Governor Polis and CDHS Executive Director Launch National Child Abuse Prevention Month at the Capitol
April 2, 2019
Photo: Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, and Governor Jared Polis and recognize one of Colorado's unsung heroes, Marianne Kmak, as part of the launch of National Child Abuse Prevention Month at Colorado's State Capitol in Denver
DENVER, April 2, 2019 -- Governor Jared Polis and Michelle Barnes, Executive Director of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), joined community partners, county leaders and child advocates to launch Child Abuse Prevention Month at an event at the State Capitol today. The occasion reinforced the importance of individuals and communities working together to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.
The event featured 'Unsung Heroes' — members of the community who have taken the initiative to help strengthen families, which is one of the most effective ways to prevent child abuse and neglect. The Unsung Heroes who were recognized included two leaders from a support group for parents in recovery, a foster mom who started an organization to provide clothing and other essentials to foster families, a lactation consultant and a Guardian Ad Litem. All of these individuals have shown that one person can have a significant impact in the lives of others.
"In Colorado, we value children and are duty-bound to protect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens from abuse and neglect," said Governor Polis. "I am inspired today by the tireless work of our community members and child advocates, and by the dedication of these Unsung Heroes who have taken it upon themselves to support families in their communities and to help us build a Colorado for kids."
The importance of their efforts cannot be understated. Thanks to concerned Coloradans who made calls to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (844-CO-4-Kids) in 2018, local county social services agencies assessed the safety of more than 57,042 children. Of those children, 13,289 children experienced abuse or neglect and an additional 12,787 children's families received voluntary support from social services to help strengthen their families and prevent child abuse or neglect in the future.
In addition to highlighting the ways in which all Coloradans can strengthen families, CDHS Executive Director Michelle Barnes encouraged everyone to call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline if they suspect a child may be experiencing abuse or neglect.
"We received a record number of calls last year — a testament to the fact that Coloradans understand that we all play a role," said Barnes. "Everyone who has a concern about the safety and well-being of a child should call the hotline — 844-CO-4-Kids. One simple phone call can help us ensure Colorado kids are safe."
Last year, calls to the hotline increased by 5 percent while the number of children who experienced abuse and neglect increased by 2 percent. This is an indication that the public awareness efforts of more than 150 local government and community partners to encourage Coloradans to know the signs of abuse and neglect and make the call are effective. Thanks to those efforts and the increased phone calls, local social service agencies have been able to ensure the safety of more children in our communities.
Event attendees wore blue and officially launched a month-long effort to inspire individual Coloradans to raise awareness for child abuse prevention by planting pinwheels gardens in their own community. This effort also includes a photo contest, dubbed #Pinwheels4Prevention, that asks Coloradans to post photos of pinwheel gardens they have planted or photos of themselves and/or friends holding pinwheels. Individuals whose photos receive the most likes on the CO4Kids Facebook page will be able to direct financial support to an organization of their choice that is striving to prevent child abuse and neglect. The pinwheel is the national symbol of child abuse prevention and serves as an uplifting reminder of childhood and the bright futures all children deserve. More information is available at co4kids.org/pinwheels4prevention.
We all play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect. Even individuals who aren't raising a child or working with children or families every day. For example,
- Neighbors can offer to babysit to give parents a break
- Community groups can organize a moms' or dads' night out
- Employers can allow for flexibility in scheduling where possible
- People in the service industry can smile and lend a hand to customers who are having a tough time with their children
- Faith communities can offer financial support or goods to families who are struggling
The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Campaign
In 2015, the Colorado Department of Human Services, in partnership with more than 150 community partners throughout the state launched an ongoing Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Public Awareness Campaign to engage all Coloradans in the prevention of child abuse and promote the new Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 844-CO-4-Kids. The hotline is designed to provide one statewide, easy-to-remember phone number for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, 24/7, 365 days a year. All hotline calls are routed to the county where a child resides. To learn more about the signs of child abuse and neglect and how individuals and organizations can prevent child maltreatment, visit co4kids.org