Transformational Campaign Informs Colorado Parents “We Got UR Back”

Transformational Campaign Informs Colorado Parents “We Got UR Back”

The statewide effort aims to strengthen connections between families and communities.

DENVER, COLO. (May 22, 2023) – On June 1, Global Day of Parents, the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families and Illuminate Colorado will celebrate with the launch of a multi-year, statewide campaign to reinforce the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, urging all Coloradans to provide support to those serving the crucial role as a parent. The campaign is designed to inspire parents to build a network to turn to when they need “back up” and to encourage friends, families and neighbors to become a “village” of support and let parents and caregivers know “We Got UR Back.” The goal is to empower parents to ask for support, offer support to one another, and to normalize supportive parenting networks to create strong families.

“Parenting is one of the most fulfilling roles we can take on, but also one of the most challenging,” said Illuminate Colorado Executive Director Jade Woodard. “Every parent needs and deserves a supportive network of people. By backing up parents with essential supports, we celebrate them daily…and also help to raise healthy children and build stronger, more connected communities.” 

Nationwide studies have shown that connectivity with people and the community improves physical and mental health, happiness, and longevity for parents and children. A supportive network surrounding families helps reduce stress and fosters nurturing parenting habits and better outcomes for children.

To help build connections, Illuminate Colorado has redesigned its social connections website,, to be a valuable resource for parents and to provide tools for community members and partners who want to help them develop stronger connections. Visitors can see the stories of Noah and Lucinda, and Brisa, who share their parenting journeys of raising a child with disabilities and as a single parent.  

A pre-pandemic survey among parents in Colorado showed that one in five parents felt they had no one to turn to for day-to-day emotional support with raising children. In 2022, Illuminate Colorado conducted a statewide survey to understand existing perceptions among parents and community members about seeking support, offering support, and the importance of social connections.

Key Survey Findings:

  • 80% of respondents agreed that social connections benefit them and their families and that offering support to others grows a sense of community. 
  • 73% of respondents said they feel better when they have someone to talk with and believe that asking for support when they need it helps strengthen their family.
  • 82% of respondents agreed that it’s good when parents have someone to ask for parenting advice.

“Our research shows Coloradans want to provide support, but often don’t know where to start,” explained Woodard. “This campaign and our new website provide the tips and tools people can use to have a long-term impact on families and to create supportive communities we all want to be a part of.” 

About Illuminate Colorado:

Illuminate Colorado is a statewide nonprofit strengthening families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. With a research-based approach that emphasizes building promotive and protective factors, we address systemic and multi-sector issues by collaborating with families and partners at the community, state and national levels to develop and implement powerful programs, policies and initiatives that build brighter childhoods in Colorado. Visit to learn more.

Campaign Partners:

Colorado Connected was originally established through the Colorado Essentials for Childhood project with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and support from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In recent years, the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families, with funding from the Colorado Department of Early Childhood and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, has worked to convene a diverse group of state, county, and community members to create updated campaign tools and to continue to address social norms significantly impacting families and communities, building resilience and preventing child maltreatment. Visit to learn more.

Related Posts

Illuminate Colorado’s Statement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Illuminate Colorado’s Statement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Like many Americans, we are still processing what the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade means for families. We are grateful for the advocacy led by Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and Cobalt on the Reproductive Health Equity Act HB22-1279, which protects pregnant people’s rights to access reproductive care, including abortion, in Colorado.

Children do well when their parents, caregivers and communities do well. Ensuring pregnant people have accessible and responsive reproductive and maternal health care is crucial to family well-being. Research shows that abortion access increases educational attainment and workforce participation among women and improves outcomes for children.1 Protecting women’s and families’ ability to determine and exercise their own reproductive choices equates to advancing broader economic equity and social justice for women and families for generations to come and is all the more important for people who already face systemic obstacles to health care and economic opportunity.234 Access to concrete supports in times of need—including comprehensive health care that is inclusive of abortion services—is a research-based protective factor that lowers the risk of child abuse and neglect, and is a key way to ensure that families get off to the best possible start. 

