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Child Abuse and Neglect FAQs

Have more questions about child abuse and neglect in Colorado? Get answers to commonly asked questions below. Please contact us if you can't find the information that you need.

Where can I learn more about child abuse and/or neglect on a national level to compare Colorado with other states?

The Children’s Bureau, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, develops annual Child Maltreatment reports, which include data provided by the states to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems.  The most recent report entitled Child Maltreatment 2014 was released on January 25, 2016 and presents national data about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the United States during federal fiscal year 2014. 

Who is responsible for child abuse and/or neglect? Does it matter who the perpetrator of the abuse is?

Persons responsible for abuse or neglect can be parents, or other caretakers such as relatives, babysitters and foster parents who have harmed a child in their care.  Harm caused to a child by someone other than their primary caregivers, like an acquaintance or stranger, may also be reportable as child abuse and/or neglect.  


Intra-familial abuse
 

  • Any case of abuse that occurs within a family context
  • Inflicted by a child’s parent, stepparent, guardian, legal custodian, or relative, by a spousal equivalent, or by any other person who resides in the child’s home or who is regularly in the child’s home for the purpose of exercising authority over, or care for the child

Action Steps: 

  • Make a child protection report to child protective services 
  • If you are uncertain whether an act constitutes child abuse or neglect, call child protective services, and they will determine if the case should be referred to law enforcement.
  • Remember, both law enforcement and child protective services are part of the child protection safety net, and they communicate reports with each other if needed.


Institutional abuse
 

  • Occurs in any public or private facility in the state that provides child care out of the home, supervision, or maintenance.
  • “Facility” includes family child care homes, foster care home, and any other facility subject to the Colorado “Child Care Licensing Act,” including any agency that provides physical or psychological care for children or youth such as group homes, residential care facilities, and home-based therapeutic providers.

Action Steps: 

  • Make a child protection report to child protective services. 
  • If you are uncertain whether an act constitutes child abuse and/or neglect, call child protective services, and they will determine if the case should be referred to law enforcement.
  • Remember, both law enforcement and child protective services are part of the child protection safety net, and they communicate reports with each other if needed.


Third party abuse
 

  • A case in which a child is subjected to abuse by any person who is not a parent, stepparent, guardian, legal custodian, spousal equivalent, or any other person not included in the definition of intra-familial abuse.
  • Is a criminal violation

Action Steps:

  • Contact local law enforcement.  
  • If you are witnessing a crime in progress, call 911 immediately.
What does a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect look like?

Perpetrators by relationship to their victim
When looking at the demographics of perpetrators by relationship to their victim, 80.3 percent of perpetrators were parents, 6.1 percent were relatives other than parents, and 4.2 percent were unmarried partners of parents.

Perpetrators with other relationships accounted for 4.6 percent, and those with an unknown relationship to their victim accounted for 3.1 percent. According to comments provided by the States, the “other” perpetrator relationship may include a sibling, the victim’s boyfriend or girlfriend, a stranger, or a babysitter. 

Of the perpetrators who were parents, 88.5 percent were biological parents, 3.9 percent were step-parents, and 0.7 percent were adoptive parents.  The remaining 7 percent were of unknown parental relationship.

Perpetrators by age
When looking at the demographics of perpetrators by age, we can see that 39.6 percent of perpetrators were in the 25 to 34 year age group, 23.4 percent were in the 35 to 44 year age group, 19.2 percent were in the 18 to 24 year age group, and 9.4 percent were in the 45 to 54 year age group. Perpetrators age 55 and older accounted for less than 4 percent, and perpetrators younger than 18 years accounted for fewer than 3 percent. The age of 2.2 percent of perpetrators was unknown.

Perpetrators by gender
When looking at the demographic of perpetrators by gender, of the total number of perpetrators listed, 274,110 (53.5 percent) were female, while 232,102 (45.3 percent) were male. 

The gender of 5,828 perpetrators (1.1 percent) was unknown.

Perpetrators by race and ethnicity
When looking at the demographics of perpetrators by race and ethnicity, the racial distributions of perpetrators were similar to the race of their victims. The three largest percentages of perpetrators were of White (48.9 percent), African-American (19.9 percent), and Hispanic (18.9 percent) racial or ethnic descent.

