Invest in Kids' (IIK) mission is to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable young children and families throughout Colorado. Working in partnership with local communities, we identify, introduce, implement, and ensure the success of research-based, proven programs.
While we have made significant gains over the last 16 years, current data suggests this work is needed more than ever before. According to the 2014 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado, since 2000 only two states have seen a larger percentage increase in the number of children living in poverty than Colorado. Among all Colorado children, those under the age of six are most likely to be in poverty (one in five children). The American Journal of Pediatrics and many others have documented the connection between poverty and a higher likelihood of experiencing toxic stress and related mental health issues.
According to the American Medical Association, for the first time in history the top five disabilities facing children in the U.S. are mental health problems rather than physical ones. Adults with mental, behavioral, or development problems as children missed more school, had fewer educational opportunities, and worked an average of seven fewer weeks per year translating to a 37% decline in family income. Further, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission 2013 Annual Report highlights decades of research showing high-quality early learning and care programs increase kindergarten readiness. However, in Colorado 16,000 children arrive in kindergarten classrooms each year unprepared to keep pace with their peers.
How Invest in Kids Counteracts the Effects of Poverty:
Invest in Kids implements programs with proven effectiveness - in other words, programs that have been documented to produce life changing outcomes through a minimum of twenty years of clinical, scientific research. Just some of our program outcomes include:
- 48% reduction in child abuse and neglect;
- 29% decrease of subsequent births among first-time, low-income mothers;
- Significant increases in school readiness and academic achievement among 3-5 year old children;
- Significant increases in the employment of first-time, low-income mothers at an average age of 19;
- 59% decrease in future arrest rates of program participants (program intervention ending at age 2, follow up at age 15);
- 91% success rate in reduction of child conduct problems both at school and in the home among 3-5 year old children;
- 92% success rate in improvement of program participants' (3-5 year old children) social skills associated with protection against later development of juvenile delinquency and other problem outcomes.
Invest in Kids was founded by a group of attorneys and other community leaders who were concerned about the increasing achievement gap between higher and lower income children and the increasing number of serious crimes committed by kids from a low-income background. This unique team of professional and socially-minded individuals helped create the foundation of standards and execution essential to our high level of effectiveness. Over the years, that commitment to success has not wavered.
Today, our board of directors still enjoys the active participation of seven founding members.
Greetings! Thank you for continued support and for taking the time to explore what we have accomplished over the past year at Invest in Kids. From day one, our vision has been to provide programs with the highest quality of evidence proving their ability to positively impact the life trajectory of Colorado's most vulnerable children and families - we couldn't do it without you. With steady growth again this year, we are now reaching more families than ever before. While the growth is important, it is the high-quality implementation of the programs that drives us, and it is the combination that yields our impact. At Invest in Kids, results are never in question. The two programs we implement - Nurse-Family Partnership and The Incredible Years - are proven prevention solutions in the effort to help struggling families in Colorado thrive.
In addition to the stellar program outcomes, 2015 was a hallmark year in national recognition for the importance of our work. In March, Invest in Kids was featured by "Exploring Innovation in Community Development," an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to investigate the connection between soft skill development in early childhood settings and later workforce development issues. Invest in Kids participated as a case study of a wide-scale implementation of programs with proven evidence to make an impact in this area of children's lives.
In May, the Center for High-Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania re-released "Invest in a Strong Start for Children: A Toolkit for Donors on Early Childhood". Specifically, the toolkit highlights Nurse-Family Partnership and The Incredible Years as two of the highest-impact opportunities within early childhood. The toolkit goes a step further to identify Invest in Kids' value-added implementation approach as essential to getting the very best outcomes for kids.
In July, the American Public Health Association published the most recent report demonstrating statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills at entry to kindergarten and young adult outcomes across multiple domains including education, employment, criminal activity, substance abuse and mental health. In fact, the researchers utilized the same tool to measure prosocial communication and emotional regulation skills that our independent evaluator uses to measure the impact of The Incredible Years each year in Colorado.
Despite the many successes reflected on our journey, our efforts remain vital. We are humbled by the generosity of so many who make this work possible. We remain committed to you and these partnerships in support of a healthy future for Colorado's most vulnerable children and families.
