Colorado's Child Protection Ombudsman
Stephanie Villafuerte has served as Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman since 2015. For the past 25 years, Ms. Villafuerte has dedicated her legal and public policy career to improving the plight of abused and neglected children.
In this capacity Ms. Villafuerte worked extensively with the state’s juvenile courts, human service providers and other non-profit agencies to address the myriad of needs of this vulnerable population.
Ms. Villafuerte also has an extensive public policy and legislative background on children’s issues. For four years, she worked in the Colorado Governor’s Office as a senior advisor on juvenile justice and child welfare issues working closely with numerous state departments, key constituency groups and members of the Colorado state legislature. She also oversaw a number of special projects including the Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission, the DNA Task Force and the Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee.
She has also had a distinguished legal career. For fourteen years, she served as a chief criminal prosecutor handling felony level child abuse, internet pornography and child trafficking cases at the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado United States Attorney’s Office. During her tenure, Ms. Villafuerte spearheaded a multi-disciplinary approach towards handling child abuse cases. She also led legislative reforms on behalf of child victims including expansion of the use of “closed circuit television” and “videotaped depositions” for child victims who are required to appear in court.
Ms. Villafuerte has received numerous awards for her contributions to the field including: the Aspen Institute Children and Families Health and Human Services Fellowship 2017, the Denver Business Journal Outstanding Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award 2015, the Latina’s First Foundation Trailblazer Award 2015, the Bonfils-Stanton Livingston Fellow Award 2015, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Raising the Bar for Children Award 2013, the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association Outstanding Lawyer of the Year Award 2011, and the Colorado District Attorney’s Council Robert R. Gallagher Award for Prosecution Excellence 2005.
Ms. Villafuerte received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Denver in 1987 and her Juris Doctorate degree from UCLA in 1991.
Jordan Steffen joined the Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman in July 2016. Jordan has extensive experience researching and analyzing public policy, laws and rules concerning child protection in Colorado. Prior to joining the office, Jordan held an award-winning career in synthesizing data and stories from within the child protection system to inform the public.
For more than five years, Jordan worked as a journalist at Colorado’s largest newspaper, The Denver Post. During her time at The Post, Jordan covered stories in every part of the state, writing about everything from high-profile criminal cases to local farmer’s markets. Jordan was part of the team awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Aurora movie theater shooting. She was also part of the team named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for coverage of the Waldo Canyon wildfire in Colorado Springs. Jordan was recognized as the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2015 Colorado Palmer Hoyt Journalist of the Year for her innovative work covering both practice and policy within the legal field.
But some of Jordan’s most significant work centered on investigations into the policies, practices and inadequacies in Colorado’s child protection system. Through years of reporting, Jordan researched long-standing state policies and practices for preventing child abuse. Her reporting gave the citizens of Colorado insight into shortcomings that repeatedly led to the abuse of children and explained systemic issues within the state system. Jordan was part of a team that produced an eight-part investigative series by compiling data and information on 72 children who died of abuse and neglect after entering the child welfare system. That series was recognized both locally and nationally.