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Supporting families in El Paso County

Michael, a single parent of two boys ages two and three, recently moved from Denver to Colorado Springs. Without family or friends in the area, he didn’t have child care options. When a medical emergency brought him to a hospital, he was referred to KPC Kids’ Place, a safe haven for children and a respite for their caregivers.”Things in the hospital were chaotic,” Micheal said. “I felt reassured having my kids at KPC Kids’ because the house was welcoming, and the staff was very caring with my kids. It was such a relief.”There are many reasons that children end up at KPC Kids’ Place. Those who do will find a safety net and a stable environment.Pikes Peak Family Connections operates the center from a leased house in a Colorado Springs neighborhood. Children age six and under, as well as their family members, are welcome, and families are encouraged to seek assistance at the center when they need it.”KPC Kids Place is for a parent or caregiver when they get to a point when the stress is too much,” said Jane Boehringer, a Pikes Peak Family Connections board member.”We want them to come to us. We don’t ask a lot of questions, there is not a whole lot of red tape. We want to help them.””We promote a safe and healthy child-parent connection, while preventing child abuse and neglect,” said Annette Blackhart, coordinator of the nursery at KPC Kids’ Place.Blackhart said the center opened in 2004 in collaboration with Ascension Lutheran Church – church officials lease the house to the center for $1 a year.Collaborating with other agencies in the community helps to ensure that children and families do not fall through the cracks. “There needs to be a seamless array of services to reach families,” Blackhart said. “We’re not just a band-aid. We’re more of a support system to build a support network.”The center offers emergency child care for up to three days and is the only facility in Colorado licensed for three-day respite care. Most parents seek help while job hunting or during medical emergencies because they have no other child care options, Blackhart said. Some children arrive because they are court ordered. Other children are there because their caregivers may suffer from depression or other illnesses. Some caregivers are dealing with domestic violence or drug-related issues.Maranda Wagner recently moved to Colorado Springs from Denver with her 6-month-old daughter and boyfriend. “We wouldn’t have made it,” Wagner said of the help they received at KPC Kids’ Place. “They plugged us into resources in the community. If they can’t help out, they will find someone who will.”With no friends or family in the area, Wagner said dealing with a sick newborn was difficult. “The first four months after she was born were horror. She wouldn’t eat. She threw up what she did eat. That made her always hungry and always fussy,” Wagner said. “She had problems, and we had problems.”Wagner’s daughter had Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease, and Wagner and her boyfriend have bipolar disorder. Wagner also struggled with severe post-partum depression.She was referred to KPC Kids’ Place but said she was reluctant to seek services because she was scared and worried they might try to take her daughter away.”People shouldn’t be scared or feel bad like it makes you a bad parent,” Wagner said. “Reaching out for help is the best thing you can do for your kid and your family.”Blackhart said the group works hard to get to know the families who seek their help. “When we build a relationship, then we know better what the families need,” she said. “We can connect them with other parenting services in the community.”The staff at KPC Kids’ Place has just over three full-time staff members with backgrounds in social work, psychology, early childhood development and in-home day care. One staff member is bilingual. Volunteers are an important part of the center as well, Blackhart said.As a nonprofit organization, the center is reliant on donations from the community. The generosity of the donors is ensconced in the facility’s features. For each $100 donation, a Van Briggle wall tile, engraved by Performance Awards, is placed on the entry wall at KPC Kids. The donor can specify what they want the tile to read. For another $50, the donor gets an additional engraved Van Briggle tile as a keepsake.Blackhart said the cost of providing 24-hour care to one to four children is $72.The center received $180,000 worth of in-kind donations to renovate the house, and Wasson High School students painted the kitchen and decorated the downstairs playroom. B & J General Contractors finished the renovation when the original contractor quit. Paul Davis Restoration built a stage for plays and replaced a freezer. Wal-Mart donates all the diapers, and local citizens make blankets for the children to keep after their stay.A $5,000 annual donation enables a donor to adopt a room at KPC Kids’ Place. The donor can then choose the room’s theme. Two rooms are currently available for adoption.”It’s such a unique program. When you go through there you can’t help but smile,” Boehringer said.KPC Kids’ Place is just one service provided by Pikes Peak Family Connections, which has had a presence in Colorado Springs for 30 years.The Nurturing Parenting project is an intensive 16-week program that offers a class for parents and a class for their children. The same concepts are covered in each class so both the parents and kids can relate to the information presented.Second-hand smoke prevention is important to PPFC, and an educational program about the effects of second hand smoke is eye-opening for many parents. “The statistics are mind boggling,” Boehringer said. “We offer a lot of facts about what happens to people in the family because of second-hand smoke.”Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is a support group designed to help the grandparent/caregivers find babysitters and network with others in similar situations. “With this program people feel like somebody else understands their problem,” Boehringer said. “Somebody else understands what they are going through.”PPFC just implemented a Speakers Bureau related to the PPFC programs. It’s available to community groups.Boehringer is anxious to get the word out about PPFC. “I don’t think the community is aware this exists,” she said. “I want people to know there is a place and there are people who want to help them out when there are problems and stress in the family.”Donations, volunteers and grant money keep PPFC operating. Grants from charities such as Ronald McDonald House Charities Foundation, Front Porch Giving and the Carl Cousins annual golf tournament held during Colorado Springs Child Week are just a few of the charities that benefit PPFC.In 2006, about 900 families utilized PPFC programs, Boehringer said.”Our whole goal is to prevent tragedies,” she said. “We want people to get help before it gets to that point.

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