Child abuse and neglect returns to Colorado after COVID drops

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March 10, 2022

The number of calls to Colorado’s Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline approached pre-pandemic volumes in 2021, after a “significant decline” in 2020, the Colorado Department of Social Services announcement Monday.

In 2019, there were more than 219,000 calls to the hotline, which fell to around 193,450 calls in 2020, according to the CDHS statement. Last year, there were almost 209,000 calls to the hotline, an increase of 8% compared to 2020.

The reason

CDHS saw a “dramatic decline” in calls in 2020 because many mandatory reporters were not seeing children in person at schools, daycares or doctor’s appointments, according to the CDHS statement.

In 2020, there was a 13% drop in calls to the hotline, CDHS acting deputy director of communications Jordan Johnson wrote in an email to Newsline. “We don’t necessarily attribute this to a decrease in cases of abuse and neglect, but perhaps to the fact that children and young people have less interaction with educators and health professionals, who are mandatory abuse and neglect flaggers,” Johnson wrote.

CDHS attributes the 8% increase in calls in 2021 “in part” to a rebound in calls from mandatory reporters, who accounted for more than half of all callers last year, Johnson wrote.

The trend this data shows is that calls from educators, who are the second-largest group of mandated reporters behind medical professionals, have started to rebound, Michelle Barnes, executive director of CDHS, said in the release. “We attribute this to more students returning to full-time in-person learning in 2021,” Barnes said. “However, we have seen a decrease in calls from medical professionals in 2021, but we expect to see these numbers return fully as families no longer delay regular doctor visits.”

The CDHS statement mentioned the challenges that COVID-19 has caused.

“As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, we cannot forget that many families still face challenges,” Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office for Children, Youth and Families, said in the statement. “While COVID-19 has tested us all, we know that support from friends, neighbors, employers and community members can help build resilience for families.”

As Coloradans continue to return to pre-COVID activity levels, CDHS sees the number of calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline “increase accordingly,” the statement said. .

To report concerns about child abuse or neglect, Coloradans can call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 844-CO-4-Kids (844-254-5437). People should call 911 if a child or teen is in immediate danger.

Last year, there was a 20% increase in calls to the hotline from education professionals, the statement said. Calls from healthcare professionals decreased by 3% and calls from the general public, including family members, decreased by 2%.

About the hotline

Major risk factors for child abuse and neglect include social isolation, family and parental stress, financial uncertainty, and limited number of children or in-person opportunities, the statement said.

In about 70% of child protection cases, counties were able to provide services directly to families so children could stay home with their parents, according to the CDHS statement.

“Mandatory journalists are part of the safety net that protects children and young people, and they have the ability to provide lifesaving assistance to child victims in our community,” Barnes said.

The largest groups of required reporters are health professionals and educators, Johnson wrote. Legal and law enforcement professionals, social service professionals, child care providers, and foster care providers are also mandated filers.

CO4Kids is a CDHS campaign that encourages Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. Families can visit CO4Kids.org to learn more about preventing child abuse and neglect.


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