Family Voice Council


Three photos of Family Voice Council members speaking during meetings

Check out our new Child Welfare Family Advisory Council

The Colorado Department of Human Services recently created the Child Welfare Family Advisory Council in order to include family voice and lived experience in providing feedback on Division of Child Welfare planning, policies and procedures. The goal of the Family Advisory Council is to improve the design and delivery of high-quality child welfare services to the youth and families in Colorado.

Visit the Child Welfare Family Advisory Council page

What better way to improve Colorado's human services than to ask those Coloradans who have actually used the services? At the Colorado Department of Human Services, we recognize the value of family participation and engaging the voices of those with lived systems experience — engaging and listening to the voices of families is a guiding principle of two-generation programming.

The Family Voice Council is made up of people who have been involved with, or are currently engaging in, two CDHS services or programs. Council members come together monthly to learn, give input and ultimately affect positive systems change. The Council's mission is to improve the quality and delivery of services for all Coloradans through giving thoughtful input and achieving personal goals. Members are able to share their honest experiences and provide feedback as a guide for the future.

Childcare, transportation costs and stipends for time well spent are offered for members' participation.

Mission statement

Voices of the family advocating for more equitable and accessible human services for all.

Stories Shaping Systems

The Family Voice Council influences changes to systems, programs, communications and perspectives across CDHS. The Family Voice Council Stories Shaping Systems report and executive summary highlight the feedback, input and changes made in over 50 statewide programs and efforts.

Final Family Prosperity Parent Fund Report

The Final Family Prosperity Parent Fund Report compensated eight Family Voice Council members and alumni on nine different projects. All projects were aimed at increasing family engagement and incorporating family voice.

Plan for the future

Download the Family Voice Council's plan for the future here.

Contact information

Have questions? Contact Family Voice Council coordinator Chelsey Hall at 303.866.5310 or chelsey.hall@state.co.us.

Family Voice Council alumni

Farduus Ahmed, Denver

Farduus Ahmed photo

I am a former refugee who has 13 years of experience working with refugees and immigrant communities. I am currently working with Hope Communities as a grant and partnership administrator. I am also a community navigator, supporting Colorado's refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seeking populations for self-sufficient and local integration in their new home, Colorado. I am a graduate student at the University of Denver, pursuing a master of social work degree and interning with CDHS. I am a professional certified interpreter/translator, providing services for courtrooms, hospitals, conferences, schools and social services. I engage elderly refugees and communities in activities targeting healthy lifestyles as well as supporting communities on their paths toward self-sufficiency integration, and freedom. I joined the Family Voice Council to make a room for affected communities to be at the table to speak for themselves and talk about human services impacts.

Benu Amun-Ra, Aurora

Benu Amun-Ra portrait

I am a single mother who is a caregiver and provider to a child with a disability and an elderly mother with a disability. I have been in the system providing care and being an advocate for myself and my family for more than 18 years. I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council because I value social justice and want to advocate for better quality of life for the disabled and elderly community. As a Council member, I hope to be the voice of the people. I serve in the community and have an active role in enacting positive change by raising awareness of the challenges and obstacles that people with disabilities and the elderly face every day. I am a devoted sci-fi and comic book fan and am currently creating a comic book with my son that addresses childhood challenges like bullying, social media and relationships.

Mickey Axtell-Mauck

Photo of Mickey Axtell-Mauck

I am a grandparent who raised my granddaughter from the time she was 18 months old due to being removed from her drug- and alcohol-addicted mother. I received assistance for Child-Only TANF, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC and other services with Family Tree to meet the needs of the child and family.

I am a master’s-level retired educational counselor with experience working with marginalized populations such as educationally and economically disadvantaged students, displaced homemakers, single parents, domestic violence survivors, first in family to attend college, and those with disabilities. 

I work part-time in a job I love facilitating grandparent, adoption and kinship family support groups with Peer University at Aurora Mental Health Center. I serve on the Colorado Kinship Alliance, recently served on the Kinship Foster Task Force, and I’m a certified Grandfamily Support Group Leader. I also serve on the leadership council at my church where I oversee fundraising. I am a compassionate and fierce advocate for grand and kinship families, which will carry throughout the work I do with the Family Voice Council.

