Colorado hotline expands reporting of suspected Child Abuse and Neglect
Child abuse reporting
State and local officials encourage Coloradans to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
People living anywhere in Colorado can call the state child abuse/neglect hotline: 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437), to speak to a representative 24 hours a day, every day.
People suspecting abuse of children or at-risk adults living in Boulder County can also call the county’s own hotline: 303-441-1309, also 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Information about Boulder County’s child welfare programs and services: bit.ly/1PmW8Uz
Colorado Department of Human Services information about preventing and reporting child abuse and neglect: bit.ly/1FiAkQH
With the approaching first anniversary of the launch of a toll-free statewide telephone hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect, child-welfare officials are urging Coloradans to stay vigilant if they’re concerned about a child’s safety and well-being.
The Colorado Department of Human Services announced that as of Dec. 20, state and county officials had received nearly 205,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect since the hotline went live on Jan. 1 — both through the new state hotline and from people contacting counties’ and the state’s human services offices.
“There is a growing understanding in our community that we all play a role in keeping our kids safe,” state Department of Human Services Director Reggie Bicha said in a news release.
Bicha said the 1-844-CO-4-KIDS hotline is integral to help Coloradans spot and report signs of child abuse and neglect. “One call can save a child,” he said.
Of the total 204,983 calls received by Dec. 20 about possible child abuse or neglect, 26,461 were made on the state hotline, according to Department of Human Services spokesman Lee Rasizer. Of that total, 4,516 came from Boulder County, 706 from Broomfield County and 5,395 from Weld County.
Under a system in which calls are evaluated and determinations made about whether further assessments and investigations are merited, and how rapidly those assessments and investigations need to be made, 88,441 of the total calls to the state’s hotline and Colorado counties were accepted for assessment and 32,709 were assessed and investigated, Rasizer said.
Accepted for assessment and possible further action, he said, were 1,678 of the original 4,516 reports originally received about possible child abuse or neglect in Boulder County, 183 of the 706 reports received about situations in Broomfield County, and 1,793 of the 5,395 reports about possible abuse or neglect in Weld County.
The state child abuse and neglect hotline links callers at all hours to the appropriate official. All calls are confidential and will be routed to the county where a child resides.
Boulder County also has its own child abuse hotline, 303-441-1309, said Jim Williams, spokesman for the County Department of Housing and Human Services. But in emergencies, call 911.
“The hotline technology allows callers to be connected around the clock with screeners who can discuss their concerns with them,” Williams said.
Wetumpka case prompts DA to seek stronger child-abuse punishment
WETUMPKA, AL – District Attorney Randall Houston wants to strengthen the penalty for aggravated child abuse, bringing the punishment up to par with murder and other violent crimes.
Houston’s move would change the punishment in aggravated Child Abuse cases where victims are under the age of 6.
“The aggravated Child Abuse statute covers children from infants to 18-year-olds,” Houston said. “It’s obvious that a teenager is better able to seek protection from an abuser than a child under the age of 6.”
“These are our youngest, most helpless victims. After a child is 6, they are usually in a school situation, where educators can recognize the signs of abuse.”
Houston represents the 19th Judicial Circuit, which includes Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties. Currently, aggravated child abuse is a Class B felony, with a punishment range of two to 20 years in prison. Houston will be backing a bill in the 2016 legislative session that begins in February to stiffen the penalty to a Class A felony. Murder, attempted murder and other violent crimes are Class A felonies, with a punishment range of 10 to 99 years to life in prison.
By law, aggravated child abuse results in “serious bodily injury” to the victim.
A current case being investigated by his office moved Houston to seek the punishment upgrade.
“I stood in court last week to oppose a bond request made by a mother who, along with her boyfriend, heinously abused her 4-year-old son to a point that he was near death,” Houston said. “As I looked that defendant in the eye and thought of the ways she and her boyfriend had abused her own son, I realized that the current penalties for such monstrous acts are inadequate and must be toughened so those who commit them can stare at the four cold walls of a prison cell for the rest of their lives.”
Houston was referring to the case of Hallee Ann McLeod, 28, of Wetumpka, whose son was found unresponsive and injured in the back of a car in Panama City, Fla., in September. She is facing aggravated child abuse and chemical endangerment of a child charges in Elmore County, courthouse records show.
Last week Elmore County District Judge Glenn Goggans refused to lower her bond, which had been set at $300,000. She remained in the Elmore County Jail on Monday, jail records show.
Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin, who has been the county’s top cop for 24 years, calls the abuse “one of the worst cases I have seen.”
The child was discovered by Bay County, Fla., deputies as the car was parked in the courthouse parking lot. Scott Hicks, McLeods’ boyfriend, had driven to Panama City, Fla., to pay fines on an unrelated case. Local authorities were contacted by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and an investigation began that showed the abuse of the boy occurred in Elmore County, Franklin said.
“Nothing can erase the trauma that this child suffered, but we can ensure that the severity of the penalty truly matches the severity of the crime,” Houston said. “Then perhaps justice can be fully obtained.