The remaining 3.6 percent were other races or ethnicities, including American Indian or Alaska Native, Multiple Race, Asian, or Pacific Islander. The race or ethnicity of 8.7 percent of perpetrators was unknown.

Perpetrators by type of maltreatment
When looking at the demographic of perpetrators by type of maltreatment, 60.2 percent of perpetrators neglected children, 10.2 percent of perpetrators physically abused children, and 6.3 percent of perpetrators sexually abused children. Another 15.4 percent of perpetrators were associated with more than one type of maltreatment.

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Maltreatment 2012, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2012

What is child abuse and neglect?

Defining child abuse and/or neglect can seem complicated.  Definitions are established at the Federal level, the State level, and also through the 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 19-1-13 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, as follows:

(1) (a) "Abuse" or "child abuse or neglect", as used in part 3 of article 3 of this title, means an act or omission in one of the following categories that threatens the health or welfare of a child:

I. 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;

II. Any case in which a child is subjected to unlawful sexual behavior as defined in section 16-22-102 (9), C.R.S.;

III.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. The requirements of this subparagraph (III) shall be subject to the provisions of section 19-3-103.

IV. 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.

V. Any act or omission described in section 19-3-102 (1) (a), (1) (b), or (1) (c);

VI. 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;

VII. Any case in which a child tests positive at birth for either a schedule I controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-203, C.R.S., or a schedule II controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-204, C.R.S., unless the child tests positive for a schedule II controlled substance as a result of the mother's lawful intake of such substance as prescribed.

How is child abuse and/or neglect defined through the Court system?

When a family is involved in a Dependency and Neglect action through the Colorado Civil Courts system, the Court has their own definitions when making a determination if a child is neglected or dependent in the Court’s eyes. This definition is outlined in section 19-3-102 of the Colorado Revised Statutes:

(1) A child is neglected or dependent if:

a. 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;

b. The child lacks proper parental care through the actions or omissions of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian;

c. The child's environment is injurious to his or her welfare;

d. A parent, guardian, or legal custodian fails or refuses to provide the child with proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical care, or any other care necessary for his or her health, guidance, or well-being;

e. The child is homeless, without proper care, or not domiciled with his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian through no fault of such parent, guardian, or legal custodian;

f. The child has run away from home or is otherwise beyond the control of his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian;

g. The child tests positive at birth for either a schedule I controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-203, C.R.S., or a schedule II controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-204, C.R.S., unless the child tests positive for a schedule II controlled substance as a result of the mother's lawful intake of such substance as prescribed.

(2) A child is neglected or dependent if:

a. A parent, guardian, or legal custodian has subjected another child or children to an identifiable pattern of habitual abuse; and

b. Such parent, guardian, or legal custodian has been the respondent in another proceeding under this article in which a court has adjudicated another child to be neglected or dependent based upon allegations of sexual or physical abuse, or a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that such parent's, guardian's, or legal custodian's abuse or neglect has caused the death of another child; and 

c. The pattern of habitual abuse described in (a) of this subsection and the type of abuse described in the allegations specified in (b) of this subsection pose a current threat to the child.

What is the difference between discipline and abuse?

Abuse does not include discipline administered by a parent, guardian, or custodian to his or her child provided that discipline is reasonable in manner, moderate in degree, or otherwise does not constitute cruelty. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, may not be considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child. This distinction depends on several factors, including age, circumstances, location, triggering events, recurrence, developmental disability, physical or mental health of the child.

Discipline itself should never involve:

  •  Burning, biting, cutting
  •  Striking with a closed fist
  •  Inflicting injury by shaking or kicking
  •  Non-accidental injury to a child under 18 months
  •  Interfering with a child’s breathing
  •  Threatening a child with a dangerous weapon

Source:  The Child Welfare Information Gateway, Discipline vs. Abuse 

Is sex trafficking a form of abuse?

Yes. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry. 

Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand.  Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution. 

How do I know if I have encountered actual human trafficking?

Common work and living conditions - the Individual(s) in question:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Exhibits poor mental health or abnormal behavior
    • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
    • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
    • Avoids eye contact
  • Exhibits poor physical health
    • Lacks health care
    • Appears malnourished
    • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Exhibits a lack of control
    • Has few or no personal possessions
    • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
    • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
    • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other Signs

  •  Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  •  Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
  •  Loss of sense of time
  •  Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Source:  Polaris Project, Recognizing the Signs  

How do sex cyber crimes influence sexually abused children?

