“We can reach thousands of professionals who serve families in America.”

– Jason Read, Senior Education Program Manager

As an early adopter of legal marijuana and edible use, Colorado has learned a lot of lessons about safe storage and safe caregiving, and about how to help caregivers take strides toward both. 

Our state saw a multiple-fold increase in hospitalizations due to accidental ingestions of marijuana products after legalization, which presented Colorado with a steep learning curve to identify strategies to keep kids healthy and safe. We’ve made leaps and bounds in prevention efforts, and we are ready to share our knowledge with other states that are now facing similar challenges and opportunities.

States that are now legalizing marijuana and edibles are in an excellent position to benefit from the lessons Colorado has learned and the knowledge base we’ve built. Through the development of the Smart Choices Safe Kids Conversation Guide Training, Illuminate Colorado has identified how family services professionals can help caregivers practice safe and informed caregiving and similarly empower those around their children to do the same. 

The Conversation Guide Training also works to help family services professionals move away from placing stigma and bias on substance use and toward a strengths-based, harm reduction approach that clears the way for preventionists to make effective progress with families. 

The commonality of substance use across the country makes the tools Colorado has developed around having conversations with families about substance use applicable to communities in every state. The recommendations around safe storage and safe caregiving are evidence-informed and acknowledge that the use of substances is common and can include over-the-counter, prescription, legal substances–not just illicit substances. Through universal discussions with all families on safe storage and safe caregiving, stigma and bias is reduced, creating space to work with families and build upon their strengths.

Illuminate Colorado is ready to help other communities hit the ground running when learning to equip families with the tools for safe caregiving.

Illuminate Colorado is partnering with the National Center for Health, Behavioral Health and Safety and Head Start to bring the Smart Choices Safe Kids Conversation Guide Training to Head Start professionals in the United States. 

Head Start and Early Head Start programs combine to serve families with children from before birth until the age of five. Supports include preschool, child care, home visiting programs, prenatal services, and health care services–and now, Head Start professionals will be equipped to have strengths-based conversations with families across the country about safe storage and safe caregiving.

Jason Read, Senior Education Program Manager at Illuminate Colorado, hosts up to 45 professionals in Conversation Guide Trainings twice a month.

After the training, professionals receive the Conversation Guide, 10 locking safe storage bags, parent handouts in English and Spanish, and ongoing support and consultation, no matter where they are located in the U.S.

The universal sharing of the safe storage bag with each family provides a prop for professionals to start a conversation on safety in general, and also provides an important tool for families to use to lock away substances or other items that may be harmful to children.

As a former Head Start Family and Community Partnerships Manager, Jason knows firsthand how important it is for family services professionals to be prepared to have conversations about substance use with all caregivers. Head Start families, like all families, need to manage the risks associated with substance use, and professionals need to know how to help them do so.

Jason explained that when he worked with Head Start, he would have benefited from the information and materials associated with the Conversation Guide, which would have helped to start conversations that he has since developed an instinct for and is now able to pass on to professionals across the United States through the Conversation Guide training.

Are you a Colorado-based family services professional outside of Head Start? We have Conversation Guide trainings for you! 

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