“As a prosecutor I take my responsibility to ensure the protection of the most defenseless among us very seriously, and toughening our aggravated child abuse law will held accomplish this mission.”
Houston has been successful in efforts to toughen punishments. After a series of alcohol related fatal boating accidents in the circuit, he fought a three-year battle to get the Legislature to toughen the homicide by vessel law.
The law was an unclassified felony, meaning it had a maximum punishment of five years in prison. The punishment for homicide by vessel law now allows prosecutors to seek the same punishment as cases of DUI related motor vehicle accidents. That means defendants can be charged with manslaughter or murder in DUI related boating accidents that result in fatalities.
Houston hopes the strengthening of the aggravated child abuse law doesn’t take as much time.
“We are in it for the long haul,” he said. “If it takes another long fight, we’re dedicated to doing whatever it takes to see this change implemented.”
Legislation on child abuse reporting draws concerns from Dane County social workers
NOT IN MY WORLD!!!! believes every call of Child Maltreatment should be reported to Law Enforcement first, and all investigations be made by Law Enforcement only.
Only with Law Enforcement involved in every case will we begin to see an end of the corruption within CPS.
Wisconsin legislation that would change how child abuse and neglect cases are handled is drawing sharp disagreement between Dane County prosecutors, law enforcement officials and social services providers about what is best for children.
Introduced by Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, in October, and garnering bipartisan support since, the package of bills would clarify the definition of child neglect, designate a specific crime of repeated acts of neglect or physical abuse of the same child and require social services agencies to report all allegations of child abuse or neglect to law enforcement, among other components.
Legislators, prosecutors and law enforcement officials pushing for the changes say they do not currently have enough tools to charge adults for certain situations of child neglect or abuse, including cases where children are exposed to the dealing or manufacturing of illegal narcotics.
Social services providers conversely argue the changes — particularly requirements involving reports to law enforcement — could have a chilling effect on cases reported, lead to increased trauma for families and create an unfunded burden on law enforcement.
“We have a wonderful system in Dane County by which we protect kids, but we try to keep the situation from re-traumatizing kids and families,” said Dane County Human Services director Lynn Green, who was a social worker in Child Protective Services early in her career. “A lot of what we try to do is reach out, help people make the parenting changes they need to make, educate them while we keep the kids safe.”
Currently, there is a memorandum of understanding in place between Dane County Human Services and county law enforcement agencies that lays out which cases will be reported to law enforcement. In addition to cases of sexual abuse, which providers are required to report under state law, the agreement includes reporting cases of physical abuse, emotional abuse and threat of harm.
Right now, Green said, about 40 percent of cases the department receives get referred to law enforcement and they work together on the case.
“If there is a feeling that some of the cases that should go aren’t going, we can amend that,” said Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “But to send all cases to law enforcement I’m concerned will have an unintended consequence.”
Some reporters call the county when they feel there’s a family in need. They are not mandated to report and can remain anonymous. If law enforcement gets involved, Green said, their name will have to go on a police report. She said callers may also hesitate to report concerns if they know a law enforcement official will knock on the door.
“We’re concerned it’s actually going to stem the number of calls we get and our possibility of intervening with families and being able to serve them,” Green said.
Green said they are also concerned about the trauma inflicted when law enforcement gets involved with families — especially of color and in high-risk neighborhoods.
In Dane County, a black parent is at least seven times more likely to be referred to Child Protective Services than a white parent, raising concerns about the legislation disproportionately affecting communities of color.
“Many of the parents that come into the Child Protective Services system have themselves been impacted by trauma in their own childhoods, and that trauma has affected their functioning, their brain development, to the point where when they’re confronted with authority or people trying to impose rules on them, they can come across as sounding very oppositional,” said Dane County Child Protective Services manager Julie Ahnen. “The idea that we’re going to change their behavior by increasing their involvement in the criminal justice system is just backward.”
The Dane County Board Executive Committee passed a resolution on a voice vote Thursday evening opposing the state legislation with those concerns in mind, as well as the concern that it will create additional case burden on law enforcement agencies without funding it.
Unlike this legislation, a series of child protection reforms in Minnesota recently signed into law also allocated $52 million to hire more workers and expand services for abused children.
“I recognize that some of these changes might be difficult to implement, but I don’t want to see cases of child neglect continue to go to unreported or unaddressed in our community,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who introduced similar legislation last session and is a sponsor of this package.
Shilling said she doesn’t want there to be an unintended consequence or chilling effect but wants prosecutors to be able to address issues like child exposure to the dealing or manufacturing of illegal narcotics.
“So how do we make sure the process and definitions are something that, again, help prosecutors have the tools they need to properly charge adults with the situation that innocent children are placed in,” Shilling said.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has testified at hearings in support of the legislation. He did not respond to a request for comment. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney declined a request for comment. The Madison Police Department emailed a statement calling the actions of the bill’s sponsors “laudable” in working to protect children but also acknowledging the concerns of social workers.
The Association of State Prosecutors, the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association all have registered in support of the bill on required reporting.