At Illuminate Colorado, our values and foundations call us to focus on ensuring people have the supports and resources they need to thrive – not dictating what people can decide about their bodies and their futures. In particular, our organizational foundation of being Family and Community Driven means that we believe families and communities are experts of their own experiences and should be in the driver’s seat of their lives. While we are disheartened by the Supreme Court’s decision, we are also motivated. Together, we remain committed to advocating to ensure all families can determine their pathway to parenthood, which ultimately will lead to more safe, healthy and thriving families.

Necessary and Adequate Medical Care for Your Child is Not Child Abuse

1) The Economic Effects of Abortion Access: A Review of the Evidence, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research,

2) Linking Reproductive Health Care Access to Labor Market Opportunities for Women, Bahn, Kugler, Mahoney, Corley, and McGrew  2017.

3) The Costs of Reproductive Health Restrictions, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research,

4) The Turnaway Study, ANSIRH,



Jade Woodard

Jade Woodard

Executive Director

Jade has served as the Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado since its inception in 2015, following 7 years as the Executive Director of founding partner agency, the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. 

Celebrating 2024 State Legislative Wins

Celebrating 2024 State Legislative Wins

Although Colorado legislators faced funding constraints and difficult decisions, we at Illuminate and our partners in prevention are celebrating several wins for children, families and parenting people!

Strengthening Families Impacted by Substance Use through Policy

Strengthening Families Impacted by Substance Use through Policy

Families impacted by substance use face unique barriers and challenges to accessing support. By promoting access to prevention programs and supportive services, we can build a foundation for families to thrive. This Colorado legislative session, Illuminate is at the capitol urging legislators to prioritize families impacted by substance use.

Illuminate Colorado Awarded $60,000 Primary Prevention Grant by Prevent Child Abuse America to Support Abuse and Neglect Prevention Strategies as Part of Thriving Families, Safer Children

Illuminate Colorado Awarded $60,000 Primary Prevention Grant by Prevent Child Abuse America to Support Abuse and Neglect Prevention Strategies as Part of Thriving Families, Safer Children

Denver, ColoradoIlluminate Colorado announced today a $60,000 Primary Prevention grant awarded by Prevent Child Abuse America® (PCA America), with funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, to support the organization’s work to transform child welfare policy and systems, focused on building sustainable, long-term partnerships and pathways between primary and downstream child abuse and neglect prevention efforts. A total of $500,000 will be awarded over a two-year grant period to nine Prevent Child Abuse America state chapters selected for funding, including Illuminate which is home to the Colorado chapter of PCA America. 

Illuminate, in partnership with parents and caregivers involved in the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families (the Partnership), will tell the “Story of the System” with these funds, highlighting and documenting a process for how government agencies and nonprofits share power and codesign in partnership with experts to transform systems.

“Families are the experts when it comes to transforming systems,” said Heather Hicks, a parent and member of the Partnership Family & Caregiver Space. “We hope to share our learnings and process to promote continued efforts of codesign and partner with family voices in systems transformation efforts.  This project will catalyze primary prevention efforts through storytelling, with the aim of inspiring policy and practice change and changing the narrative around systems and families.” 

Thriving Families, Safer Children is a first-of-its-kind effort of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, Casey Family Programs, the Casey Foundation, and Prevent Child Abuse America. The partnership is working in 22 sites from coast to coast and a sovereign tribal nation. The Thriving Families effort seeks to demonstrate that intentional, coordinated investments in a full continuum of prevention, along with community-based networks of support, will promote overall child and family well-being, equity and other positive outcomes for children and families.

The goals of the Primary Prevention grant include:

  • Expand the capacity of the Thriving Families movement to develop and maintain more equitable working relationships and authentic partnerships between the child protection and family serving systems and communities.

  • Develop intentional cross-systems partnerships and the integration of the core components of public health approaches to preventing child abuse and neglect

  • Strengthen, support, and connect youth, parents, and community members with real life experiences as they emerge in leadership roles within the Thriving Families movement.

