The new director of Colorado Office of Behavioral Health has another new title: Friend of Children.
Robert Werthwein received the award from Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.
Werthwein was recognized for his work with the Colorado Department of Human Service’s Office of Children, Youth and Families from March 2015 to September 2017, before DHS promoted him last month.
For 24 years, CASA has given the Friend of Children Award “to those who personify the values of humanitarian outreach and volunteerism with children, families and the community,” DHS said.
The award typically goes to judges, law enforcement, doctors, legislators or individuals who work to make life better for kids.
“At CDHS, we’re charged with ensuring every child in our care knows that they can rely on us, that we’re going to work to equip them with the tools they need to succeed and when the burden is too much, we’ll be there to help lighten the load,” Werthwein said in a statement. “Our kids are our future, and we’re going to keep showing up for them every day to help put more Colorado youth on a path to success.”
Since earning his doctorate in clinical psychology, Werthwein has worked to strengthen child-welfare programs and improve treatment for at-risk children. At the Office of Children, Youth and Families, Werthwein focused on juvenile justice, child welfare, human trafficking and other complex issues.
DHS referenced his work on House Bill 1207, the legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, that removes incarceration as an option for children younger than 12.
The rule already applied to children 10 and younger. The bill signed into law by the governor in May.
“Dr. Werthwein worked tirelessly to advocate for 10-12 year olds in the juvenile justice system, keeping those youths with low-level offenses from mandatory detention facilities,” DHS said.