Calling it in: Statewide Child Abuse Hotline
meets Morgan County
How to call:
To report a suspected case of child abuse or neglect in Morgan County, call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS. All information given out over the hotline is kept confidential.
Morgan County, Colorado – Caregivers, law enforcement officers and others in Morgan County are still adjusting to Colorado’s new method for reporting child abuse.
This month is the one-year anniversary of the statewide child abuse and neglect hotline, 1-844-CO-4-KIDS. The hotline was created by the Colorado Department of Human Services in an effort to give “mandatory reporters”—those who are required by law to report suspected child abuse—and others a single phone number to call whenever they’re concerned about a child, no matter where they are.
In 2015 the hotline received more than 26,000 calls statewide, but many people are still using the old, county-specific numbers, and Morgan County is no different.
Before 2015, people who suspected a case of child abuse would typically call the police or the Morgan County DHS directly. The new hotline automatically links callers to the appropriate call-taker for their county. In Morgan County, that’s usually someone in the DHS, who then notifies the police if necessary.
“There are goods and bads to it,” Fort Morgan police chief Darin Sagel said.
The hotline slightly delays police officers’ response time in emergencies, he said. Sagel also worries that some severe cases aren’t being reported to the police, since individuals who call the hotline are “not always equipped to tell how extensive the abuse is.”
But Jacque Frenier, director of the Morgan County DHS, said the hotline can save callers time by directing them to the right local organization immediately. It’s also helpful for those who don’t know which county the child lives in, or don’t speak English, she said.
“Initially, there were some hiccups,” she said. “But they’ve got most of them fixed now… the county’s mandatory reporters were used to calling us directly, but they’re getting used to it.”
The DHS has a few screeners whose job is to take calls about child abuse and determine the cases’ severity. In about three cases out of four, they then pass it along to the police. The only exceptions are cases which they determine require more assessment.
Many mandatory reporters, like teachers and medical workers, still call DHS or the police directly because those are the numbers they’re familiar with. Altogether, Frenier estimated her organization gets about 50 calls a month reporting child abuse or neglect.
Above all, she said it’s important to gather as many details about the situation as possible before calling the hotline. The more information DHS workers and law enforcement have, the faster they can respond.
“Many of us want to do the right thing, but some are unsure about first steps,” Robert Werthwein of the Colorado Department of Human Services said in a press release about the hotline. “This hotline can, and in many instances, should be step one.”