“Preventing childhood adversity is critical to building more healthy and prosperous communities – and prevention can only happen in partnership. The chapters that were selected for this Thriving Families, Safer Children grant are committed to working across sectors to develop equitable systems that benefit all children and families and break harmful intergenerational cycles of trauma and poverty,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, president & CEO of PCA America. “At a time when all families and systems are experiencing some level of strain, these grantees are working to reframe the approach to family support away from reactive child welfare systems to a proactive, holistic method that emphasizes cross-sectoral collaboration to support the well-being of children and families.”

A complete list of grantees, totaling $500,000 in grants, includes:

  • Families Forward Virginia
  • Familywise
  • Idaho Children’s Trust Fund
  • Illuminate Colorado
  • Nebraska Children
  • Prevent Child Abuse Arizona
  • Prevent Child Abuse Indiana
  • Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky
  • The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida

Colorado was among the first states chosen to participate in the Thriving Families national effort in 2020 to prove it is possible to fundamentally rethink how we can create the conditions for strong, thriving families where children are free from harm through the the Partnership, a collaborative which Illuminate serves as the backbone. This cross-systems collaborative with parents, caregivers, and families with lived expertise, includes partners from; Colorado Department of Human Services; Colorado Department of Early Childhood, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing; and staff of county departments and nonprofit agencies working in child maltreatment prevention, maternal and child health, and early childhood. 

“We are approaching this work differently than other states, as a county-administered human services system, by embracing local and creative solutions to prevent abuse or neglect of children before it ever occurs – we are thinking upstream,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado and member of the Partnership’s leadership team. “Together, we share a vision of a Colorado where partners work collaboratively to create the conditions for strong families and communities where children are healthy, valued, and thriving.”

The Partnership Family and Caregiver Space, an affinity group led by, and for, family voice leaders, is empowering parents and caregivers and facilitating ideas that enact desired change within Colorado communities. With this funding, the Family and Caregiver Space will design and implement a project known as “the Story of the System”, to uplift Coloradans’ stories and better understand barriers and facilitators related to navigating systems, including public health, human services and health care. “The long term goal of the project is to not only address these barriers and opportunities, but to change the narrative around systems and families, and create a call to action for transforming the system,” said Woodard. 

About Illuminate Colorado 

Illuminate Colorado is a statewide nonprofit organization strengthening families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. Illuminate is the home of the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America® and, works collaboratively across Colorado to create the conditions for strong families and communities where children are healthy, valued and thriving as the backbone of the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families.

About Prevent Child Abuse America 

Commemorating its 50th year in 2022, Prevent Child Abuse America is a leading champion for all children in the United States. Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Chicago, we are the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect, working to actively prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect before they occur. Our success is founded on a nationwide network of state chapters and nearly 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites, which directly provide parents and caregivers a wide variety of services and resources that help children grow up to be productive, contributing members of their communities and society. Our comprehensive approach is informed by science—we translate and disseminate innovative research to promote proven solutions that our vast network then puts into action. And we raise public awareness and advocate for family friendly policies at the national, state and local levels to support transformative programs and promote the conditions and contexts that help children, families and communities across the country thrive. Visit to learn more. 

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

News Release Media Contact:

Katie Facchinello, Director of Communciations

Family Connects Colorado to Offer Free Home Visiting to All Families Starting Late 2022

Family Connects Colorado to Offer Free Home Visiting to All Families Starting Late 2022

Illuminate Colorado is partnering with Family Connects International® to begin to bring FREE home visiting to all families with newborns in Colorado. Family Connects Colorado, a new Illuminate Colorado program, has the potential to impact every baby born in Colorado. As the State Intermediary for Family Connects in Colorado, Illuminate is facilitating the implementation of the evidence-based model to ensure effective scaling and sustainability of Family Connects in Colorado. “The idea of ensuring that all families have access to this kind of support upon bringing home a baby could be transformational for our our state, for our country, for families everywhere,” shared Jade Woodard executive director of Illuminate Colorado during a virtual meeting with the Illuminate community. 

