine communities for parents where they can build relationships with their peers and extend and nurture friendships outside of meetings. Toni has even seen how the group members’ children connect with each other and are excited to play together each week. 

Toni’s favorite part about facilitating Circle of Parents in Recovery groups is watching members grow as individuals and as parents.

“I see parents gain self-esteem and really start to believe in themselves and become leaders in their own families and communities.”

– Toni Miner, Circle of Parents Program Manager

There is a Circle of Parents group for everyone.

Choose from Spanish-Speaking, Fatherhood, Parents in Recovery, Parents of Children with Special Needs, General Parenting groups, and more. 

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Celebrating Recovery in September

Celebrating Recovery in September

September is National Recovery Month! Throughout the month, join us as we celebrate the strength and resiliency of Colorado families impacted by substance use disorders. 

With access to resources, treatment, and support, recovery is possible for everyone. Check out the resources below to learn more about the recovery supports available across Colorado!

The Circle of Parents program offers peer support groups for anyone in a parenting and/or caregiving role. Through free group sessions, participants are provided a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental space to discuss the successes and challenges of raising children, share ideas, resources, and support, and build their confidence, skills, and knowledge as caregivers.

“Being here with people that have been through the same things, are going through the same things, it just makes you feel not alone.”

– Amanda, Circle of Parents in Recovery participant


There are recovery-specific Circle of Parents groups across the state, including virtual options.

Tough as a Mother is working to decrease stigma around maternal substance use disorder, educate providers, and connect pregnant and parenting mothers to treatment and recovery supports in their communities. 

Tough as a Mother offers resource navigation, peer stories, and a weekly online support group.

Colorado Crisis Services provides free, confidential, professional and immediate support for any mental health, substance use or emotional concern, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. 

Visit their website to read the stories of Coloradoans who reached out for support.

Narcotics Anonymous Colorado


Use NA Colorado’s Meeting Locator to find a meeting that is near you works for your schedule.

Stay tuned:

Later in Recovery Month, we’ll take a closer look at Circle of Parents in Recovery and how the program supports parents with substance use disorders and helps families to thrive. 

Don’t miss out!

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“It’s just as important to feel like you belong at 6 as it is at 14”: Bringing HOPE to the Classroom

“It’s just as important to feel like you belong at 6 as it is at 14”: Bringing HOPE to the Classroom

It’s back to school in Colorado, and that means a chance to make sure all children have access to positive childhood experiences that will help them grow into resilient and healthy adults. We can do this by encouraging all educators to take the Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences (HOPE) training, which provides helpful information on how to build connections and a sense of belonging for students in the classroom.

Recently, we had the chance to talk with Senior Education Program Manager Missy Berglund about how HOPE can be used in the classroom and why everyone who works with children should take the training. 

Fostering a sense of belonging leads to long-term well-being for children.

Teachers have the power to create a sense of “I matter” in students, simply by the way they structure their classroom community. Even for kids as young as preschool or kindergarten, having assigned roles and jobs like being the door holder or line leader help children to feel important and needed by those around them. When kids feel like they belong in their environment and are connected to their community, kids stay engaged in the activities that lead to academic success and long-term well-being.

Any type of educator can be a meaningful connection for a child.

For a child to develop into a healthy, resilient adult, it is important for them to have at least two adults who are invested in their lives who are not their parents. That means that anyone who works with children can practice HOPE, not just classroom teachers. When teachers are focused on academic content, other adults in the classroom can create meaningful, long-lasting relationships with the students that will benefit them as they grow and develop.

HOPE has a place in the classroom at all ages.

Not only are there ways to center HOPE in the classroom at all ages, it is critical that a sense of connection and belonging are maintained throughout the school years. 

In elementary school, when students make connections with adults who see them for who they are, they are more likely to stay engaged in activities that will promote long-term well-being. 

In middle school, a time of turbulent transition for many kids, it is important that students have spaces where they can share emotions in a healthy way. None of us were born knowing how to do this, however, so it’s up to adults to model healthy relationships so kids can practice engaging in the same way with their peers.

In high school, it is critical for youth to feel connected to their friends. This is when what kids learn from adults about healthy relationships in middle school becomes essential. When youth know how to engage in healthy and lasting relationships, friendships can solidify in a positive way.

“It’s just as important to feel like you belong at 6 as it is at 14.”

Missy Berglund, Senior Education Program Manager

HOPE builds safe and equitable environments where students can thrive.

Creating schools that are safe, equitable, stable environments for children to learn and play is essential if we are to support kids in developing into healthy, resilient adults. To build these environments, we need to develop an awareness among educators that all students have different needs that they need met in order to succeed academically.

Biased decision making around discipline is a major barrier to creating safe, equitable, and stable school environments. During the 2017-2018 school year, K-12 schools suspended 7.8% of Black students and 8.5% of students with disabilities, compared to 3.8% and 4.0% of White students and students without disabilities, respectively.¹ When schools are safe, equitable, and stable environments, we see a reduction in such disparities in discipline.

Biased decision making around discipline can be the result from a lack of full connection between students and adults. When kids are in meaningful relationships with adults and their peers at school, the adults are better able to advocate for student needs, and children are emotionally regulated because they have someone to process emotions with. We all need another person to co-regulate with. When children have adults they can work through emotions with, discipline is less reactive.

Additionally, when students feel a sense of belonging and like their community is counting on them, they are more likely to have the support they need to be emotionally regulated and able to fully engage in learning. Therefore, when adults build meaningful relationships with students, they can minimize behavior disruptions in their classrooms.

Environment matters; this is why it’s important for all educators to take the HOPE training so they can consciously create HOPE-focused spaces.

Teaching has been difficult for educators the past few years. HOPE provides renewed excitement.

