Preventing child maltreatment encompasses a vast number of issues for children, families and communities. Improvements in resources that all families can draw upon in the community to raise their children help prevent child maltreatment. By this measure the passage of legislation to fund full-day kindergarten was an incredible investment in the prevention of child maltreatment that Illuminate Colorado proudly supported.

The passage of the following bills, all of which have been signed into law by Governor Jared Polis, will also significantly impact Colorado’s capacity to prevention child maltreatment and strengthen families.

Because we know children and families thrive when parents and caregivers have access to the support they need, Illuminate prioritized the following during the 2019 legislative session:

  • Ensuring pregnant and parenting women have access to support services including substance use disorder treatment by reducing barriers
  • Supporting access to paid time off for parents and caregivers to care for their families
  • Ensuring Colorado understands our data to inform preventative strategies

Illuminate Colorado supported SB19-228 Substance Use Disorder Prevention Measures because prevention and early identification of problematic substance use is protective. Pregnancy and the postpartum time period are psychologically and physiologically increased times of motivation to improve health and wellness, including addressing behavioral health issues. The Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee of the Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, and the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab partnered and identified a need for objective scientific research to find data-driven interventions to improve screening and treatment of pregnant and parenting women with substance use disorders. SB19-228 addresses this need by linking maternal and infant health records to shape our state’s understanding of prenatal substance exposure and to inform future efforts to improve outcomes across generations.

SB19-188 establishes a study of the implementation of a paid family and medical leave program. Given that we know children and families thrive when parents and caregivers have access to the support they need, Illuminate Colorado’s policy priorities for the 2019 legislative session included supporting access to paid time off for parents and caregivers to care for their families, as well as ensuring Colorado utilizes data to inform preventative strategies. We look forward to this study leading the way for a data-informed family medical leave insurance program to benefit Colorado families.

SB19-063 Infant and Family Child Care Action Plan addresses the decline in family child care homes and shortages in infant child care throughout the state. Access to affordable child care is critical for the wellbeing of families. In order to create a strategic plan and data-informed interventions, an understanding of Colorado’s child care market is necessary. 

HB19-1122 works to develop a streamlined and official maternal mortality review process. The recommendations made by this committee will be crucial in identifying what changes need to be made to reduce maternal mortality and keep families together. As maternal mortality disproportionately impacts those in rural areas and those of lower socioeconomic status, it is clear to Illuminate Colorado that this review committee is essential to strengthening underserved families throughout Colorado.

Because we know children at risk of child abuse and neglect are best supported when identified early and when services are provided to the family, Illuminate prioritized the following during the 2019 legislative session:

  • Ensuring communities are equipped to prevent child sexual abuse and protect children;
  • Supporting implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act; and
  • Revising the Children’s Code related to prenatal substance exposure.

Illuminate Colorado, as well as the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition, supported HB19-1136 Modernizing Marriage Laws for Minors because it protects children. HB19-1136 prohibits youth under the age of 16 years old from obtaining a marriage license. This change reduces nonconsensual marriages which may in fact be cases of child sexual abuse. There are certainly instances when an underage youth may desire to get married, however it is vital to ensure children and youth are given the opportunity to be safe and supported in this decision. 

HB19-1030 Unlawful Electronic Sexual Communication prohibits adults in positions of trust from sending sexually explicit material, including text alone, to minors. Child sexual abuse can take many forms, including forms that are not physical. HB19-1030 will help clarify the parameters within which adults can behave or act, and puts the needs of the child where it should be, in the forefront. 

Illuminate Colorado, working alongside Mental Health Colorado, advocated for HB19-1193 Behavioral Health Supports for High-Risk Families because services and policies that help strengthen families ultimately help kids develop their potential. By using a two-generation approach to support both parents and children, HB19-1193 is a critical piece of ensuring pregnant women and new mothers can find a path toward recovery while supporting positive outcomes for Colorado’s children. Child care can be a key component in maximizing child safety by ensuring children are cared for in a safe and developmentally appropriate manner.  These bill’s innovative child care pilots will help Colorado prepare for the implementation of the federal “Family First Prevention Services Act” which allows for reimbursement for preventive services such as mental health and substance use disorder treatment for the child’s parent as a way to reduce risk to the child. HB19-1193 helps kids by helping parents.

Updating the Colorado Children’s Code to align with federal Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act requirements related to substance exposed newborns is one of Illuminate Colorado’s top policy priorities for the 2020 legislative session. By creating a clear and consistent application of the child abuse and neglect definitions related to prenatal substance exposure, we can reduce fear and prevent substance use during pregnancy by ensuring women can access the care they need while keeping Colorado kids safe.

Look for more information in the Fall of 2019 about Illuminate Colorado’s priorities during the 2019-2020 legislative session.

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