The new program was a focus of the latest Luminary Lift Up, a quarterly online opportunity to start your day in a positive way by lifting up solutions to issues children and families are facing today. The virtual discussions traditionally begin with a focus on resilience and self care with a panel of parents. Tara and Hilary each recently welcomed a new baby into their homes – for the second time. The two moms’ openness in sharing what the first few months have been like for them during the discussion underscored the importance of providing in-home nurse visits to every parent in Colorado. 

Hilary, a mom of two boys, has no family here in Colorado. Her youngest, Ari, is just 5 months old and she recognized that bringing home a baby has been a big adjustment. “Self care has looked very different with baby number two.” She’s been prioritizing the things that are really important to her as a way of building her own resilience. “Sleep is a big thing for me. Ari slept through the night for the first time last night and you can imagine my excitement. I feel like a new person,” said Hilary.  

Tara is a mom of two, an eight year old and an 11 month old who came home to her family through adoption last summer with only a days notice. “With your second, it’s a game changer. The most important thing that I’ve learned from all of this is that I’m a better mom when I don’t lose myself in motherhood. There are certain things that I know I need for self-care – running is one of them,” said Tara. “Connection is really important. Having a newborn during the time of COVID was also a tricky thing for us. The isolation is real anyway when you have young children, then you couple that with, is it ok to have people come over and bring meals, what do baby showers look like, all those things happened to us last year and it was hard.” Tara also encouraged others to ask for support. “If you need help and you need support, ask for it. It’s incredible how people will show up for you.”  

The two moms reflected on 8 ways parents say you can help after baby arrives and shared more thoughtful ways to build parental resilience for new parents before the panel discussion turned to the broader announcement with local, state and national partners to talk about how partners are working together to bring Family Connects to Colorado. 

As Woodard shared a little bit about why Illuminate Colorado is starting this new program,  she shared her personal story after having her first baby at 22 and then a second child years later.

“My second, she is amazing and independent and has a mind of her own, but my baby whispering ability went away. It didn’t work with her. I’ve been able to soothe every other baby that I’ve ever held, why can’t I do this with her,” Woodard shared as she reflected upon those first few days and weeks together with her second child. Thanks to her health care provider at the time, she was sent a nurse. “I have no doubt that that visit from that nurse changed the trajectory of my family – it strengthened our family.”

Illuminate Colorado has been working with Bethany Kuerten, also a Luminary Lift Up panelist, and other members of the Family Connects International® team over the last several months to bring Family Connects to Colorado. Family Connects International envisions a world where all children and their families have access to a continuum of community-based care to support their health and success.

Family Connects – coming soon to Colorado – is an evidence-based model and successfully demonstrated program that connects parents of newborns to the community resources they need through postpartum nurse home visits.  The program is in 19 states across the country.

“Our goal is to start families on a really positive path to health care at a really vulnerable time,” said Kuerten. Illuminate Colorado is currently working in Boulder and Eagle counties to begin to offer Family Connects to all families in these areas starting in late 2022 and Denver and Jefferson counties in early 2023. 

After listening to Kuerten explain what families can expect from Family Connects to help support them in the first few weeks after coming home, each of the parent panelists talked about how much they could have used this support in their lives.

“Wow, I just want to shout this to the hills because you know we had a little extra support with our daughter because she was adopted, we had a social worker that would come by. But, honestly having a nurse would have been so incredible. We often didn’t really know what we were dealing with or how to deal with it and waiting to take her to a pediatrician felt very daunting. And, the opportunity to have some come into our home and help talk us through some of that, and her care, would have been incredible. What a wonderful program,” said Tara.

“I second that! I honestly feel a little bit jealous. I can mentally go back and think right around 8-10 weeks, right around there. That is when things started to get hard for me mentally because the baby was just different than baby #1. To be quite honest with you, that is when I reached out to a therapist to start working through some of the things I was feeling, not necessarily postpartum depression, but more anxiety of going back to work and him not sleeping through the night. There are a lot of things that maybe a nurse could have helped me with a bit more than someone who was a talk therapist,” said Hilary.  

