Child Abuse & Neglect FAQs

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Reporting Child Abuse & Neglect FAQs

Get answers to commonly asked questions below. Please contact us if you can’t find the information that you need.

Anyone with concerns about a child experiencing abuse and/or neglect may call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Reporting System by dialing 844-CO-4-KIDS (844-264-5437).

A certified call-taker is available to receive your call reporting a concern related to child abuse or neglect 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling toll-free hotline 844-CO-4-KIDS (844-264-5437)

The identity of a caller will be kept confidential. There are rare instances when a judge orders a caller’s identity to be shared. Callers may also choose to report calls anonymously. All calls are recorded for quality assurance purposes.

While anyone can make a report, individuals in some occupations or roles are compelled by Colorado law to report child abuse and neglect. There are 41 occupations or roles in Colorado that are required to report known or suspected child abuse and neglect to a county department of human or social services, the local law enforcement agency, or through the child abuse reporting hotline system.  For a list of who is required to report known or suspected abuse and/or neglect please see C.R.S. 19-3-304.

When calling to report a concern, a call taker will gather the following information:

  • A narrative regarding what the caller is worried about, including specifics about any injuries and impact on the child,
  • Information about the children, their family, and any support system they might have,
  • Information about the family’s culture, their preferred language, and how to contact them,
  • Any relevant information tied to safety, which includes safety of the child and safety for anyone responding to the allegation (this may include but is not limited to hazards in the home or the family’s access to weapons),
  • Contact information for additional parties who may have witnessed abuse or neglect or have more information about the allegation,
  • Strengths of the family or additional protections in place.

Additional questions that may be asked can be found in Colorado’s Information Gathering Guide

When a county department receives a call, the information is reviewed by certified staff to determine if the concerns meet the statutory requirements for a response by a caseworker.

As part of this process, the family’s history with child welfare, the child or youth’s vulnerabilities, and previous actions by county departments are also reviewed.

If the information reported in the referral is historical, consideration is given to how that historical information may currently impact the safety of a child.

If a call is determined not to meet the statutory requirements for a response by child welfare, consideration is given to whether prevention services are appropriate and available in the community.

Some reasons a call may not receive a response from a caseworker include that the allegations in the call have been previously assessed or the call is duplicative of a previous call. Oftentimes, when there are multiple mandatory reporters involved with a family, multiple calls are received regarding the same incident.

If a call requires a response from a child welfare caseworker, they will meet with the family to assess child safety, family strengths, and whether there is a need for services or support. As a result of an assessment, families may be referred to community-based services, or continue working with a county department of human services through a court-involved or non-court-involved case.

In the majority of cases, a child or youth stays in the care of their family while they receive services. If a child or youth is placed in out-of-home care, services are provided to the child and family with the goal of reunification in the vast majority of situations. 

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Defining child abuse and/or neglect can seem complicated.  Definitions are established at the federal and state levels, and also through our court system. Federal law defines child abuse and/or neglect through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as, at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

While CAPTA sets federal minimum standards for states that accept CAPTA funding, each state provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes. 

Colorado law defines child abuse and/or neglect in Section 19-1-103 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, which can be found here

Child abuse or neglect means:

  • Any case in which a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, failure to thrive, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or death and either: Such condition or death is not justifiably explained; the history given concerning such condition is at variance with the degree or type of such condition or death; or the circumstances indicate that such condition may not be the product of an accidental occurrence.
  • Any case in which a child is subjected to unlawful sexual behavior.
  • Any case in which a child is a child in need of services because the child’s parents, legal guardian, or custodian fails to take the same actions to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision that a prudent parent would take.
  • Any case in which a child is subjected to emotional abuse. As used in this subparagraph (IV), “emotional abuse” means an identifiable and substantial impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development or a substantial risk of impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development.
  • Any case in which a parent, guardian, or legal custodian has abandoned the child or has subjected him or her to mistreatment or abuse or a parent, guardian, or legal custodian has suffered or allowed another to mistreat or abuse the child without taking lawful means to stop such mistreatment or abuse and prevent it from recurring.
  • Any case in which a child lacks proper parental care through the actions or omissions of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian.
  • Any case in which a child’s environment is injurious to his or her welfare.
  • Any case in which, in the presence of a child, or on the premises where a child is found, or where a child resides, a controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-102 (5), C.R.S., is manufactured or attempted to be manufactured.
  • Any case in which a child is born affected by alcohol or substance exposure, except when taken as prescribed or recommended and monitored by a licensed health care provider, and the newborn child’s health or welfare is threatened by substance use.
  • Any case in which a child is subjected to human trafficking of a minor for involuntary servitude, as described in section 18-3-503, C.R.S. or sexual servitude, as described in section 18-3-504, C.R.S.

Yes. Human trafficking of a child is a form of child abuse. 

There are two types of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. 

Child Sex Trafficking is when an individual younger than 18 engages in sex trading or commercial sex acts. The child may be forced, threatened, or recruited into sex acts, or be exchanging sex in order to meet their basic needs, commonly known as survival sex. 

Labor Trafficking occurs when an individual is forced, threatened or manipulated into working for the benefit of another person. Young people who experience labor trafficking may be subjected to involuntary servitude or debt bondage. Work can include both formal and informal employment or illegal activities. Labor trafficking can occur anywhere, including in private homes, restaurants, the hospitality industry, traveling sales crews or forced drug sales. 

Children and youth may be trafficked by anyone in their lives, including a parent or caregiver. Traffickers can be of any gender, age, race or socio-economic status. Children and youth may experience human trafficking even when there is not a clear or identified “trafficker” or person profiting from their experience. 

Human trafficking can also overlap with other forms of child abuse and neglect if parents/caregivers are failing to protect their child or provide for their basic needs, threatening injury to their child, sexually abusing their child, or not meeting their child’s educational or medical needs. 

As human trafficking is a form of child abuse, mandatory reporters who suspect a young person is being trafficked should report this to the child abuse hotline. To learn more about signs or indicators of human trafficking, please explore this website.  Additional information on recognizing human trafficking can be found here.

The laws of Colorado do not set a specific age after which a child legally can stay home alone. In general, Colorado has accepted the age of 12 years as a guideline for when it might be appropriate for a child to be left alone for short periods of time. 

Colorado Youth Employment Law Fact Sheet

When thinking about leaving children alone, whether for a short or long time, it is important for parents and caregivers to consider the risks involved, as well as consider the situation or circumstances, the maturity of the child, and who is ultimately responsible for the child. 

Some questions parents/caregivers can ask themselves when making this decision include: 

  • Is the child capable of taking care of and protecting himself or herself? 
  • Is the child being asked to supervise another child, and do they have the skills and maturity to do so? 
  • Is the child mentally capable of recognizing and avoiding danger and making sound decisions?
  • Is the child emotionally ready to be alone? Will they feel confident and secure or feel afraid, lonely, or bored?
  • Does the child know what to do and who to call if a problem or emergency arises? Does the child have access to call for help, or is there a plan in place should there be an emergency? 
  • Does the child have any special physical, emotional or behavioral problems that make it unwise to leave her or him alone?
  • Where are the parents?
  • Can the parents get home quickly if needed?
  • Can the parents be reached by phone?
  • Do the children know where the parents are and how to reach them?
  • When and for how long are the children left alone?
  • Have the parents arranged with nearby adults to be available in case a problem arises?
  • Is there any family history of child abuse or neglect?

Parents in all states are legally responsible for their children’s welfare until they reach adulthood. Part of caring for children is providing adequate supervision. Under some circumstances a child may be determined to be neglected if they were without proper supervision.

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