A. Baker, Denver

A. Baker portrait

I work and inspire in Denver, focusing on the Montbello and Park Hill communities. I bring more than a decade of experience in human services as an advocate for children, youth and families in the 18th and 2nd Judicial Districts. As a member of the Family Voice Council, I speak for the voiceless youth who are often silenced by lack of opportunity, a specific call to action or acknowledgment of worth within the process. I was inspired to join the council because of my wide range of community resources, my passion for helping youth and contributions to the human services systems from practical experiences. My goal is to continue the approach to share and develop an opportunity for youth voices to be at the table of all levels of the work we do in Colorado. In my spare time, I continue to develop new ways to connect with youth in the community and schools to improve low neighborhood attachment communities. I have done this through recording studio projects for youth and National Night activities.

Danielle Bohannan, Denver

Danielle Bohannan headshot

I am a 27-year-old mother of color, raising my 2-year old son solely by myself. I was born and raised in Colorado. I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council due the challenges I experienced with my SNAP, TANF and Medicaid benefits. I plan to use my voice to create positive change that will help my community understand the state and county systems so they can easily apply for and receive benefits. I also plan to use my voice to help CDHS understand the challenges I experienced, what needs to be improved, and how outreach programs can be more effective to help those in need.

George Davis V headshot

George Davis V

I am a Denver native and father of two beautiful children. Never did I imagine that the joys and tasks of being a father could be so honoring and humbling at the same time. And being a Denver native is something I cherish — I love and want to help my city.

My journey as a community ambassador started when my children were young. I have learned how to advocate for my children, and in doing so, for all children. I have been on both sides of our Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) as a recipient of assistance and a victim of circumstance. I use the word "our" because it is just that — our CDHS. I joined the Family Voice Council to be a voice for those who feel voiceless and to help better the services our department offers.

Gail Engel, Larimer County

Gail Engel portrait

My husband and I are raising our grandson with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder/Autism. In my struggle to find resources for our family, I found myself advocating for other kinship families. As a member of the Family Voice Council, I seek to be a voice for Colorado kinship families. I am a member of Generations United's Grand family Advocacy Network Demonstration, Colorado's Family First Prevention Services Act Implementation Team, and the Larimer County Alliance for Grand families. I speak on behalf of grand families at the county, state and federal level. I am the founder of a non-profit organization, Grand Family Coalition, Inc., which offers supports to grand families. By being that voice of the kinship families, I aspire to bring about change and support for a multi-generational problem and hope to engage families in raising the youth of our future.

Samantha Fields headshot

Samantha Fields

I am a single, disabled senior, a survivor of domestic abuse, have experienced homelessness, and live with depression and anxiety. I have 12 years of experience in the health insurance industry, though now disabled, and I currently benefit from Medicare, Colorado Medicaid, and an Elderly, Blind, and Disabled waiver. I started doing patient advocacy in 2011 but didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. I just wanted to help other people who dealt with the same medical, behavioral health, housing, food insecurity, and transportation issues that I had to live with. It was empowering to realize that my lived experience was a valuable resource. 

Being a member of the Family Voice Council will give me an opportunity to learn more and use that knowledge to continue helping people in my community. When I’m not serving on advisory councils, sharing my story through video, print and digital media, and attending patient conferences, I enjoy writing, watching movies, traveling to new places and meeting new people, spending time with animals, and watching birds and wildlife.

Tamra Frye, Pueblo

Tamra Frye headshot

I am a single mom to a delightful preschool-aged child. I am currently studying to become a social worker and eventually would like to attain my Licensed Clinical Social Worker certification. I enjoy volunteering, running and exploring nature with my son. I joined the Family Voice Council to help make a difference, to share my strengths and experience, and ultimately to have my voice be heard. I hope to continue to network with new people across the state, further my professional development skills, and learn about resources that might better help the families I serve. The voices that I bring to the Family Voice Council are homelessness, addiction recovery, single parenting and home visitation.