We all know that it hasn’t been easy for those who work in education throughout the pandemic. Missy has seen a renewed passion from educators in her trainings who are excited to build HOPE-ful connections with their students this year. Through HOPE, educators can rediscover that teaching isn’t just about academics and that they are playing a critical role in the lives and long-term well-being of their students. 

Register for the Training Today

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  1. Ryberg, R. Her, S., Temkin, D., Harper, K. (2021). Despite reductions since 2011-12, black students and students with disabilities remain more likely to experience suspension. Child Trends. Available at

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Illuminate Staff Share How They Put the Five Protective Factors into Practice

Illuminate Staff Share How They Put the Five Protective Factors into Practice

Here at Illuminate Colorado, the five protective factors are the foundation for our work.

Protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, and communities that help people deal more effectively with stressful events, reducing the risk for 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

When parents, family, friends, neighbors, and employers increase the five protective factors in families’ lives, that is when we strengthen families, we prevent child abuse, and build brighter childhoods. 

What does it mean to put the protective factors into practice?


We asked Illuminate Colorado staff to tell us what the protective factors look like in their work:

Sadie Rose Pace, Education Program Manager


“By talking about the scary topic of Child Sexual Abuse and working together to come up with solutions, professionals and community members build social connections and learn new skills and knowledge about child development. Growing together as a community supports us all in providing safe and healthy spaces for our kids to grow.” 

Lex Loutzenhiser, Policy Manager


“Our policy team advocates for policies that promote protective factors by providing our federal and state decision makers with information, evidence, and recommendations on how real life promotion of these factors through policy change strengthens families.”

“We also elevate the voices and perspectives of community members with lived experience in policy spaces to ensure policy change effectively promotes protective factors for Colorado families.”

Dawn Newby, Strategic Initiatives Manager


What’s exciting about the work of the CO-ECCS Project, and all the work that the Strategic Initiatives team supports, is that we are working with state agencies, community organizations, and families to transform systems together.

“Part of changing systems is that we shift the mental models upon which systems are built to value protective factors and practice seeing what families can be, instead of focusing on what they’re not.

Patsy Bruce, Child Care Manager


“The protective factors serve as a foundational starting point to build relationships and to get to know parents and caregivers. Through daily engagement; staff partners with families to increase parenting knowledge, child development, and build social and emotional knowledge. Extending these services beyond the classroom, navigation services are also offered and connects families to community support in the time of need.”  

Missy Berglund, Senior Education Program Manager


Healthy Outcomes from Positive Expereinces (HOPE) and the Protective Factors go hand in hand.  When we strengthen communities by ensuring opportunities for families to harness their exsisting protective factors, we are inherently creating greater access to positive childhood experiences. You can see the impact in the smiles on the faces of parents when they feel supported and connected. And when a parents stress is reduced, they are able to focus on creating moments of greater connection and joy with their child.

“When a parent is able to access the concrete supports they need, or talk to a friend about what they are struggling with, or even have access to information about what to expect at their child’s developments stage, you feel less isolated and better able to manage the challenges of parenting. Knowing you have a community around you that cares, that will support you, that has been there– that allows parents to breath a little easier.”

Angelica Fox, Director of Home Visitation


A visit from Family Connects to a parent of a newborn is intended to support the parent during the first three weeks, which is a time where families are very vulnerable. A Family Connects nurse home visitor provides concrete support in times of need to parents while focusing on their parenting knowledge, their child’s well being, child development, and the importance of positive interactions and expectations appropriate to their age.”

“Babies don’t come with a manual and having a home visit from Family Connects provides concrete support in times of need as the parents receive parent education and information to access existing resources and services that can support their families as a whole.”

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New Illuminate Staff Expand Coalition Capacity and Access to Child Care

New Illuminate Staff Expand Coalition Capacity and Access to Child Care

The Illuminate Colorado team grew by two members in April! Karci Lockwood joined us as our Strategic Initiatives Associate and Sreena Karki as an Early Childhood Teacher. Get to know them and how they are adding to Illuminate’s capacity to support families and prevent child maltreatment across Colorado!

Meet Karci Lockwood

Strategic Initiatives Associate

Karci Lockwood (she/her/hers) joined the Illuminate Colorado team in April of 2023 as the Community Initiatives Associate. In her role, Karci provides administrative support to the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families.

Before joining Illuminate, Karci worked as the Program Director for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Mesa County, training and supporting volunteers to be the voice for children with open child abuse and neglect cases. 

Karci has always gravitated towards prevention work. Through her experience working with children who have been victims of child abuse, she always wondered: “how do we get up stream and keep this from ever happening?” As a new parent herself, Karci knows how important it is to feel supported and connected. 

In her free time, Karci enjoys rafting, mountain biking, and camping with her family. Her favorite part about living in Colorado is how outdoor adventures wait right outside her backdoor!

Meet Sreena Karki

Early Childhood Teacher

Sreena (she/her/hers) joined the Illuminate Colorado team in April of 2023 as an Early Childhood Teacher. Sreena is a member of the Illuminating Child Care team, working on on-site child care classroom Honey to provide child care for families while caregivers receive treatment and support. In her role, Sreena reads to infants, assists them in recognizing images and sounds, and helps kids to form positive relationships with their peers. 


After graduating as a first generation scholar from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in Communications, Sreena continued her work with school-age children in child care, providing the support and resources that kids and families need to thrive. Ever since she was young, Sreena has dreamt of becoming a teacher. She finds joy in the opportunity to both teach and learn from tomorrow’s leaders every day. 

In her free time, Sreena likes to play board games with friends, cook at home, hike with her dog, and listen to audiobooks. Her favorite part about living in Colorado is enjoying the beautiful mountains!

Meet the rest of the Illuminate Colorado team!  

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