By Carie Canterbury
(Originally published April 30, 2019, by Canon City News)
Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month officially has come and gone for the year, but the concentrated effort to support families and prevent child maltreatment in Fremont County continues to move full force ahead.
Starpoint Fremont Family Resource Center recently was awarded a five-year grant that will fund the position of a prevention coordinator who will collaborate and coordinate existing efforts in Fremont County and bring them all together, focusing on economic stability, youth engagement and family-friendly workplaces.
The Community Based Child Abuse Prevention grant is $50,000 a year for five years.
The coordinator will work with local chambers of commerce, the business sector, Communities That Care and others to create economic security for families, a safe place for children and youth and support for employers.
“We are not going out and reinventing anything, we are taking what we already know is happening in the community and pulling it together,” said Kathleen Kennedy, the Family Center coordinator.
The coordinator will be hired in the next couple of weeks and will begin talking to entities across the county.
One of the first tasks that likely will happen is putting together some type of community family-friendly workplace recognition award.
The coordinator also will partner with the Workforce Center and community college to host a job fair and coordinate a training for employers on what a family-friendly workplace looks like based on a tool kit developed in partnership with Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, Kennedy said.
“We recognize our business sector, and we want to pull them in intentionally to work with all of our family development programs across the county,” she said.
They also will discuss employers’ systems and how they support child care arrangements for new employees and time off for workers when their children get sick.
“We’re not going to tell them how to do what they’re already doing, but we want to be able to offer them some best practice and ask how we can we support them in supporting their employees so that we have a really strong workforce,” Kennedy said, “recognizing that when you have a strong, stable workforce, when parents know where their kids are going to be and how they are going to be cared for, maltreatment numbers drop.”
This implementation process will be a five- to 10-year process.
Starpoint, Fremont County Department of Human Services, Fremont County Headstart and the ECHO Council first wrote a proposal for the Child Maltreatment Prevention Framework for Action (Framework) Community Planning Grant, which they received. They spent the next eight months working with an external facilitator to go through an intense process of identifying resources in the community, gaps in services and where prevention efforts could be focused.
In addition to financial assistance from the Colorado Office of Early Childhood, the grant included extensive support from Early Milestones Colorado, a nonprofit intermediary that serves as a statewide conduit for best practices and high-impact ideas that promote success for young children and families in Colorado.
More than two dozen community coalition partners took part in the community framework planning process.
“We really wanted to focus on economic stability through job readiness — do we have employees that are ready to work? Do we have employers that can support them in a family-friendly workplace?” Kennedy said. “And we looked at getting folks ready for college.”
She said supporting the employment piece is the base of economic security for families, which is significant in this county.
“When they have a job, then everything else falls into place — they can drive, they can have a place to live and they can feed their family,” Kennedy said.
Planners finished the process in July 2018, and Starpoint wrote the second grant to access funding to put the planning scope of work into action in the community.