Janelle Jenkins headshot

Janelle Jenkins

I am a mother of two, a social worker, an expert lobby day trainer, and a community advocate who is seeking to end injustice everywhere. I am passionate about mental health services in the community, and sit on several subcommittees with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. I helped launch the successful Educare Parent Ambassadors program in Denver and continue to be vital to quality improvement. Most recently, I have been an incredible advocate for birth equity. I look forward to working on the Family Voice Council to help make a positive difference in our community.

Charles Kelley, Thornton

Charles Kelly portrait

I am a retired hospitality expert and current beneficiary of Colorado Access services. My journey with the Family Voice Council is an active exercise in learning about the complications associated with public assistance benefits. My purpose is to organize the information associated with all the known benefit and service programs available in our state today, and to create a clear and concise document, so the average individual can understand and know what is available to them, where to go, and how to access those benefits that have been designed to assist, edify and help individuals be restored, and live their lives to the fullest and be an active participating member of society. I am a proud American who believes in "a hand out to help up." Growing up in the 1950s and '60s, I was thrust into the welfare system, because of divorce and desertion by my father. My embarrassing shame that turned into victory and reward is evidence of how public assistance can enable and get people out of hopelessness and into happiness and success. I have been married to Mary, my childhood sweetheart, for 45 years, and have three successful adult married children and three grandchildren. I am an avid outdoorsman and enjoy the rich outdoor resources Colorado offers.

Princess Mack, Aurora

Princess Mack portrait

I am an active parent representative dedicated to bridging the gap in identifying community issues that need parent representation. A mother of two generations of special-needs children and grandmother to three special-needs children, I have accepted the baton to continue the marathon of sustainable parental/family voice. I am a recipient of food assistance, Medicaid and LEAP. I joined the Family Voice Council because I want to further my voice through an authentic platform. As a member of the council, I hope to connect with presenters on upcoming and current programs and provide a family lens and access additional opportunities to lend my voice. I am a co-chair of the CDHS Young Child Wellness Council and a tangible asset in my community: a connector of resources that have been untapped by families who are unaware or uncertain how to maneuver through the resource maze. I put into practical application the four E's: engage, educate, empower and encourage.

Dwayne Meeks headshot

Dwayne Meeks

I am a father of five and an influential community leader who lives in and represents Denver. I am a My Brother Keeper’s honoree, advocating for fathers and families and a voice for families marginalized by inequities, injustices and systemic barriers where they live. I have been recognized by the mayor and governor for my contributions. As a member of the Family Voice Council, I speak for the support of parents and at-risk youth. I am an author and speaker and was inspired to join the Family Voice Council to be a voice for the voiceless and to make a difference in people's lives. My goal is to suggest ways to reaffirm fathers in the family foundation and their importance in the lives of their children as well as giving fathers a platform to be heard and understood. During my leisure time, I enjoy exercising, meditation, writing music and being with family and close friends.

Amber Messmer headshot

Amber Messmer

I am currently a recipient of SNAP benefits. As a Family Voice Council member, I speak for the blind community. I joined the council to help create accessible pathways for those with disabilities, while growing alongside my council members in regards to my advocacy skills. I hope to continue advocating while finishing my bachelors’ in criminal justice and psychology, and eventually completing my law degree.

Loe McDaniel, Littleton

Loe McDaniel photo

I am a recipient of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits who represents the voices of SNAP users, young African-American men and the blind community. I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council so I could be a voice for those who aren't being heard. I hope to be a bridge between those who aren't being heard and those who really want to help solve public issues. As a young black man who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., I witnessed or experienced a lot of behavioral issues, violence, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, miscommunication, etc. I have always been one to speak up for what's right and be a voice for the unheard, especially as a gunshot victim and survivor, and I hope to continue spreading my voice to speak up for those who want change.

Susan Moritz

Susan Moritz headshot

I am a single mother raising three girls. I'm a current recipient of SNAP, LEAP and TANF. I joined the Family Voice Council because I love being an advocate for people in need who might not know of available programs. My goal is to gain more knowledge about the available programs to be able to assist my community. Also to be able to provide feedback to CDHS about others' experiences and struggles with these programs. I also care for animals and would consider myself an advocate for them since they don't have a voice. 

