In 2003, Eileen Forlenza of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) conducted a listening tour to learn about what was and was not working in Colorado communities to assure Colorado’s children and families were healthy and thriving. She found that families were eager to learn how they could contribute to positive change in their neighborhoods, their schools, and their state. However, families also expressed a lack of knowledge, skills, and leadership tools and they did not see themselves as leaders able to engage in the civic process and work with policy and decision makers to make improvements in their communities.
After extensive research in 2005, families and key partners determined that Colorado did not have an organized, systemic leadership development mechanism accessible to families regardless of income, education level, gender, age, or societal status. Attending a national conference on early childhood in 2006, family leaders learned about the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). PLTI is a non-partisan and proven family civics initiative created by the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors (formerly known as the Commission on Children).
With a strong grassroots effort, families collaborated with CDPHE and held a Family Leadership Forum, developed and facilitated by family leaders in 2007 with more than 200 statewide strategic partners in attendance. These leaders endorsed PLTI as the primary curriculum to anchor Colorado’s strategy to increase leadership skills and capacity among families in local communities. In 2008, three communities, selected by CDPHE and partners, created FLTI. These sites started programs based on readiness criteria that included a strong commitment to family engagement. In June 2009, 43 family leaders graduated from the first FLTI classes in Arapahoe, Montelores (Cortez), and Adams counties. Early Childhood Councils (ECC) sponsored these inaugural classes and CDPHE supported them for success.
In 2010, Colorado expanded to two additional communities – Denver Five Points and Larimer County. A local grass roots organization sponsored the Denver class, while the Larimer County class had strong ties to Colorado State University Extension (CSUE). With five FLTI classes running simultaneously in 2010, it became clear that FLTI requires strong local support that reflects the culture and strengths of the community.
With support from CDPHE, The Colorado Health Foundation (TCHF), Family Resource Center Association, Colorado Department of Human Services, Brain Injury Program, Office of Early Childhood, family leaders, and many other local host agencies and community sponsors, FLTI grew to 14 communities across Colorado by 2016 including Aurora, Boulder, Eagle, Lake, Mesa, Montbello, Prowers, Pueblo, and Summit. This year, FLTI celebrates close to 1,000 graduates prepared for community leadership roles in Colorado. This success invites additional committed communities to join FLTI in the coming year.
July 2016 marked the next step for FLTI as CSUE assumed leadership to meet FLTI’s growing programmatic and administrative needs. A long-standing partner, CSUE is committed to honoring the role of families as partners to co-create solutions to our communities’ most difficult problems. CSUE has a proven track record in civic engagement, a statewide reach, and expertise in community-based program development related to healthy outcomes for families. They are dedicated to serving current and future needs of Coloradans by providing educational information and programs that safeguard health, increase livelihood, and enhance well-being. CSUE also brings expertise with a two-generational FLTI training program funded by USDA/NIFA’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) initiative. Anchored by shared leadership, civic engagement, and inclusivity, FLTI will continue to be a transformative family and civics leadership training throughout the state of Colorado.