While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can also be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of online services and the Internet.

Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy to this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children’s inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations. There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via online contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversations, such as “chat,” as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material.

Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with online for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex.  The person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.

Children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Because they are curious, children and adolescents sometimes use their on-line access to actively seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by online offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they can be seduced and manipulated by a clever offender, and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.

Signs that children might be at risk online:

  •  Child/youth spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night
  •  Pornography found on child/youth’s computer
  •  Child/youth receives phone calls from people you don’t know
  •  Child/youth is making calls, sometimes long distance, to unrecognizable numbers
  •  Child/youth receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know
  •  Child/youth turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room
  •  Child/youth becomes withdrawn from their family
  •  Child/youth is using an on-line account belonging to someone else

If a cybercrime is committed by a parent or legal guardian, it is “abuse” and should be reported to child protective services. If the act is performed by anyone else, it is a criminal matter and should be handled by law enforcement.

Source:  Federal Bureau of Investigation, A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety

When is it legal to leave children alone?

When thinking about leaving children alone, whether for a short or long time, it is important for parents to consider the risks involved. There are many potential risks to children that must be considered. However, it is important to realize that there can be risks for parents as well. 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 parent can be charged with neglect for leaving children unattended.

The laws of Colorado do not set a specific age after which a child legally can stay home alone. Unfortunately, age is not a very good indicator of a child's maturity level. Some 15-year-olds may not be ready. For example, it is inappropriate to leave a 15-year-old alone if the teen is chemically dependent, has emotional problems, or is prone to vandalism or other destructive or illegal acts. 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. This standard is based upon the Colorado Child Labor Law, which deems 12 years as the minimum age for employment, for example, as a babysitter. (See Colorado Revised Statutes. § 8-12-105 (3)). 

Whenever you begin to consider self-care for your child, you should carefully question your child’s readiness for more independence. You should also know how child-protection investigators determine whether there is child neglect. Basically, investigators ask three main questions to determine whether a parent or legal guardian is neglecting a child by not providing adequate supervision:

Question #1 - How mature is the child?

  • Investigators will measure the child’s maturity level by asking:
  • Is the child capable of taking care of and protecting himself or herself?
  • Is the child mentally capable of recognizing and avoiding danger and making sound decisions?
  • Is the child emotionally ready to be alone? Will she or her 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 any special physical, emotional or behavioral problems that make it unwise to leave her or him alone?

Question #2 - Who is responsible for the child?
If parents have not left the child in the care of another, investigators will ask:

  • 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?

If parents have left someone else in charge, investigators will ask whether that person is mature enough to provide good supervision and to protect the child. They will want to know information about the caretaker that is similar to that requested in Question #1.

Parents should remember that a child who can take care of herself/himself may not be ready to take care of younger children. Legally it may be fine to leave a mature 11-year-old alone; but to leave that child in charge of a toddler, preschooler, or kindergartner may be considered child neglect. Younger children often need more care than an 11-year-old can give. And if an emergency comes up, the 11-year-old might not be able to keep everyone safe.

Question #3 - What is the situation?
What is appropriate under some circumstances may be considered child neglect under other circumstances. Investigators will ask:

  • 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?

The welfare of the child is the primary concern of investigators. If they determine that child neglect has occurred, the Department of Human Services, Children and Family Services will talk with the family and work out a more acceptable situation. The solution may involve a provision on the part of the parents not to leave the children alone. Or the department may help the family locate child-care services for some or all of the children currently left alone. The department is not trying to punish the parents or the family, but wants to make sure the children are safe and cared for properly.

As you can see, parents need to think carefully about many things before leaving their children alone. And this is important even if you only leave your child alone occasionally. Putting children in situations they can handle can help teach them independence and responsibility. But asking too much too soon can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation - for both the child and the parent.

Source: Adapted from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.  Publication No. CFS 1050-61 

Does a parent have a right to abuse or neglect their child based on cultural or religious beliefs?

Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may contribute to abuse and/or neglect, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance.  When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child’s health or safety is at risk, then child protective services intervention may be required.

In addition, many States provide an exception to the definition of neglect for parents who choose not to seek medical care for their children due to religious beliefs. Under Colorado law, the religious rights of a parent, guardian, or legal custodian shall not limit the access of a child to medical care in a life-threatening situation or when the child’s condition will result in serious disability.