Jessica Needs headshot

Jessica Needs

I am a biracial, single, deaf mom from a third-generation deaf family. I have three amazing children, two of whom are deaf, and together we are active deaf advocates in the Colorado Springs community. I am a third-generation recipient of SNAP and also a recipient of LEAP, mental health services, Colorado Crisis Services, and the Division of Youth Services. As a Family Voice Council member, I am representing the BIPOC deaf community for SNAP, LEAP, mental health services and youth services recipients.

I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council since it takes a village to raise a child and make change in the world. I plan to focus on improving communication accessibility using American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters on human services websites, expand mental health and youth services to offer more providers to meet client needs, and change Colorado’s qualification to match federal-level qualifications to help end the cycle of hunger. My goal is to make Colorado a top state for the best place to live. In my free time I enjoy reading, meeting new people, watching movies, trying new recipes and projects, skiing, camping, hiking, and love spending quality time with my family and friends.

Elizabeth Newton, Fort Collins

Photo of Elizabeth Newton

I am a married grandma raising my twin 10-year-old granddaughters. In the mid-1980s I was a recipient of what was then called AFDC (now known as TANF), SNAP and lived in low-income housing in Loveland. Because I increased my household by two, my husband, Roger, and I qualified for benefits such as LEAP and child-only TANF. As a member of the Family Voice Council, I am a voice and advocate for other grandparents raising grandchildren, and I advocate for programs to help low-income families of Colorado. I was inspired to join the Family Voice council to speak for those who cannot advocate for themselves and to demonstrate that young women can grow and thrive in their lives and careers. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my granddaughters, cooking, and doing yoga and meditation.

Queen (formerly Dedria Johnson)

Queen portrait

I work in public relations and am an advocate and sometimes a catalyst for underprivileged families. The voice I bring to the Family Voice Council is that of diversity and experience, being a single grandparent of a large multicultural and multigenerational family. My goal while on the Council is to share information to close the gaps in a system that is designed to keep a community or culture of people oppressed for generations. People of color are becoming more aware of themselves, and that needs to be mutually respected from other cultures during our time of healing, while educating willing communities of the nation of people we truly are.

Aline Ratliff, Aurora

Aline Ratliff portrait

I am currently raising my granddaughter who was removed from her home by human services because of parental drug use. I also have family members with mental health issues, and I volunteer with refugees to help them with TANF, SNAP and LEAP. As a Family Voice Council member, I represent kinship providers, refugees and their providers, as well as former youth who were involved in youth services and mental health treatment. I joined the Council because I was so pleased that Colorado wanted to hear from people who are impacted by state services before making decisions to change them. I now work as a Family Support Specialist facilitating the Grandparent/Kinship Support Group for Aurora Mental Health to serve grandparents and other family members who are raising their relatives' children. In my personal time, I like to craft and camp with my family.

Jessica Rowell, Colorado Springs

Jessica Rowell headshot

I am a kinship caregiver to my 3-year-old nephew and I have an 18-year-old biological son. My son and I are currently receiving Medicaid and enrolled in TANF for my nephew. I joined the Family Voice Council for the opportunity to have the kinship caregiver voice be heard. The voices of families are underutilized without much if any compensation. I want to make a difference for those in kinship care and their caregivers by hearing what is available and suggesting improvements and needs to be addressed. For fun, I like to ride horses, play card games with my son and train my dog to be a therapy dog.

Kevin Ryder, Pueblo

Kevin Ryder portrait

I first became involved with the Family Voice Council through Catholic Charities of Pueblo. At the time, my two younger children were involved with Parents as Teachers (PAT) and Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY). The programs help parents promote optimal early development, support parents in engaging in their child's development and support school readiness. I would like to see programs such as these expanded beyond urban areas to rural communities. I am a U.S. Army veteran who fought in the Gulf War. I have three boys, ages 26, 6 and 4. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, bow hunting, fishing and traveling.