Lisa Hill - Executive Director
The Incredible Years Child Teacher Program:
Julie Steffen, Director of The Incredible Years program at Invest in Kids, recalls when she was starting out as a preschool teacher in the program:
"I worked in a classroom with kids with really challenging behaviors and then kids that were in the community pretty typically developing. That summer, I got a phone call from our evaluation team saying, 'This pretty challenging kid is coming your way.'
"I reached out to the mom and my first interaction with her was she just wanted to know what the process was for when he would get kicked out of the preschool. I said, 'That's not going to happen where we're at,' but that's just an indication of how challenging he was and at four he had every diagnosis under the sun already.
"The moment he walked into the classroom, everything everybody had said was true. He had horribly violent behavior and threw things, kicked things, and yelled horrible things. When I learned the Dinosaur School strategies and techniques, they certainly helped this little guy learn ways to calm down.
"But I think what the indirect benefit was is that not only did he learn the strategies, but the other kids in the classroom were able to talk to him and give him suggestions on how he could calm down.
"I remember one example of him sitting at a table, and the papers and markers went flying and this little sweet girl just put her hand on his back and said, "It's okay, I know you're really mad right now and you just need to take some deep breaths." So he made new friends and was invited to birthday parties and he never got kicked out.
"He was able to transition into kindergarten without a whole lot of intense behavior support. That was pretty life-changing and I was the recipient of training from Invest in Kids and got coaching. I feel like the support that I got helped to implement that tool, and I think of the ripple effect this program will have on his life and the lives of those other children."
The Incredible Years Parent Program:
Being a fulltime stepmom of two children ages 11 and 12, and a biological mother to a 5 and 1 1/2 year old kept one parent extremely busy. Along with claiming to have a lack of quality time to spend with her children, she felt a large amount of stress at home. This parent decided to enroll in a parent group because her stepchildren not only would not listen to her, but were openly defiant. On top of this, she felt accusations of favoritism were constantly arising. She joined the Incredible Years Parent group almost half way through the series at week six. In just six weeks, she was able to see amazing results.
After attending the Parent group, she is more organized at home and is a more proactive parent. She feels confident in her ability as a parent and is spending more time with her children. The communication situation in the home has also improved immensely--between her husband and all her children. By praising positive behaviors and applying the lessons learned at the Parent Group, her relationship with both her biological and stepchildren has improved. She is also seeing even more tangible results as her step daughter's school grades have risen. As a result of participating in The Incredible Years Parent Group, this overstressed mother has seen great outcomes and is much happier!
Rhonda was sixteen when she began NFP at three and a half months pregnant. Raised primarily by her mother, who was in and out of treatment for drug and alcohol problems for over 15 years, Rhonda was living in a safe house when she found out she was pregnant. The father of Rhonda's child was sixteen and, when she found out she was pregnant, was also serving a 6-month sentence in a juvenile facility.
Throughout her pregnancy Rhonda kept all of her prenatal and WIC appointments despite the fact that she did not have transportation. The nurse home visitor made numerous referrals and since that time Rhonda has found an apartment in a homeward bound program which assists young families in stabilizing to the point that they can find living arrangements independent of the program. Rhonda was also able to locate resources to have her car repaired so that she would have safe and reliable transportation.
Rhonda delivered a healthy baby girl weighing 7lbs 8 ounces in January 2003 and she continues to breastfeed! Currently, Rhonda is enrolled in the TANF program and she and her child receive monetary assistance, food stamps and Medicaid. Rhonda begins classes this summer at the local community college and hopes to obtain a degree in psychology. She is also working part-time as an assistant to the Family Advocate Program in her county. NFP was Rhonda's link to local resources. It offered her the encouragement to put her life together after being homeless along with facing an unintended pregnancy.
Suzy is a 21-year old Caucasian woman who was a substance abuser and as a consequence had lost the relationship with the father of her child. Pregnant and lost, she was enrolled in NFP early in her pregnancy. She is a severe asthmatic who lives in a small home with her smoking mother. With Suzy's nurse home visitor working closely with her and connecting her mother with a strong smoking cessation program, Suzy delivered a full term baby boy. She is now enrolled in the local Community College pursuing a degree in Nursing! She chose nursing after having some initial interest but her commitment to the field was solidified by her experience with this program and her wonderful bond with her nurse home visitor. Today, Suzy is drug-free, her asthma is well under control and her mother is down to smoking just a few cigarettes a day and never in their house. Her baby is four months old--breastfeeding, thriving, and developmentally ahead of other babies his age.