What Families Can Expect

  • 3 weeks in: Expect a visit around 3 weeks after birth
  • No cost: As a parent(s) of a newborn, there is no additional cost to you, no matter what your income level
  • Registered nurses: All nurses are highly skilled professionals
  • For all: Helping all families in a community with a newborn who delivered at a partner hospital

“Everybody who is focused on early childhood knows the most important time in a child’s life is that space in the 0 to 5 age. That’s when over 90% of brain development occurs in a child. We know that in birth to one year old [children] that is also an important time. That is a time when we see increased numbers of child welfare and protective services calls and emergency room visits,” said Jeff Zayach, a public health expert and consultant who came out of retirement to help support Family Connects in Colorado. During the virtual discussion Zayach explained some of the benefits of Family Connects for communities needing to bridge families and community support that already exist for families today, highlighting much of the work that has already been done in Boulder to begin to use Family Connects as a bridge between hospitals and new and expanding families.  

Some of the evidence of positive benefits to communities and families after Family Connects is offered to all families in a community include: 

  • Emergency room visits and hospital overnight stays were reduced by 50% in the first year of life; these results were sustained but did not increase through the second year of life.
  • Mothers were 28% less likely to report possible postpartum clinical anxiety.
  • Community connections increased by 13-15%


The Family Connects model has also been shown to yield significant health-care cost savings (based on emergency room visits and hospital overnights) – as much as $3 saved for every $1 spent.

Kelly Stainback-Tracy with Denver Public Health, one of the local partners working with Illuminate to bring Family Connects to the Denver community, spoke about the program’s impact on building family connections to community programs. “One piece of data that was exciting to me, when I was looking at all the evidence and outcomes related to Family Connects, is that they looked at Family Connects families that received a visit when the baby was five years old. And what they found was even when the baby was five years old, they were more likely to be connected to more community resources than babies who had not received Family Connects. This is an outcome that holds over time,” said Stainback-Tracy. “[Family Connects] makes sure that every family gets a light touch and it helps those families who may otherwise fall through the cracks get connected to more long-term and on-going support.” 

Bringing this evidence-based program to all of Colorado, let alone one county,  will require many groups to contribute to its launch and success. It is an important part of the ongoing work of the the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families (“the Partnership”) which aims to create conditions where children and the adults in their lives can thrive. 

The Partnership is guided by three priorities: systems alignment, early touchpoints and community norms. Family Connects Colorado is a critical strategy related to early touchpoints, and through the Partnership; Denver Health, Denver Public Health, Denver Human Services, Jefferson County Public Health,  Jefferson County Human Services, Boulder County Public Health and Boulder County Housing and Human Services are all receiving support to demonstrate how to integrate Family Connects Colorado into the community.

The initial launch of Family Connects Colorado in these communities is funded through grants from the Zoma Foundation, as well as a Family Support through Primary Prevention Grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services through the Colorado Office of Early Childhood. Recurring gifts of Luminaries, have also provided stable and consistent support to Illuminate to grow this new program and strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. Illuminate is also seeking additional philanthropic support to ensure effective scaling and sustainability of Family Connects in Colorado.

Making a Plan for Safe Sleep in October

Making a Plan for Safe Sleep in October

October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to revisit the crucial practices that ensure the well-being of our little ones during their slumber. Safe sleep is not just a routine; it’s a commitment to providing the safest environment for infants, allowing them to grow and thrive. This month, we’re exploring what safe sleep is, why it’s important, and ways to prioritize it, even in unique circumstances.

Illuminate Colorado’s Statement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Necessary and Adequate Medical Care for Your Child is Not Child Abuse

Organizational Statement Opposing the Actions of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Providing necessary and adequate medical care to your child is not child abuse, and transgender and non-binary children need access to age-appropriate, individualized medical care just like every other child. 

