DENVER, June 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Colorado teachers are calling upon Coloradans across the state to be their eyes and ears this summer, and call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline - 844-CO-4-Kids – if they suspect a child may be experiencing abuse or neglect. When the school year ends and summer break begins, calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline drop significantly because teachers and other school-based mandatory reporters no longer interact with children every day.
"As a teacher, my duty to my students goes well beyond academic instruction," said Cara Godbe, a third grade teacher in Montrose. "I want to inspire my students to be the best version of themselves and ensure they thrive. When my gut tells me something seems off, and I become concerned for a child's welfare, I am obligated to report it. My hope is that all Coloradans – neighbors, friends and members of each community – will take up that mantle this summer and help families get the support they need to keep kids safe."
In 2020, the situation is even more serious as calls to the hotline had already dropped by 50% after students moved to online learning in late March followed by stay-at-home orders in April and May.
"Unfortunately, a decrease in calls to the hotline does not mean there is less abuse and neglect happening," said Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families. "It just means possible abuse and neglect is going unreported. We need everyone who may be concerned about a child or youth to make the call to the hotline to ensure our kids are safe and families can be connected with resources to help them thrive."
Last year the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline system received 219,478 calls. Local county social services agencies assessed the safety of more than 58,214 children and youth. Of those, 13,682 experienced abuse or neglect and an additional 13,790 families received voluntary support from social services.
A call to the hotline could connect a family to needed resources. Last year, nearly 70% of children and teens involved in an open child welfare case in Colorado stayed safely at home while their family received services. Some of these services may include assistance applying for benefits or classes to help parents manage stress.
"I think I speak for all Colorado teachers when I say that we need you to be our eyes and ears this summer to protect children and youth from abuse and neglect," said Hilary Wimmer, a business teacher at Mountain Range High School and Colorado's 2020 Teacher of the Year. "If you are concerned, make the call. It's not your job to investigate concerns, but we all have a responsibility to make the call if there is any doubt about a child's safety. You could be the critical link that makes a huge difference for families and kids in Colorado."
Awareness tips from teachers for all Coloradans as they interact with families from a safe distance this summer, include:
Is your gut telling you something just isn't right?
Are you noticing uncharacteristic changes in a child's behavior?
Does it appear that a family is struggling, perhaps with food insecurity?
Is there crying – especially endless crying – coming from a home?
Are kids sharing things about their friends that concern you?
Err on the side of caution. It is better to be wrong than to not report your concerns.
You don't need to have all the details when you call the hotline.
Call the hotline and let the professionals determine if a family needs help.
These examples are not child abuse and neglect in and of themselves, but you should listen to the concerns you're having.
The Colorado Department of Human Services CO4Kids campaign encourages all Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. To learn about the signs of child abuse and neglect and for information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit CO4Kids.org. Call 844-CO-4-Kids to report concerns about child abuse and neglect. If a child or teen is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1.