Colorado’s Family Friendly Workplace Approach

By Tomei Kuehl, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Colorado is one of five Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Essentials for Childhood recipients and chose to focus on employer engagement as one a strategy to address child abuse and neglect prevention and promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. The Colorado Essentials for Childhood project leveraged partnerships and resources to develop the Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit, which provides employers with evidence-informed practices and policies that enhance employee health and well-being.

The Colorado Essentials for Childhood project is rooted in a collective impact approach that brings in diverse voices to the issue of child abuse and neglect prevention. A collective engagement of multi-sector partners and stakeholders allowed for the identification of a missing partner at the table: the business sector. A challenge arose in translating our values and purpose from a public health lens to one that was more business sector oriented. Another challenge was developing a set of requests for active participation in child abuse and neglect prevention from the business sector. For example, what is the role of business in child abuse and neglect? Early efforts to engage business highlighted how disparate the language between public health and business is and indicated a lack of readiness on behalf of the public health sector to have these discussions.

As a result of identifying the business sector as a missing partner in child abuse and neglect prevention and understanding the limitations of the public health sector in understanding the connections between business and child abuse and neglect prevention, the state leveraged funding from its Rape Prevention and Education program to hire a researcher to conduct a literature review and develop a toolkit. The literature review identified best practices to support worker health and well-being and the development of Colorado’s Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit. The toolkit, which is now in its second edition, was developed through partnerships with several organizations including: Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC), Children’s Hospital Colorado, local public health departments, city governments, and others. The toolkit provides evidence-informed best practices proven to support employees with different needs, and can ultimately lead to better health outcomes for workers and their children. An additional critical partnership developed with Health Links, a program of the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health, and EPIC resulted in the development of a Family-Friendly Assessment. The Family-Friendly Assessment (FF+) is an organizational tool that businesses can use to identify the needs and priorities of employers in order to create environments that are supportive of families.

An outcome of developing the Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit has been increased interest from both businesses and local partners in family friendly practices. Over 1800 hard copies of the toolkit have been disseminated to partners across the state, and the electronic toolkit has been shared with national partners as well as agencies from other states. The toolkit also resulted in the creation of business forums where leaders from the business sector, healthcare, public health, education, and others convened to learn about best family friendly practices in their fields. Colorado business leaders have shared ways that they have made their organizations more family friendly. Additionally, 55 businesses have taken the Family-Friendly Assessment offered through Health Links to assess their level of family friendly practices. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently took this survey, scored well, and has been highlighted as a family friendly department within the state system. Governor Hickenlooper’s Office is encouraging each department to take the family friendly assessment, discuss variations in results, share best practices related to address equity, and increase family friendliness within the workplace.

The development of the Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit and the Family-Friendly Workplace Assessment have been successful because they provide a meaningful mechanism to engage with the business sector in child abuse and neglect prevention. The toolkit provides case studies that can be used as a road map for other businesses interested in being more family friendly, and the assessment provides tools and coaching to help businesses implement family friendly practices. Colorado has been approached by other states interested in replicating the toolkit and using customized case studies, which would be a great way to leverage the research already done to individualize the toolkit for a state’s unique context. A lesson learned through this process is how difficult it can be to engage businesses. The Colorado Essentials project is still working to understand how to best engage businesses directly; however the toolkit and the assessment are useful tools to beginning those discussion as we strive towards more concrete business sector involvement.

For more information, visit CDPHE’s Family Friendly Workplace Assessment and Workplace Toolkit webpages.