State Rep. Leslie Herod is among the top honorees of the advocacy group Illuminate Colorado for playing instrumental roles in preventing the maltreatment of children.
The Denver Democrat received the Courageous Leadership Award for her work on issues affecting children and families. Illuminate cited House Bill 1193, Herod's legislation that extends behavioral health services to high-risk families, including pregnant or parenting women dealing with substance abuse.
"This bill helped increase access to great programs like Special Connections, an existing state program that supports high-risk pregnant women with substance use disorders," Illuminate said in a press release Friday. "The program provides a two-generation approach to helping women find a path toward recovery while preventing negative outcomes for Colorado children, such as child welfare involvement and future mental health and substance use disorders."
Herod said she was honored to get the award, and inspired by the women participating in Special Connections.
“We have a duty to help strengthen these vulnerable families by providing real treatment options for new moms and keeping mother and child together," she said in a statement. "That’s exactly what Special Connections does.”
Illuminate Colorado, the statewide nonprofit that advocates for children and families to prevent maltreatment, also honored:
- The Lori Moriarty Leadership Award (career achievement): Eileen Bisgard, who served as a guardian ad litem for 25 years in Colorado and taught the Child Advocacy Clinical Program at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. She is a former project director for the Seventeenth Judicial District Juvenile Court FASD Project and was the executive director of the Colorado affiliate to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
- The Catalytic Leadership Award (philanthropic partner): The Colorado Health Foundation for its investments in preventing of child maltreatment, according to Illuminate.
- The Innovative Leadership Award: Dr. Sarah Enos Watamura, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Child Health and Development Laboratory at the University of Denver, for her "focused attention on the impact of toxic stress in the lives of parents and children." She is also the co-director of the Stress, Early Experience and Development Research Center. Watamura has researched physiologic stress in young children for nearly 15 years.
"It is my honor to work with and recognize some of Colorado’s most effective leaders in the field of child maltreatment prevention,” Jade Woodard, executive director for Illuminate Colorado, said in a statement. “We present the Illuminating Leadership awards each year to shine a light on others because we know that prevention happens in partnership. No one organization or government agency can solve the public health crisis that is child maltreatment in Colorado.
"We are honored to partner these Colorado leaders in bringing about change that brightens thousands of childhoods each year and ultimately strengthens our economy.”