In December of 2023, Illuminate welcomed Safe Babies, a program with a bottom-up approach to system and policy shifts that address the unique needs of infants, toddlers, and their caregivers who are entering or at risk of entering the child welfare system. The effort is rooted in honoring the experience of the individual family, respecting community culture, and using data to inform statewide efforts that globally support the well-being of all babies and their families.

Safe Babies consists of two components: Safe Babies Court Teams, an evidence-based intervention for families entering Child Welfare with at least one child under three; and Best for Babies, an innovative approach to preventing newborns from entering Child Welfare.

Today, we invite you to meet the exceptional professionals who make this program possible!

AnnaMarie Neal, LSW

Director of Safe Babies

As the Director of Safe Babies, AnnaMarie Neal manages the Safe Babies team, helping to strengthen families in complex situations impacted by public and government systems.

AnnaMarie comes to Illuminate as a Licensed Social Worker with a master’s degree in social work. AnnaMarie loves to watch families grow to their fullest potential and is passionate about supporting system shifts to ensure families can access the resources and support they need to thrive.

Erin Baker-Ojeda

Community Coordinator

As a Community Coordinator in Arapahoe, Erin Baker-Ojeda works on the family, agency, and community levels to advance systems change to better serve infants and their families who are involved in the child welfare system. She also partners with the community to bolster prevention efforts of child maltreatment and neglect.

Erin’s expertise in early childhood programming and passion for strengthening families drives her work in the Safe Babies program as they partner with families to navigate complex systemic challenges.


Veronica Ibarra, MPA

Community Coordinator

As a Community Coordinator, Veronica Ibarra works to provide families who are involved in the child welfare system the resources and connections they need to thrive. In addition, Veronica will be launching a Safe Babies Court Team in Huerfano County.

Veronica has extensive experience in Early Childhood Education, working with children 0-6 years old, as well as mentoring, training, and monitoring staff in early childhood programs. With a passion for working with individuals in her community to develop skills and knowledge to reach their goals, Veronica helps to provide resources and access to helpful programs.

Katie Newell

In-house Counsel and Safe Babies Statewide Manager

As the In-house Counsel and Safe Babies Statewide Manager, Katie Newell supports existing Safe Babies sites and assists with facilitation of the statewide expansion of the Safe Babies approach. She also leads the Safe Babies State Advisory Group.

Katie comes to Illuminate with experience as an attorney working in nonprofit law firms. Katie is committed to addressing the unique needs of children and their families so that all children have opportunities for success.

Melissa Pino

Pueblo Community Coordinator

As the Pueblo Community Coordinator, Melissa Pino provides a trauma-informed approach to working with children ages 0-3 who are involved in the Dependency and Neglect System.

Melissa comes to Illuminate with over 25 years of education and work experience in the Human Services field, working with people of all ages and genders. Throughout her career, Melissa has found a passion for helping others, and loves to see healthy and safe outcomes for families.

Sydney Salas

Best for Babies Program Family Navigator

As a Family Navigator, Sydney Salas works with new and expecting mothers who struggle with substance use or their mental health. Sydney provides resources to parents and connects them with basic needs to help get them back on track.

Mothers who struggle with substance use have a special place in her heart. Sydney has lived experience in this area, and has grown to see the beauty on the other side. Sydney’s hope is to help others see that same beauty, as well as help to ensure that children have healthy, happy parents.

Learn More About the Safe Babies Approach

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