Who says Christmas miracles only happen in the story books? Longmont had his own Christmas miracle this year and it’s the best kind… One for the kids. Children’s first of the Rockies provide a critical service in our community, and they’re the only organization in Boulder County that do so: they provide safe and secure locations for families in crisis to have supervised visits so kids can maintain connections to their parents. Longmont city council met in chambers to approve the upcoming budget on December 18th, the last meeting of the year, and they changed course on their staff recommendation to not fund CFR for the 2019 year.
Personally, I had never realized how important supervised visitation was until I dated a woman who was in a conflict relationship with an ex and needed supervised visitation for her own daughter. Being there to witness the real life situation and watching the stress and the strain of a young single mother working to maintain connection with her daughter is one of the most powerful and moving experiences I’ve ever had.
Children First of the Rockies Executive Director Mandy Walker sent me this video to hear first hand, from Marissa, why CFR is so important.
The services CFR provide is such an important aspect of family unification and maintenance that the city of Boulder has been funding Children first of the Rockies for years, through thick and thin. In fact, Director Walker shares, Boulder County has funded CDR with $70,994 each year from 2016 – 2019. City of Boulder funding in 2016 and 2017 was $5,000 each year; in 2018 it was increased to $10,000 and is confirmed at $10,000 for 2019. And the City of Longmont funding in 2016 was $15,000 plus $1,680 in-kind donation. In 2017 it lowered to $10,000; In 2018 was at zero and 2019 is currently at zero.
CFR is a very important organization for the city of Longmont. Of their Boulder County clients in 2016, 69% came from Longmont and 10% from the city of Boulder. In 2017, 27% came from the City of Boulder and 53% from the City of Longmont. In 2018 YTD, 19% came from the City of Boulder and 71% came from Longmont, according to data provided by CFR. There is critical need in Longmont, which is why they want to stay there.
Director Walker is quick to point out that there were tumultuous years for CFR, where she had to personally step into the role of executive director, moving from the board of directors, to help right the ship. Demonstrating with increasing numbers and currently no waiting list the need in the community for this service, Longmont had proposed in their 2019 budget to cut 100% of funding for the organization. Karen Roney, in presenting the 2019 Human Services Funding Recommendations, noted that they had received applications for funding requests from 41 agencies to fund 46 programs, totalling $1.3 Million. In the end, a total of $679,308 was recommended to fund 31 agencies and 31 programs. Not including CFR.
You can watch the entire council meeting (or just the relevant portions) here. Karen Roney’s presentation begins at approximately 2 hours 44 minutes and Mayor Bagley begins his remarks at 2:54.
The effect of a cancellation of funding would have been devastating for CRF. Fallout would include any number of reductions in services, compromising of protocols, and a possible relocation of Children First of the Rockies outside of Longmont towards areas where more funding was available, further into Boulder County with locations opening up in areas like Lafayette and Louisville.
From all outward appearances, things were looking bleak. Director Walker had begun the meeting by reading a letter of support from Judge Bakke, Chief Justice for the 20th Judicial District, into the record. There seemed, however, no way to alter the funding levels recommended. At the last minute, once Roney had finished her presentation, a Christmas hero spoke up. At the conclusion of Ms. Roney’s presentation on funding, Mayor Bagley spoke up about the service CFR provides to the community and the need for Children First to be funded. “The concern I have….I think it would be a mistake to look at Children First of the Rockies as just a safety and justice category. A lot of times in our society, we look at parenting time as the right of a father, and of a mother, to be with their child. That is not the purpose of parenting time. Children have not only a right to visit with their parents but, psychologically, it has been proven that children at young ages that are taken away from a parent that they have bonded with, it really messes them up.”
Concluding his remarks, Mayor Bagley said, “There are all kinds of reasons why children are taken away from their parents and the option the judges go to are facilities like Children First of the Rockies, where they say, ‘You know what, I don’t know what’s going on but you can go to Children First of the Rockies. You get two hours, two times a week to visit with your child. And there’s a professional there that can observe and watch and make sure that dad or mom and child are in a safe loving environment with professionals to make sure that this goes well.’ So, it’s not only safety and justice, but it’s health and wellbeing of that child, and it’s also self sufficiency and resilience. I always joke that if you want to see your child grow up to be a criminal, take him away from Mom and Dad. And so, I think it would be a mistake not to fund it.”
In fact, if you don’t know why CFR was opened to begin with, here’s the tragic origin story: “On January 26, 2000, Annie and her children, Levi, who was three-months shy of his sixth birthday, and fifteen-month-old Emma, were killed by her ex-husband when she dropped the children off for a court-ordered visit with their father. This tragedy prompted community representatives from the court, law enforcement, legal system, and mental health to form a task force to address the critical issue of how escalating violence between separated and divorced parents was affecting children in those families.”
All that was left was the council vote. Longmont city council did indeed vote to fund Children First of the Rockies for another year, to the tune of $12,500.
Walker wrote to her donors that, “Long (well, not as long as the prairie dog debate) story short, the Council voted unanimously to fund us for 2019. I am ecstatic about this result. I was not expecting a decision on Tuesday – I thought there would be some post-meeting back and forth but then again, I’m not very familiar with Council procedure.
This means that we can stay open seven days a week and we don’t need to cut our program staff. We’re all breathing a sigh of relief. What a fantastic way to end out the year. But wait, we do still need your help. We’d love to restore our Parenting Plus psycho-educational group. We need $5,000 to do that. Could you help us with this?
The easiest way for you to donate is to either mail us a check or donate online at ColoradoGives.org – yes, they support donations year round and not just on Colorado Gives Day. Another benefit of donating through Colorado Gives is that you can make it completely anonymous, if that’s what you would prefer. Please know that no donation is too small.”
We all know that in a world that funds war and subsidizes corporations, it’s often community services that suffer. Who gets the money this year? LGBT services, abortion access, children services, homelessness services? There never seems to be enough for everyone. We would make the argument that taking care of our children from day one means the services they will require will be fewer and further between later in adulthood. And with that, we’re grateful to report that this little miracle, in this little corner of Boulder County, in Longmont, has made this Christmas a happier one indeed.