How Does Colorado's Child Protection System Work?

Colorado’s child welfare system is a state supervised and county administered system. This means the Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Child Welfare oversees practice and provides policy direction for county human services employees. County human services employees work directly with families to strengthen a family’s ability to protect and care for their children; minimizing harm to youth, and ensuring timely permanency planning. Permenancy planning is a social work process that seeks a permanent living situation for each child entering the foster system. When safety is not possible within a family, services focus on the child’s need for a stable, permanent home as quickly as possible. 

The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) serves as a direct and efficient route to the counties which are responsible for accepting and responding to child abuse and neglect inquiries and reports. Through the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline System, all hotline calls are immediately routed to the county where a child resides and the Colorado Department of Human Services is able to capture information critical to ensuring each call across the state is handled quickly and appropriately. This phone number for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect is 24/7, 365 days a year.

You dial the number, we'll make the call. 

When you call to report a concern or get help for yourself or someone else, your call is answered by a certified call taker and information is gathered to help a group of professionals assess whether your call or "referral" should be screened in to the child protection system (CPS). Based on the information you provide and information other callers may have provided in the past about the same family, a group of professionals review, evaluate and direct the actions that should be taken to help the family. If your call is screened out, you or the family in need may still be connected with local family support resources.

Remember, it's important that you continue to call if you have concerns about a child or family. If you believe that your call was inappropriately handled, please contact us. All calls through the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline System are kept confidential and recorded for quality assurance purposes. 

Once you make the call, the tough work begins. 

After a call is screened in a child protection services person conducts an assessment. This may include meeting with the entire family or meeting one on one with the child and interviewing other people that know the family like neighbors, family, or teachers. If there is an indication that child abuse or neglect has occurred and the child or teen is not safe, a court case known as a Dependency and Neglect Case is opened and the child is assigned an attorney known as a "Guardian ad litem,” or GAL, to represent the child's best interest. Each parent or caregiver is also assigned an attorney.  

We still need your help.

Whenever possible, county human services agencies try to ensure the safety of the child(ren) in their own home by connecting parents and caregivers with support and services. Being removed from your home can be a scary experience for a child, one that case workers try to avoid if at all possible.

If it is not possible to ensure the safety and well-being of a child(ren) in their own home, a caseworker looks to family or friends willing to provide a temporary home for the child(ren) while the parent or caregiver works to improve the situation at home. These families are known as "kinship families" and they are connected with support and resources to help avoid placement in foster care.  

There is always a need for foster families, particularly those willing to care for siblings, teens and children with special needs.  

If a caseworker can't find anyone that the child has an existing relationship with to provide a temporary home, that is when a child and his or her siblings need to go live with a foster family. 

You are never to old to need a family.

Every child wants their parent to love and care for them. Sometimes children are able to return home safely to be reunified with their parents or caregivers, and sometimes a relative or family friend become a permanent home. Unfortunately, sometimes parents or caregivers are never able to provide a safe and nurturing home again. If you are open to providing a temporary or permanent home, consider fostering or adopting in Colorado. Your involvement plays a critical role in the life of a child. Too many children and teens age out of the child protection system alone. Colorado needs more foster and adoptive families.


A Judge in the court case may also appoint a "Court Appointed Special Advocate,” or CASA, to provide an additional voice for the child(ren). These volunteers are everyday citizens who have undergone screening and training with their local CASA program. This is just one way people in the community can get involved and support the children and families involved in Colorado's child protection system. If you are interested in becoming a CASA, check out your local chapter today.

Get involved today. 

Check out our Community section to find out additional ways Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Campaign partners are getting involved. Discover the organizations that support Colorado’s at risk youth and help us by raising awareness in your local community.

Download and print this infographic explaining how Colorado's child protection system works.

Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1‑844‑264‑5437)
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Don't hesitate to call and get help. 
Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.