George Seals headshot

George Seals

I lost my job after the economic crash in 2008. This led me into homelessness. I want to spread the message that we're all human and we all go through rough times. I want to bring the community together. Since becoming a part of the Family Voice Council, I've enjoyed speaking to bring awareness. This helps others understand what homelessness and the importance of mental health are actually all about.

Jeanette Snider, Fort Collins

Photo of Jeanette Snider

My experience with human services includes working as a journey-level clerk at an early age, helping department and case managers with tasks within TANF, SNAP, LEAP, Medicaid and the Child Care Assistance Program. I have also been a recipient of these same services.

As a Family Voice Council member, I have the honor of bringing my lived experience within these programs to decision-makers who are curious to know how they are doing and what could be improved within the user experience. I have had the opportunity to and carry the voice of generations before me and advocate for the generations to come. I hope that our children will be able to participate in deciding their futures with expediency and reliability to make adaptations where needed.

I grew up in a rural community where we depended on each other for our livelihood. It is so important to include every community member in these conversations and I am overjoyed to know that the program is expanding. I hope to empower myself and others through my participation with the Family Voice Council.

Rosalie Tallbull, Denver

Rosalie Tallbull portrait

I am a grandmother raising a 10-year-old grandson. I moved to Denver from my home reservation of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana in 1986. I am retired from the University of Colorado and worked for many more years in advocating health care for Native Americans at the National Indian Health Board. When I heard about the Family Voice Council's formation, I set my sights on being selected. I am a proud member of the council and know that every member of the council is a strong advocate for the many families who are in our communities and rely on the services of the Colorado Department of Human Services. I know that many Native American families have trouble navigating the many policies of the state and hope that advocating for them at this level will make a valuable difference. I enjoy sewing, designing and making jewelry, and love spending time with my family.

Angela Romero, Pueblo

Angela Romero portrait

I grew up in a poor household in Pueblo and was raised by my grandmother, so I utilized social services. Now I am a parent educator for the La Familia Fuerte/Parents As Teachers program and I assist families with community resources. As a Family Voice Council member, I represent families with children. I was inspired to join the council because I know my voice is important and my experiences and the experiences of my families matter. Change begins with a voice, no matter how small. I hope to share my personal experiences and my family's experiences to help make decisions on approaches for services and to better the services that are already in place for families. I am passionate about helping others. I believe that spreading love is the only way to drive out hate and I try to show people love and understanding in everything I do. My family is my world. I love being a mom to my two children. I love books and anything educational.

Diane Smith, Otis

Diane Smith headshot

I am married with three children. My siblings and I were placed in foster care at a young age, which is the reason I am passionate about helping families who are dealing with the child welfare system. ​​​My husband and I volunteer with the Denver Parent Advocates Lending Support Program (DPALS), and I work part-time with Denver Human Services' Child Welfare Division as a peer support specialist with DPALS. I serve on the Office of Respondent Parents Council of Colorado and the Parents Panels for Denver County Court and during Colorado legislative sessions. I am a presenter for new caseworker training for Denver Human Services, and have also been featured in educational and awareness videos. My hope is to break the cycle of children in foster care and provide the necessary tools to help parents be successful.

Christina Tigner, Pueblo

Christina Tigner portrait

I was born and raised in Pueblo and am a housing counselor with Catholic Charities. I work with people who have had hardships and are at risk of losing their homes. I am also a caseworker for nearly 200 clients for whom our agency is a representative payee. Every program in our agency has ties to human services - such as SNAP, Adult Protection, Child Support Services and TANF - because of the needs of our clients. When I heard that the Colorado Department of Human Services was willing and wanting to hear the voice of the people who use these services for the purpose of changing things to make it easier and more efficient, I wanted to be a part of the change not only for our clients but for the future of all recipients. I am a single mother who was a recipient of WIC, some of the child programs at Catholic Charities and still a recipient of Child Health Plan Plus. Without the help of WIC and CHP+, I never would have made it. On a personal level, I am a musician and a bilingual singer and entertainer. I play trumpet, drums, guitar and keyboard, and traveled all across America singing and entertaining for nine years.