Recently Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion classifying medically necessary gender-affirming care to youth as child abuse. AG Paxton’s statement stands in direct opposition to the evidence-based care recognized by numerous professional societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, Endocrine Society, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Illuminate Colorado can not stand idly by without speaking out against such an action simply because our programs and initiatives are focused on creating a Colorado where all children and families thrive. The children and families of Texas deserve our love and support as well as those in our own communities.

Our organization is proud to join our national partner Prevent Child Abuse America and numerous medical providers and child welfare advocates throughout our nation in opposing this legislation and laws that would deny healthcare access to any child, regardless of their gender identity. Such laws threaten the safety and security of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — children and youth.

Necessary and Adequate Medical Care for Your Child is Not Child Abuse

Additionally, transgender youth are subject to violence based on their gender identity, and suffer substance misuse, homelessness, suicidality, child welfare involvement and other negative outcomes at distressingly higher rates. Medical and mental health care can reduce serious risks to their health and well-being and lead to healthy, resilient children, youth, and families.

Please take action to strengthen the foundations of love, safety and support that enable all of our nation’s children to thrive. 

Contact Your State Legislators

Let them know you do not want similar legislation that prevents access to medically necessary care for any children and youth, including those whose gender identity is transgender or non-binary here in Colorado.  To find your state legislators, click here.

Share this Statement on Social Networks

Let others know you too recognize that providing necessary and adequate medical care to your child is not child abuse, and transgender and non-binary children need access to age-appropriate, individualized medical care just like every other child.

Make a Similar Statement From Your Organization

This is one way we can protect the children of Colorado and create an environment where they are valued, healthy and thriving. 

Thank you for building brighter childhoods, together.

Jade Woodard

Jade Woodard

Executive Director

Jade has served as the Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado since its inception in 2015, following 7 years as the Executive Director of founding partner agency, the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. 

Illuminating Leadership Award Recipients Light the Way Toward Brighter Childhoods

Illuminating Leadership Award Recipients Light the Way Toward Brighter Childhoods

For several years, Illuminate Colorado has honored the contributions of exceptional individuals and organizations who have furthered our collective mission to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. “The work that we do at Illuminate is never done in isolation, but always in collaboration. That is why we want to continue the tradition of lifting up others who are lighting the way toward better childhoods in Colorado,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado, who hosted several virtual award presentations over the course of the last several weeks.  

Read about previous Illuminating Leadership Award recipients:

Ray Washington – Lori Moriarty Leadership Award

The Lori Moriarty Leadership Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a career that exemplifies the achievements and character displayed by the late Commander Lori Moriarty. Lori Moriarty, a former Children’s Trust Fund Board Member, 20 year law enforcement veteran, and founder of both the Colorado and National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, was unyielding in her efforts to educate professionals on prioritizing drug endangered children.

Ray Washington, founder and executive director of Bigger Than Me and Fatherhood Support Services was presented with the Lori Moriarty Leadership Award in recognition of his career of service to strengthen families by strengthening fathers. Washington is a father, grandparent and kinship provider. He is proudest of his children and his faith.

“I’m just a vehicle that’s gonna bring them to the services, that’s gonna help them understand it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to share your emotion. It’s okay not to be where you might want to be, but have a plan to get there,” Washington said in the 2014 documentary “Finding Fatherhood: New Hope for Families in Colorado.” 

He has mentored and advocated for fathers across Colorado and filled the vacant father role for young men in his community for years. “When dads are involved in their children’s lives, the children do better – financially, educationally, emotionally and socially,” Washington said in a 2010 Colorado Community Media article. “When you stabilize the dad, you stabilize the family, and that helps stabilize a community.”

We were unable to hold a fireside chat with Ray, but the impact of his work cannot be overstated. Illuminate Colorado’s Executive Director Jade Woodard shared, “Over many years and in many spaces, you have been relentless in your advocacy to ensure community is represented and voices are lifted. You are a beacon of light and in our hearts, we believe that your advocacy and leadership has made Colorado a better place to raise a family and be a father.” 

