Child abuse and neglect calls back up in Colorado after COVID dip

By: - March 10, 2022 4:00 am

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The number of calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline approached pre-pandemic volumes in 2021, after a “significant drop” in 2020, the Colorado Department of Human Services announced Monday. 

In 2019, there were over 219,000 calls to the hotline, which dropped to about 193,450 calls in 2020, according to the CDHS statement. Last year, there were almost 209,000 calls to the hotline, which is an 8% increase from 2020. 


The reason

The CDHS saw a “dramatic drop” in calls in 2020 because many mandatory reporters were not seeing children in person at schools, day care or doctor appointments, according to the CDHS statement.

In 2020, there was a 13% drop in calls to the hotline, Jordan Johnson, the interim deputy director of communications for the CDHS, wrote in an email to Newsline. “We do not necessarily attribute this to a decrease in cases of abuse and neglect, but perhaps due to children and youth having less interaction with educators and medical professionals, who are mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect,” Johnson wrote. 

The CDHS is attributing the 8% increase in calls in 2021 “in part” to a rebound in calls from mandatory reporters, who made up more than half of all callers last year, Johnson wrote. 

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

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 are still facing challenges,” Minna Castillo Cohen, the director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, said in the statement. “While COVID-19 has tested all of us, we know that support from friends, neighbors, employers and community members can help build resiliency for families.” 

As Coloradans continue to return to pre-COVID levels of activities, CDHS is seeing the number of calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline “increase accordingly,” the statement says. 

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 teenager is in immediate danger.

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

About the hotline

The key risk factors for child abuse and neglect include social isolation, family and parent stress, financial uncertainty and limited children or in-person opportunities, according to the statement. 

In about 70% of child welfare cases, counties have been able to provide services directly to families so that the children can remain at home with their parents, according to the CDHS statement. 

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

The largest groups of mandatory reporters are medical professionals and educators, Johnson wrote. Legal and law enforcement professionals, social services professionals, child care providers and foster care providers are also mandated reporters. 

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


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