KimNichelle Rivera, Thornton

KimNichelle Rivera portrait

I am a single mom and an advocate for families who have children with mental, emotional and behavioral disabilities. One of my two grown sons has had mental health issues since he was 6, and I have navigated the mental health system on his behalf. Most of the work I do is special education advocacy in schools, and I participate on advisory boards and task groups where I know I can make sure the family voice is heard. I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council by the enthusiasm of the council's staff. While on the council, I hope to continue to make sure the family voice of the population I serve is heard and taken into account where applicable. I want to share my knowledge and experiences as well as learn from others, all in the hopes of paving more positive paths for other families in the future. I am a Colorado native, I love winter and the snow, and I have two furry pups.

Melisa Ruiz, Thornton

I am a parent of children who receive disability benefits. I joined the Family Voice Council because I want to ensure that families have a legitimate voice within the Colorado Department of Human Services. As a member of the Council, I represent parents who have children with behavioral health needs. During my time on the Council, I hope to help change or restructure policies that impact families within CDHS. I am proud to support Colorado's two-generation initiative, which includes the Family Voice Council.

Mary Sanders, Denver

Mary Sanders portrait

I am a student at Metropolitan State University in Denver majoring in interpersonal/relational communications and family services. I came to Colorado from Phoenix in 2012 and have received Medicaid and food stamp assistance since moving here. I was born blind, and I joined the Family Voice Council because I believe in promoting strong advocacy for statewide services within multiple communities including the disability community. I represent the blindness community as an activist in order to make sure all social services are accessible, including application and website accessibility. During my time on the Family Voice Council, I hope to promote overall growth in state-funded programs to help families obtain vital services. I also hope to strengthen policies, introduce potential options for other community members, and grow from others' experiences.

Ealasha Vaughner

Ealasha Vaughner headshot

I am a single mother of two beautiful daughters, ages 8 and 5. I am also an educated businesswoman and a children and community advocate. In my spare time, I love to spend time with my girls and complete various graphic design projects. I am affiliated with Clayton Early Learning, Colorado Fiscal Institute, 9 to 5, Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, Denver Great Kids Head Start, and many other amazing community organizations. I joined the Family Voice Council because I want to be the voice for the voiceless and encourage others to use their voice. Our voices are so powerful and what we say does matter!

Ray Washington

Ray Washington bio photo

I am a nationally recognized fatherhood consultant and educator, executive director of Fatherhood Support Services, Inc. and co-owner of the Dallas Street Opportunity Center. I have moderated fatherhood panels for the National Fatherhood Initiative, National Fatherhood Clearinghouse, Colorado Fatherhood Practitioners Network and other national and local forums. I am currently, or was previously, a member of the Family Voice Council, Early Childhood Council, Responsible Fatherhood Leadership Council, and on the Board of Directors for Mary’s Hope Sober Homes. I was invited to the White House, where I was recognized for the work I've done in Colorado with fathers and re-entry citizens.

Jasmine White, Denver

Jasmine White portrait

I am a recipient of government services who is going to school to study social work in human services. I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council because I enjoy learning about the ins and outs of policy and community advocacy. I also wanted to expand my network base for my future career in social work. As a member of the Council, I represent single parents, nontraditional students, parents of children with learning disabilities, and recipients of SNAP, TANF and Medicaid. I enjoy being engaged in the community and I want to make sure people who have no voice are heard.

Meet the Family Voice Council (video)

Join the Family Voice Council

Interested in serving on the Family Voice Council? Complete our online form or download our flyer (also available in Spanish), which includes a mail-in application form.

Tools for creating your own member council
Screenshot of Family Voice Compass website

If your organization is interested in creating a member council like the Family Voice Council, check out our Family Voice Compass website. The Family Voice Compass provides useful information, tools and resources to help create your own family voice structure for your organization, program or department. These tools are based on the model used by Colorado's Family Voice Council and will help your efforts to focus on those who have actually utilized your services and programs.


