United Way News
At age 9, Fiona met her abuser: her mother’s new boyfriend. “He was drinking a lot and started being mentally and sometimes physically abusive toward me, picking on me for little things, or even nothing. I did my best to avoid him, but if I couldn't, he would just start yelling at me.”
Quickly, the abuse changed in type and severity. “I was set a rule that I only ever went into the kitchen for food, at certain times. If I missed that slot, I went without – but I was too afraid to go downstairs in case he chased into the kitchen after me as he always did. Bawling at me, backing me into the corner until I was whimpering and crying, he would just laugh at me and walk away, satisfied by my distress.”
Thankfully, Fiona’s abuse never became physical; she eventually received help from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, from which her story is borrowed. But so many children do not have such a favorable outcome. An average of 31 children experience child abuse or neglect in Colorado every day. Thanks to the 208,999 calls from concerned Coloradans reporting suspected child abuse and neglect in 2015, social services agencies throughout Colorado assessed the safety and well-being of 48,836 children and youth; and discovered that 11,462 children and youth experienced child abuse and neglect (Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Child Welfare). From 2007-2013, 202 Colorado children died of abuse or neglect (Washington Times, April 18, 2014). Fiona is far from alone in her experiences.
You can help United Way of Weld County end abuse, especially during April 2016, which is child abuse prevention month. 1-844-CO-4-KIDS is a statewide hotline for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. Offered by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), Coloradans are asked to use this phone number to help at-risk children and youth.
“There is a growing understanding in our community that we all play a role in keeping our kids safe,” CDHS Executive Director Reggie Bicha said. “An ongoing public-awareness campaign was established so that individuals can better learn to spot the signs of child abuse and neglect. The 1-844-CO-4-KIDS hotline is integral to that campaign, so that community members know what to do when they spot those signs. One call can save a child.”
The hotline directly links callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to the appropriate call-taker among the state’s 64 counties and two tribal nations. Counties have historically received and handled reports of child abuse and neglect. That has not changed. Counties remain on the front lines when it comes to this critical role. The hotline was built to streamline the process.
"With this statewide number, the community has easier access to report concerns about a child's safety and well-being," said Robert Werthwein, CDHS’ Director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families.
Callers who are unsure of the county in which the child is located, speak a language other than English or Spanish, or are deaf or hard of hearing are directed to a certified call-taker at the Hotline County Connection Center for assistance. All reports of suspected child abuse and neglect remain confidential.
The 1-844-CO-4-KIDS hotline has allowed CDHS to capture critical information that it had not previously been able to track on a statewide basis. That data includes numbers of calls received, call volume, call duration, speed of answer, wait time, call transfers and call abandonment rate, which is critical to ensuring that calls across the state are handled quickly and appropriately.
Along with organizations across Colorado, this month United Way of Weld County is bringing special attention to ending child abuse and use of the 1-844-CO-4-KIDS hotline. We hope you will join us.
Lyle SmithGraybeal is the vice president of community impact for United Way of Weld County.