Lisa Thomas – Courageous Leadership Award

The Courageous Leadership Award recognizes a person in elected office or public employee for distinguished service focused on the prevention of child maltreatment and strengthening families.

Lisa Thomas received the Courageous Leadership Award for her work supporting youth and families in Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Prowers counties as the About F.A.C.E. coordinator for the Collaborative Management Program. She is involved in leading child sexual abuse prevention efforts, building protective factors in families, and implementing Circle of Parents in southeastern Colorado.

Due in part to Thomas’ efforts, Kiowa County was the first county in the state of Colorado to reach the tipping point to create a new standard of child safety in the community. “That was our dream come true,” she said. “We thought, you know what, if we can do anything, we can certainly tip Kiowa County!”

Hopefully with the work that we are doing well here down in southeastern Colorado, we can lead the way for other people, other counties as well,” Thomas said.

Constellation Philanthropy – Catalytic Leadership Award

The Catalytic Leadership Award honors an individual or organization that has invested or inspired philanthropic investment to accelerate the prevention of child maltreatment and strengthen families in Colorado.

Constellation Philanthropy received the Catalytic Leadership Award for its work connecting individual funders who work and learn together to make a difference in Colorado’s early childhood landscape. Members learn about issues affecting early childhood in Colorado, discover organizations creating change, and explore opportunities to co-invest, but members retain complete control of their philanthropic dollars

Kate Reinemund, executive director of Constellation Philanthropy, said that the organization is most proud of “seeing all of these awesome innovations, awesome ideas that have been deployed in the ecosystem really grow and come to life.” For the last seven years, Constellation has been “supporting leaders in however they want to be taking on the idea of innovation in their own work,” she said.

Constellation will be sunsetting at the end of 2021, but over the last seven years, the organization has supported 74 innovative projects with over $7 million, and 37 families are now equipped to continue funding work and innovation in the early childhood landscape. 

Dr. Courtney Everson – Innovative Leadership Award

The Innovative Leadership Award is presented to an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to the field of child maltreatment prevention.

Dr. Courtney Everson received the Innovative Leadership Award for her work as a member of the Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee, co-chair of the Substance Exposed Newborns Data & Research Work Group, and lead evaluator for the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. 

Everson said that her work as a researcher is at the intersection of public health, prevention science, and social policy. She is a senior researcher/project director for the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab at the University of Denver and concentrates on maternal and infant health, child well-being, positive youth development and family strengthening.

One of the big questions Everson’s work strives to answer is, “How can we think about using research and evaluation to really uplift health and well-being for families, to think about moving from a focus of ill-being to true well-being, to think about moving from intervention to prevention, to think about moving from disparity to equity.”

Community Leadership Awards

One of the most powerful gifts you can give to future generations of Coloradans is sharing your lived experiences with policymakers or contributing your story to the narrative in Colorado to promote positive community norms that strengthen families and create impactful systemic change. In recognition of this amazing gift, Illuminate created a NEW award category – The Community Leadership Awards – to recognize those individuals who have dedicated an extraordinary amount of their time and openly shared their experiences to further systemic change and strengthen families in Colorado. 

The Community Leadership Awards recognize those individuals who have dedicated an extraordinary amount of their time and openly shared their experiences to further systemic change and strengthen families in Colorado.

Adam Combs and Adrian Nuñez

Adam Combs and Adrian Nuñez received the Community Leadership Award for their work facilitating two Circle of Parents groups in Colorado Springs: Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom. Circle of Fathers and Fathers of Freedom create a safe space for fathers to share their experiences, challenges and accomplishments with other fathers. Fathers of Freedom serves active duty and veteran fathers, and Circle of Fathers serves fathers statewide. 

Combs and Nuñez are looking forward to strengthening these Circles through in-person meetings and through Children’s Circle, a curriculum-based children’s program to build the social-emotional skills of the children of caregivers and parents attending Circles. 

Nuñez said that they were inspired to begin this work because “we realized that what we’re doing [with Circle of Parents], we’re able to break the cycle with a lot of things, especially when it comes to abuse.”