Current members

Judi Atwood headshotJudi Atwood

I reside in Boulder County and am a devoted mother to children with neurodivergence. As a survivor of domestic violence, I've become a staunch advocate for those navigating the family courts in Colorado. My commitment extends to actively collaborating with legislators to champion family court reform for survivors of domestic violence.

In addition to my advocacy work, I volunteer for organizations such as the Office of Judicial Excellence and Speak Up for Kids, where I empower Colorado children to have a voice in legislative matters. Utilizing my experiences, I actively participate in the legislative process, assisting in the passage of bills aimed at enhancing the lives of families within the family court system. My voice and lived experiences find expression on the floor of our state Capitol.

Having transitioned from a decade-long career as a Silicon Valley engineer, I am currently a volunteer freelance writer with COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative. Through my writing, I fearlessly share my experiences within the Boulder County family court. My mission is to ensure the safety of domestic violence survivors and Colorado children within the Colorado family court system. I am honored to be a part of the Family Voice Council and eagerly anticipate collaborating with this incredible team.

Jen Blalock headshotJen Blalock

I live in Fort Collins and am a mother of a daughter with special needs. My experience with human services has been wide and far. I have participated in SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, Medicaid waiver CHRP, Child Welfare, adult and adolescent mental health services, and Colorado Crisis Services.

The community I have come to represent is youth mental health and behavioral health services. My family has lived through many experiences, and I want to share those experiences in a way that matters and can make a difference. I was inspired to join this committee due to the struggles we came across trying to utilize youth behavioral services and the difficulty navigating the system. For years I didn’t feel like my family or myself had a voice in what we were going through.

However, through this wonderful committee I now can share our lived experiences and find my voice, and I am so thankful for that! My goal is to provide feedback and input to these types of programs in hopes that it makes a difference for families to come. Change is change no matter how big or how small and that is what I strive for.

Bob Conkey headshot

Bob Conkey

I live in Adams County and all my family (mom, son, brother, nephew, niece, grand nephews and nieces) are scattered across Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, and Larimer counties. I was born in Texas, but have lived in Colorado for more than 50 years. I have a long history in education and advocacy and have worked with a variety of groups and task forces focusing on topics that include Medicaid, behavioral health, maternal/perinatal healthcare, nutrition and food access, and social determinants of health. I currently sit on councils for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), Colorado Access, and the State Equity Taskforce. My primary goal in joining the Family Voice Council is to learn more about the programs under CDHS and how they work (or don’t) for the people receiving services, the people providing those services, and the people paying for those services. Understanding the systems and how people interact with them is the first step to improving them for the benefit of all of us.

Crystal Jackson

Crystal Jackson

I am a military spouse of 19 years and a mother. My husband and I raised and adopted our niece and nephew, who were recipients of Child Only TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Medicaid. I was motivated to join the Family Voice Council to help mainstream the process for kinship/adoptive families in the system, and to support mental health services for children and adults. I am a strong advocate and voice of mental health and special education in the school system since my son, who has intellectual disabilities, has experience on both sides, negative and positive. I would like to help make the process easier for other families.

I work at a city mental health agency working with adoptive families and grandparents raising grandchildren. When away from work, I enjoy spending time with my family.

Tasha Koncar headshot

Tasha Koncar

I am a resident of El Paso County and have been a recipient of various services through CDHS on and off throughout my life since I was a child. I am currently a SNAP, CHP+, and Brain Injury Waiver recipient. I am a lifelong brain injury survivor, suicide survivor, and survivor of our state’s human services systems, mental health services, and the criminal justice system. I have learned to use my voice to advocate for myself to have gotten where I stand today. One of the biggest contributors to my recovery and success is Khloe Jade, my service dog of 11 years.

I joined the Family Voice Council to use my voice to help accomplish and implement change to improve quality of life for all humans. I want to help build trust within our state's systems and services, and be the tar that fills the cracks in our systems.

I enjoy sports, having played women's semi-pro football, hiking, music, educating myself on various topics, and gardening. I am passionate about life and helping others to help them overcome the battles of life. I am also a peer/mentor with Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado.

