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This fall, the “Advocates for Children” will proudly give the “2008 Friend of Children Award” to Jo Blum in recognition of her strong advocacy on behalf of Colorado’s children. Blum will be honored at the Advocates twelfth annual “Red Wagon Ball” on Saturday, October 11, 2008, at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver.

For over 25 years, Jo Blum has made abused and neglected children her number one priority, and she has become known as “One of the best friends an abused or neglected child can have.” Jo Blum was the Executive Director of Families First starting in 1991 and stepped down in 2007 because she was undergoing treatment for cancer. Still involved with Families First, Jo works on a part-time basis completing tasks in several critical areas, such as Major Gifts, for the organization. Jo is feeling strong and positive and ready for the next phase in her life.

The “Advocates for Children” Executive Director, Peggy Rudden, commented: “Under Jo’s leadership, Families First has become one of the best resources for child abuse prevention, helping to protect kids by providing their parents with the tools they need to create a safe, permanent home,”

As we all know, America’s future is in our children. No one can guarantee how good a child's future can be, but with fierce advocates like Jo Blum, we can give all children a fair chance at a good life. Jo, congratulations and thank you for all your hard work and your many accomplishments as an activist on behalf of our most precious resource - our children.

How many children do you think are victims - or are at risk of abuse and neglect in our community? As many as 50,000 of Colorado’s children may be victims of abuse and neglect each year.

About how many families benefited from the programs you helped implement at Families First? When I served as Executive Director, Families First expanded its family services and its geographic reach throughout the state to serve about 5,000 families annually.

If you had to zero in on the most important component to prevent child abuse and neglect, what would it be? Positive Parenting. Families First offers support and resources to help parents put the needs of their children first.

What other non-profits are you also involved with at this time? I’m on the board of Cancer League of Colorado.

Can you give us some history behind the Families First organization? Families First opened its doors to children and families in 1986. We set out to accomplish our mission of providing services which strengthen families and protect children from the cycle of child abuse and neglect. Our founders believed that child abuse prevention was more than a social ideal – it is a social necessity and it requires proactive community involvement.

The greatest need at that time was to provide emergency residential care for abused and neglected children. Human service agencies called at any time of the day or night in need of care and treatment for children as young as three years old. Our Children’s Treatment Center staff and volunteers provided the much needed services to heal the hurt.

Moving children out of harm’s way was certainly a critical need but unfortunately, it did not correct the heart of the problem. Strategically, Families First developed services to help parents to stop harming their children in the first place. Today, we are still providing excellent treatment for children who have been abused and neglected and have expanded community services in order to help parents keep their children safe in their own homes and safe in their own families. The Family Center, which opened in 2006, now serves as the hub for these family support services.

During our first year of operation we impacted the lives of 100 families through one parent support group and 10 beds in the residential program. Over the past 21 years we have grown to offer a toll free, statewide, Family Support Line, free information and referral services to Spanish speaking parents, low cost parent education classes, free weekly parent support groups in addition to residential care for up to 10 children suffering from child abuse and neglect.

Staff and volunteers work side by side to accomplish this mission. With the help of a dedicated Board of Directors, the members of Friends for Families First, and supportive donors, we work together to create a caring community for children today and into the future.

They say “change is something we can always assume will take place.” What keeps an organization going strong, no matter what may be changing around them? At Families First, our founding spirit is stronger than ever. Some volunteers come and go; some staff come and go; and some children come and go. Each leave a part of themselves in some way, and each person experiences that families can be as temporary as a few weeks or as permanent as a lifetime. And home - well home is where the heart is, no matter where the heart lives.

When do you feel you are most in your element? In my hammock with a good book!

What do you feel most dedicated to at this point in your life, and what do you want to make your mark doing? Making a difference in the lives of children and families.

What do you do to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind? Deep breathing and laughter!

What is your fondest childhood memory? Family dinners at my grandmother’s house.

How does one hold on to their true self and still become successful? I believe that success can only come by being genuine and authentic.

Is there a special “aha” moment in your life when you knew “I get it now!”? Not yet!

Is there a saying, motto, or “words to live by” that is your favorite? “Asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Who is your favorite singer/actress? I love music and Barbra Streisand is my all time favorite.

What is your biggest fear? Fear, itself.

What’s in the future for Jo Blum? I envision health and happiness.

What is your hope for the future of Families First? That the organization continues to evolve as the leading family resource in Colorado. That would put a smile on my face.

How do you want to be remembered? I would like to be remembered as someone who recognized and encouraged the best in others.