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Preventing Child Abuse in Colorado: One Mom’s Story

Gloria was a single mother of a one-year-old daughter, Stephanie. Her boyfriend had recently left them. Gloria was not working, and her boyfriend had been paying all of the bills. Gloria did not know what to do or how to support herself or her daughter. Someone concerned about Gloria and Stephanie reported their situation to child protective services so that they could get the help they needed before a difficult situation became worse. Gloria and her daughter were perfect candidates for Colorado Community Response (CCR), one of their county’s voluntary prevention programs, designed to help families who may be at-risk for child abuse or neglect.

Gloria opted to enroll in CCR and was connected with a home visitor who would support her throughout the program. They talked through her situation and came up with two goals to help her move forward. The first goal was to get Stephanie enrolled in a child care program so that goal number two – for Gloria to get a job to support herself and her daughter – could also be achieved.

Gloria was unsure about putting Stephanie in child care. She had always stayed home with her, and she was concerned because Stephanie was showing some behavior issues – throwing temper tantrums and sometimes hitting. The Family Resource Center in the county where Gloria lived was beginning a Nurturing Parenting class, and Gloria agreed to enroll in the program. Gloria’s experience in the class helped her become more comfortable with the idea of enrolling Stephanie in child care; she wanted her to learn age-appropriate social skills. One month into the program Gloria called her home visitor with the wonderful news that Stephanie had been accepted into a child care program. She could attend three days a week and was even given a scholarship!

Once Gloria had achieved her first goal of enrolling Stephanie in child care, she worked with her home visitor to start applying for jobs online. Gloria was interested in applying to Whole Foods, so they completed the online application together. Gloria secured an interview there that went well, but in the meantime Stephanie’s child care center also offered her a job. Gloria took the job at the child care center so she could be close to her daughter. In securing this job, Gloria had completed her second goal!

Having someone believe in her and work with her to set and achieve her goals made a huge difference in Gloria’s life. The CCR program also helped Gloria pay for one month’s rent and buy baby care products for Stephanie, which helped her buy the time necessary to focus on reaching her goals in order to ensure her independence moving forward.

Gloria’s story is not unique. While the specifics may vary, every parent struggles at some point, and no parent knows everything about raising a child. Knowing where to get help and having a network to lean on can make a huge difference.

Everyone plays a role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. In cases where you suspect child abuse or neglect is occurring or at risk of occurring – or if you need help yourself, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS. All callers are able to speak with a call-taker 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and all calls remain confidential. Calling the hotline can help connect families to the wide variety of programs like CCR that are offered throughout Colorado by the state and its 64 counties – all with the goal of protecting Colorado’s children by building and supporting strong families and thriving communities.

You can learn more and find a variety of tips and resources at www.co4kids.org.

  Guest post by Kristy Helms, Home Visitor with Colorado Community Response                        

How to ensure your child’s safety at camp: preventing sexual abuse

You’re gearing up for summer activities and you’ve enrolled your kids in overnight camp. You’re excited and your child is excited. How can you do your best to ensure your child’s safety at camp?

Parents have two primary prevention strategies for reducing the risk of child sexual abuse:  1) Screening caregivers and 2) Teaching kids body-safety rules. While it’s ultimately an adult’s responsibility to protect children through screening caregivers, parents can’t be with children at all times. Here are four body-safety rules for a child/teen who is heading off to summer camp:

Child abuse data website now accessible to the public

Colorado has created a website that provides the public with child-protection and child-abuse data for each county, making the state one of four in the nation to make such information accessible to the public.

The creation of the website is one part of a series of reforms in Colorado after news reports on problems with the state’s child-protection system by The Denver Post and 9News.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to be transparent with the public and to keep our families safe and healthy,” said Julie Krow, the director of the Office of Youth and Families in the Colorado Department of Human Services. “This is something we can’t do alone. We need our community to help us.”

California, Arizona and Iowa are the other states with similar websites available to the public.

Colorado’s website, cdhsdatamatters.org, provides county-level data on child-abuse referrals, instances of child abuse and how many children are reunified with their families after being placed in foster care. Other tracked information includes instances when children are removed from troubled families, caseworker visitation rates, child fatalities, types of maltreatment, and timeliness of responses to allegations of abuse.

“This is a strong effort to increase transparency,” Krow said.

The website, which the state created in partnership with the University of Kansas, required an initial investment of about $390,000, Krow said. Ongoing maintenance costs are minimal, she said.

The website allows comparisons that show how a county is performing in contrast to the rest of the state or to another county. Information also can be sorted by age, gender and race, and by the state’s judicial districts.

Krow said county child- protection officials can use the data to see how they are doing compared with their peers in the state. If those officials see one county excelling in certain areas, they can reach out to the other county to find out how to make improvements, she said.

Already, before the data became public, the state has been reviewing it to make improvements, Krow said. She said that over the past year, the state sought to improve response times for reviewing and investigating child-abuse allegations. The counties now meet time standards nearly 90 percent of the time — up from 50 percent, she said.

The website drew praise from Stephanie Villafuerte, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, an advocacy organization.

“Now we can talk about the facts,” she said. “We can talk about the numbers and statistics and talk about all that as opposed to just talking about anecdotes. I think that this is a brand-new day.”

Colorado officials launched the website the same month they announced they had spent nearly $1 million to arm child-protection workers with new laptops, smartphones and computer tablets to help them become more efficient. The state also plans to have a new child-abuse hotline up and running by January. Efforts also are underway to overhaul the system for training child-protection workers and mandatory child-abuse reporters.

The investigative reports by The Post and 9News in 2012 found caseworkers often made mistakes in their paperwork or when doing safety assessments and safety plans for at-risk families. In more than half of the child-abuse deaths reviewed during a six-year period, caseworkers did not follow state policy regarding how to investigate abuse and neglect allegations, according to an analysis of state child-fatality reviews done by the news organizations.

Christopher N. Osher

People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones

As the mother of an 11-year old boy, the news of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged child abuse and the questionable diligence of now-deceased Joe Paterno exercised in reporting the incident hit close to home.

Needing an outlet for my feelings, I posted the following on my Facebook page immediately after I heard the news:

“I don’t care about winning streaks, national titles, or hollow sound bites. That members of the Penn State administration barely raised their hands when faced with eye-witness actions of a pedophile who was one of their own shows that those individuals have no heart. That Joe Paterno didn’t act to better protect and defend an innocent child who was raped in his ‘house’ proves that he has no soul.”

I was mad.

But now that time has passed and I’ve reflected on the matter, I feel something much more complex.