New Mexico’s child care center workers overseeing more than 50,000 kids are about to get more help when it comes to identifying and reporting child abuse.
“We are advocates for these children and we do want what’s best for the children,” Coronado Children’s Center Co-Director Rogelle Price stated.
CYFD is sending packets this week to the state’s 750 child care centers about its new “Pull Together” initiative, which includes information that tells them how to identify signs of abuse or neglect and report it by calling #SAFE (1-855-333-SAFE), which directs them to the CYFD’s call center.
“[More calls] will help us get the reports that we need so that we can go out, do the investigations to keep these children safe,” CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson said.
Jacobson also said she knew there needed to be an immediate change after the CYFD questioned whether a child care center could have done more to spot a recent child abuse case.
“We reached out to the child care center to talk to them about what they may have seen or known and really ask them why things were not reported. We found that there was just an uncertainty of how to report or what to report,” she added.
She said a similar initiative in New Mexico school districts led to 550 more reports to CYFD over the past two years.
“It’s a double-edged sword: We want them to report which is good because it’s getting eyes on children who need eyes on them. It’s just always sad when we see our child abuse numbers increase,” she stated.
To compare the number of reports, school districts in 2017 called #SAFE 5,387 times, while all of the child care centers made 100 calls, according to CYFD.
CYFD also says another reason child care center reporting numbers are lower than they could be is because some child care workers report to police without knowing they can call CYFD directly.
Backpage.com Pleads Guilty to
Human Trafficking in Texas
AUSTIN, TX – Attorney General Ken Paxton announced today that his office’s prosecution of Backpage.com has resulted in the company pleading guilty to human trafficking in Texas and its CEO Carl Ferrer pleading guilty to money laundering. This comes less than a week after the attorney general’s office assisted the Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website.
Ferrer will be sentenced to up to five years in prison once he’s fulfilled the terms of his plea agreement with Attorney General Paxton’s office. His cooperation in the ongoing investigation into Backpage could lead to other criminal charges against individuals associated with the company.
As the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world, Backpage facilitated the sex trafficking of innocent women and children through sites it ran for 943 locations in 97 countries and 17 languages. It was involved in 73 percent of all child trafficking cases reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“Taking down Backpage and obtaining a criminal conviction for the company and its CEO represents a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I want to thank the Attorney General of California, the U.S. Department of Justice, federal law enforcement officials, Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, and the prosecutors and law enforcement in my office for their outstanding collaborative work on this investigation and prosecution.”
In October 2016, Attorney General Paxton’s Law Enforcement Division arrested Ferrer in Houston. It also executed a search warrant on the Dallas headquarters of Backpage, uncovering evidence that was critical in building a case against Ferrer and the company.
Attorney General Paxton has made combating human trafficking a top priority. Two years ago, he launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section, which prosecutes human traffickers around the state of Texas. Earlier this year, he unveiled a powerful training video to teach Texans how to spot and report suspected human trafficking activity.
Santa Clara County Launches New
Child Abuse Hotline
Santa Clara County, CA officials declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, timing the announcement with the launch of a new 24-hour hotline for people to report suspected child abuse.
What they failed to mention, however, is why the county needed a new hotline in the first place: to fix a system that, until recently, was so woefully broken that it left an untold number of children in danger.
In 2013, the county’s Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) came under fire for dropping up to half the calls some months to its child abuse hotline. From July 2012 to the following year, call center operators answered an average of just 62 percent of calls. Only a third of the 18 percent of calls that went to voicemail were ever returned. About one in every five people hung up, frustrated by the hourlong holds.
It’s impossible to say how many valid abuse cases went unreported.
After San Jose Inside’s parent publication Metro Silicon Valley reported on the scathing 2013 audit, the county hired more call center employees and improve its hotline metrics.
“In years past … there was a problem with the phone being answered,” county Child Abuse Prevention Council Vice Chair Steve Baron said in an interview earlier this week. “That problem has been largely rectified.”
Under new leadership, DFCS has since seen a considerable increase in the number of calls answered, Baron said. People reported about 3.5 million child abuse cases each year in the U.S., about 58,000 in the Bay Area and more than 1,800 verified cases in this county alone. In 2017, the county hotline logged some 30,000 calls—virtually of which were answered.
“They’re capturing and answering, I believe, over 98 percent of every call that comes in now,” he told San Jose Inside. “Sometimes people just hang up or they change their mind so that accounts for the 2 percent. But now there’s a human being answering the phone and they’re capturing those calls.”
Gilbert Murillo, who oversaw the child abuse reporting center during the time it was dropping half its calls, said the county had reduced wait times to 16 seconds by last year.
For people who would rather not speak to anyone, there’s also an option to go straight to voicemail—a feature included for the newly launched hotline as well. And according to DFCS Director Francesca LeRúe, every single one of those voicemails gets returned.
The county’s newly announced hotline—833-SCC-KIDS (833-722-5437)—will field calls around the clock and will eventually replace the current system, which consists of multiple phone numbers.
“We have three different numbers in Santa Clara County, so it’s very confusing for people,” LeRúe said. “We just thought it was important to streamline the process, to have one number, and then decided it was important that it should be, in fact, toll-free.”
Funding will remain unchanged with the new streamlined system, she said, and may eventually save money.
But those three existing hotline numbers will stay in place for another year to give the county time to inform people about the new one.
The first big push in promoting the hotline comes as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, LeRúe said. The county encourages the community to wear blue on Friday to call attention to the cause, and to attend the 36th annual Child Abuse Prevention Council Symposium on April 27 in Campbell.
“There’s still a lot of awareness that needs to come to the community to let people know some facts about what child abuse is, what child neglect is,” LeRúe said. “Everybody in Santa Clara County plays a big role in protecting children, it’s everybody’s responsibility.”
County social workers, executives and @SupCindyChavez raise awareness about protecting children from abuse. #ChildAbusePreventionMonth event highlights new toll-free number to Report Child Abuse in #SantaClaraCounty. Call (833) SCC-KIDS (833-722-5437) 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week pic.twitter.com/uL4yzMArpr
— Santa Clara County (@SCCgov) April 4, 2018