In order to make a determination as to whether the child is in a life-threatening situation, or whether the child’s condition will result in serious disability, the court may order a medical evaluation of the child.  If the court determines that the child is in a life-threatening situation or that the child’s condition will result in serious disability, the court may order that medical treatment be provided for the child. Colorado Revised Statutes Section 19-1-103 states that if the parent, guardian, or legal custodian inhibits or interferes with the provision of medical treatment as ordered by the court, the child is then considered to have been neglected or endangered.

Sources: C.R.S. 19-1-103, Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau.


Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect FAQs

The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Reporting System and toll-free hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) became operational and available to all Coloradans on January 1, 2015. Review the following frequently asked questions regarding the hotline system and reporting concerns of child abuse and neglect in Colorado to learn more.

Will my call be confidential?

All callers may choose to report concerns anonymously and all reports will remain confidential. 

What will I be asked when I call to report a concern?

What is the nature of the abuse or neglectful environment?

  • Where is the child now?
  • Where is the alleged perpetrator now?
  • When were the children last seen and by whom?    
  • How long has this been occurring?  Have things stayed about the same, become worse or improved?
  • What school does the child attend and how long are they there?
  • Is the child reporting how often this occurs?
  • Is any adult in the home being assaulted by his or her partner?
  • Have the police ever been to the home to respond to assaults against adults or children?
  • Have the children said that one of their caretakers is a victim of violence or is acting violently in the home?
  • Have weapons been used to threaten or harm a family member? If so, what kind of weapon and is it still in the home?
  • Have any animals been injured?
  • Are there any weapons in the home or drug use by family members? 
  • Are there any other environmental hazards in the home (vicious animals, meth labs, criminal activity, etc.)?
  • Who else lives in the home? Are there other children in the home?
  • What are the worries about the child and family?

Physical Abuse

  • Did the reporter see an injury?  What does it look like? 
  • Where on the child’s body is the injury located?
  • Is medical intervention necessary?
  • When/where did it occur and by whom? 
  • Have any siblings ever suffered similar abuse?
  • Has this happened before?

Sexual Abuse

  • What, when, who, where and how often?  Did anyone else witness the incident? If the perpetrator is over age 10, has law enforcement been notified? Have the parents been notified?
  • Are there any physical indicators?
  • Has the child made a direct outcry? What was said?
  • Is the child reporting they have been inappropriately touched before? 
  • What is the relationship of the perpetrator? 

Emotional Abuse

  • What is being said to the child or what did they witness?
  • When, where and how often does this occur?
  • How is the child being affected?

Neglect

  • What specifically did the reporter see? 
  • Description of the environment and who saw it? When did they see it? 
  • Age of children and what have they been exposed to?
  • Regarding the appearance of the child, what did the reporter see (clothing not appropriate for season, in poor condition, etc.)?

Lack of supervision

  • How often and what time of day does it occur?
  • How long is the child left alone? Are they alone now?
  • Do they know where the parent goes at these times?

Substance Abuse

  • How do you know the parent is using drugs?
  • What substance is the parent using?
  • What is the impact on the child?
  • Is the substance accessible to the child?
  • Does the parent have a medical marijuana prescription?

Drug Exposed Child

  • Is the mother still at the hospital?  Who else is at the hospital?
  • Has meconium been ordered?  Types and level of drugs present? 
  • Does mom have a place to go? Do they have a car seat and other supplies?
  • How long will the child remain in the hospital?

Domestic Violence

  • Where were the children during the incident?  Were the police called? 
  • Who called 9-1-1 and at what time? Were any charges filed or was either parent incarcerated?  Was the child physically injured?
  • Did the child make any statements about how they “feel” regarding what occurred?
  • Have the children intervened or been physically harmed during a violent assault?
  • How is the violence affecting the children?
  • Has the abuser made threats of homicide or suicide?
  • Does the abuser have access to dangerous weapons or firearms?
  • Is the adult victim able to protect the child? If so, how?

Youth in Conflict

  • What specific behaviors have you seen that worry you about this youth?

  • How often are these behaviors occurring?
  • When was the last time you observed it?
  • (If reporter is not the parent) Have you contacted the parents about this?  Response?
  • Describe what you know about the youth’s friends?  Gang involvement? Drugs/alcohol?
  • