Colorado launches first child abuse hotline
Colorado unveiled its first statewide child abuse hotline on Tuesday, allowing for reports to be directed through one number: 1-844-CO-4-KIDS. The 24-hour hotline has already received more than 54,000 calls since it was implemented on Jan. 1, but officials across the state are raising awareness now that they’ve given it a test run.
“It soft-launched in January, and we just wanted to make sure it was running well. So today was more of the formal launch,” said Alicia Caldwell, communications director for the State Department of Human Services. “When calls come in, they are seamlessly transferred to the counties.”
In Summit County, the line received 47 reports since the hotline was implemented, on par with the county average of 200 to 300 calls per year.
“It takes time to get statewide number out, since people got comfortable with our local number. Now we reroute them to statewide number,” Summit County Child Welfare manager Nicole Bortot said.
Once the county Department of Health and Human Services receives a call, it works with a team to decide if it merits further investigation. The response depends on the nature of the situation; if a family is in need of resources, Human Services can refer them to a number of nonprofits, such as the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, Mind Springs Health or the Summit Community Care Clinic.
In recent years, the focus has shifted toward using more of these preventative measures, County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said. At the state level, Community Response is an initiative to connect families with nonprofits and resources, rather than merely “screening in” or “screening out” needy families. Summit County’s nurse-family partnership is a home-visitation service that brings in nurses to help educate parents on child care, both during and after pregnancy.
“We are becoming more sophisticated in how child welfare in the state of Colorado works on a spectrum of responses based on what we find,” Davidson said. “It’s less about one size fits all.”
Davidson worked on a task force, cooperating with several different agencies to find the best options for Colorado’s child abuse hotline since it was approved by Colorado legislature two years ago. Since then, responders in each county have received training to ask the right questions and interpret information from each call.
For Summit County and the rest of the state, the trick is raising awareness so that witnesses don’t hesitate to report potential situations.
Bortot said the majority of callers are mandated reporters — officials such as police, doctors or teachers — while less than a quarter are family members or friends.
“They’re more likely to call, but a lot of times it’s family or friends that have more information on whether abuse or neglect is happening,” Bortot said. “It’s a combination of several factors. One of the big reasons people hesitate is that they just aren’t sure if it’s abuse or neglect that’s happening. They don’t want to get involved in people’s business.”
Bortot encourages people to call in, and let county officials interpret the information. All calls to the hotline are anonymous.
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