Combs said that this work is important for the community because “[t]he more we educate ourselves as parents, as fathers in our case, the better off our children can be to thrive.” 

In addition to this work, both fathers have been very open about their experiences parenting engaging with the media and even blogged on occasion to help create a stronger understanding in the community of how, together, we strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment.


Building a Fort on a Solid Foundation

by Adam Combs | Aug 25, 2021

Sometimes it is hard to quantify what it means to be a well-rounded parent, or in my case, father.  How many experiences should one provide their child?  How many activities should I be engaged in with her, personally?  How many lessons should she be signed up for?  I believe the answer is simple: as many as you both can handle.  That is just what we were doing until the pandemic hit and all our usual routines came to a screeching halt. 


RELEASE: One in Five Colorado Parents Say They Have No One to Turn to For Support

“The biggest reason I started this group was because being a stay at home father who is a combat veteran and has battled a lot of things over the years, at times have begun to feel isolated and withdrawn from the rest of society,” said Adrian Nunez, one of the founding members of the Circle of Parents group Fathers of Freedom, pictured with his two children.

Marilyn Fausset

Marilyn Fausset received the Community Leadership Award for her work as a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) advocate and co-chair of the Substance Exposed Newborns FASD Awareness Workgroup. 

Fausset was inspired to begin this work when she adopted two children with FASD. She said that when she retired from being a special education teacher, she wanted to work toward FASD awareness and education because she realized that “not everybody has that ability or that time.”

When asked what she would like to see change as a result of her advocacy, Fausset said, “I would like to see training for all professionals–anybody that we take our kids, even adults to–I would like all of them to know about FASD about the prevalence, and the effects, and the symptoms.” 

In addition to this work,  Fausset also helped launch the blog series Becoming FASD Aware, sharing the experiences of families impacted by FASD to strengthen families and build awareness, with her blog What good was his diagnosis anyway?


Diane Smith

Diane Smith received the Community Leadership Award for her work as a parent partner with Denver Parent Advocates Lending Support (DPALS) and chair of the Family Advisory Board to the Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee.

DPALS connects families with parent partners like Smith to help them navigate the child welfare system through peer-to-peer support, and Smith uses her voice on the Family Advisory Board to identify barriers in seeking support and services, raise awareness about best practices when working with families, and inform priority-setting within the SEN Steering Committee to best serve the needs of families impacted by substance use.

Smith said that “Family Advisory Board gave me an opportunity to share with others, to share my story, to share my worries and fears, my concerns with our system, be able to be that systematic change, implement our desires, and also be there for support for others.” 

Smith is also passionate about the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors framework because “we can foster that protective factor within our parents and the families that we’re working with, and we can strengthen and build them up to maybe have a voice of their own one day.”

She has been a mentor to countless other parents and caregivers and worked to inspire others to get involved in a deeper level to create and inform systemic change.

“It is important to involve families with lived experiences as voice partners in program improvements and systemic change because it is the best way for our systems to evolve. When people are trying to identify what works, what doesn’t work, and how we change things for the next family, it is important for families to give input and share their experience,” said Smith.

Toni Miner

Toni Miner received the Community Leadership Award for her work as a Circle of Parents in Recovery facilitator and outspoken inspiration to other families walking a similar path. Miner was inspired to begin this work because of her own recovery journey. “I want to be able to give back. I want help, like I said, really build that leadership in parents to help reduce that recidivism,” she said. 

Miner is most proud of watching parents in her Circles grow. “I watch parents come in very broken and feeling very alone . . . to see them become strong, wonderful people and wonderful parents, and to see them give back to each other and to help each other understand that they’re not alone,” she said.

In addition to hosting a local Circle group, Miner trains and coaches other Circle of Parents in Recovery facilitators helping to expand the capacity of other communities to support families impacted by substance use disorders.

Miner has seen the evidence that Circle of Parents strengthens families and builds protective factors. “Risk factors are not predictive factors because of protective factors, and I really believe that we are building those protective factors in families, and that we are serving families as a whole [through Circle of Parents],” she said.

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