Dane County, the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and the Wisconsin Association of Family and Children’s Agencies all oppose it.
Multiple Dane County legislators who initially signed on as cosponsors for the legislation have since withdrawn their support for the bill requiring reporting to law enforcement, including Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, and Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.
Authorities have doubled a reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspected child molester with Dallas ties.
Donald Jack Robertson II, 43, is accused of sexually assaulting two children in 2011 in Lamar County, records show. He faces charges of indecency and sexual assault of a child.
A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to his arrest.
Robertson has connections to Dallas and Paris, Texas. His last known address was on Summerwood Circle in far northeast Dallas.
He is described as 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and has a tattoo of a fist holding a lightning bolt on his upper left arm. He also has a scar on his right wrist. He has an interest in online gaming.
Officials said Robertson should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-252-8477 or submit a tip via Facebook.
UPDATE – Featured Most Wanted Fugitive Arrested in Oregon
AUSTIN, TX – Donald Jack Robertson II, 43, a Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitive and November’s featured fugitive, is now in custody after being captured on Nov. 23 in Portland, Oregon.
Robertson had been wanted since 2011 for aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child-sexual contact. The arrest was the result of tip information, and a reward up to $10,000 will be paid.
Working off tip information, the U.S. Marshals Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force coordinated with the U.S. Marshals Service-District of Oregon to locate and arrest Robertson at a residence in Portland. Since the arrest was the result of tip information and the tip was received during the month that Robertson was featured, the increased reward of up to $10,000 (originally $5,000) will be paid.
So far in 2015, DPS and other agencies have arrested 28 Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and Sex Offenders, including 19 sex offenders, and $79,000 in rewards have been paid for tips that resulted in arrests.
One offender from the Texas 10 Most Wanted Program is featured each month in hopes the higher reward money from the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division will generate additional tips.
A federal commission to prevent children’s deaths from abuse and neglect held its first meeting on Monday. Figuring out the extent of the problem is just one challenge facing the new commission.
(CT – Commission talking) About 1700 children die in the U.S. each year as the result of abuse and neglect. At least that’s the official count.
Many experts think the real number is much higher.
“DEATHS AT THE HANDS OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS”????
(CT) The stories are usually too horrific for people to think about; children beaten, stabbed, abused to death often at the hands of family or friends. And often in families that have already raised red flags with authorities.
HEAD OF “EVERY CHILD MATTERS” GIVES SUGGESTION
Michael Petit, who heads an advocacy group called Every Child Matters, says one problem is that the cause of death is often in dispute.
And I think knowing what those three or 4,000 deaths are is going to be important to us, in terms of what’s the cause of death, who is that’s doing the crime, and so forth, right?
FORMER CHILD WELFARE OFFICIAL CHAIRS THE COMMISSION????
(CT) But panel members say there is a lot that is known about such deaths, such as their prevalence in households with a history of domestic violence or drug abuse.
(CT) Others have been down this road before and we’ve still got child deaths. I think we’re idealistic to think that we’re going to stop all child deaths.
(CT) The panel could make some progress reducing them. It has two years to complete its work. ∗∗∗∗(3 months left)
Child Abuse And Neglect Laws Aren’t Being Enforced, Report Finds January 27, 2015
The numbers are grim. Almost 680,000 children in the United States were the victims of abuse and neglect in 2013. More than 1,500 of them died.
FEDERAL OFFICIALS SAY NUMBERS ARE LOWER????
Federal officials say they’re encouraged that the numbers are lower than they were in 2012. But children’s advocates say abuse is so often not reported that it’s impossible to know if there’s really been a decline.
DATA IS FLAWED
“This is just something that’s chronically underreported,” says Elisa Weichel, a staff attorney with the Children’s Advocacy Institute, which published the report Tuesday.
She says abuse and neglect cases — especially those resulting in death — are often not disclosed as required by law. That lack of information has led to other problems in the system.
“It all boils down to having the right amount of data about what’s working and what’s not,” Weichel says. “And when your data is flawed, every other part of your system is going to be flawed.”
NOT ONE STATE MEETS MINIMUM CHILD WELFARE STANDARDS
Her group has found plenty of flaws. The institute conducted a three-year study and found that not one state has met all of the minimum child welfare standards set by the federal government.
LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE
“Whether or not individual states can meet a reporting standard to us is not where the emphasis ought to be,” says Ron Smith, director of legislative affairs for the American Public Human Services Association, which represents child welfare administrators.
“It needs to be on making sure that the kids who need assistance are getting assistance, and the families that need assistance are getting the assistance,” he says.
Smith says state and local officials complain that they spend too much time filling out federal forms and trying to meet requirements that aren’t necessarily best for kids.
Instead, he says, they want flexibility on how to spend federal funds so they can focus more on keeping families together.
∗Just in case someone wants to look at this report or download it:
CAI Holds Congressional Briefing to Unveil New Report: SHAME on U.S. Failings by All Three Branches of Our Federal Government Leave Abused and Neglected Children Vulnerable to Further Harm January 27, 2015