Ron Redd headshotRon Redd

I live in Fort Collins and my involvement in human services revolves around SNAP, Medicaid and vocational rehab. I strive to represent the often overlooked group of young men who have been discouraged from showing vulnerability. I hope that joining this council will give me the opportunity to enhance my advocacy skills for both myself and others who have silently suffered. On a lighter note, I’m a tech enthusiast who finds joy in building computers and staying updated with the latest technological advancements and tech trends.

Joanna Rosa-SaenzJoanna Rosa-Saenz

I am a single mother of three incredible young boys, who motivate me each day as I live each moment fully with a thankful heart. I engage deeply in the community by being a grassroots organizer for the past 20 years. My interests are expansive, ranging from entrepreneurial endeavors to political matters. I always engage in projects that honor the complex nature of human life and support underserved communities. I credit God with all of my accomplishments.

I am a Denver native who grew up in a small country town that instilled integrity, a sense of community, and a strong work ethic. As a young adult, I moved back to northwest Denver where I planted my roots. I am committed to changing my community through my philosophy of "Helping one person a day!" Whether it's navigating the human services system, offering notary services, or using education to empower other voices to speak up and take an active role in their communities, my daily commitment is evident. I put in the hard work that I like to call 'heart work,' to truly represent the will of the people in the communities I support. My organic approach enables me to build relationships that last a lifetime, being a bridge-builder and an asset through my strong voice and dedication to the community and everyone's humanity.

I am the Founder of a faith-based Colorado non-profit, Joanna Saenz Enterprises, that is internationally known to promote education, advocacy, and allies to increase public awareness globally. I love spending quality time with my boys and creating memories with them like building forts, watching sports, and going to the studio to create music together. I am very excited to utilize my voice and work alongside the other members of the Family Voice Council in improving the State of Colorado's Department of Human Services.

I am honored and humbled to serve as a member of the Family Voice Council. My hope is that being vulnerable in sharing my personal experiences within different departments of human services brings value to all the families that have been in my situation. I believe when you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing, and I am grateful for all the help my family has received and am paying it forward by utilizing my voice to make a difference.

Hope Wenke headshot

Hope Wenke

I am a single Native American mother of three children (two with additional needs). My connection with the Colorado Department of Human Services are the following: SNAP, Child Welfare, Medicaid, Disability Services, and Child Care Assistance. Native Americans are underserved and with experiencing my own child welfare case, I hope to continue to raise awareness within the system on ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) as well as lack of resources for children with disabilities. I am an advocate at heart, I have lived experience and want to help improve services and systems that affect our communities. During my time on the Family Voice Council, I hope to continue to educate myself as well as serve the Native American community. The Family Voice Council gives me the opportunity to do so and make a difference.

Ebony White headshot

Ebony White

I am a native of Colorado and grew up in a family with seven children. I was inspired to join the Family Voice Council because my voice is standing in the place for my whole family and community. I am representing married couples, families, seniors, reproductive health, babies and children. My experience and struggles with SNAP and Medicaid also drove my desire to want to join. I am hoping to see change in our systems that affect our everyday lives. I am also a Community Ambassador, consultant, and serve on several voice council panels.

I enjoy spending time with my husband of eight years, my stepson who is 26, and hope to someday expand our family with a child of our own. I am a doula and enjoy art, especially painting. I am a Christian giving all the glory and thanks to my Heavenly Father Jesus Christ.

Aarav VarmaAarav Varma

I am a 17-year-old advocate who has utilized various human services programs throughout my life. After relocating to Colorado, my family and I accessed multiple human services within the state, inspiring me to reshape the perception of these services. As the youngest member of the Family Voice Council for my two-year term, I aim to leverage my experiences to effect positive change. I have authored five books on financial literacy, drug abuse, and human services, initiated a Fentanyl Awareness Course Review, and contributed to legislative changes, notably in the I Matter program. My dedication is fueled by my everyday challenges and experiences. I'm passionate about improving the quality of life for all users of human services. In my free time, I enjoy writing, programming, hiking, and spending time with my family and dog. After launching my global mental health campaign, A+ Mental Health, I’m eager to contribute to the Family Voice Council and make a meaningful impact in my community.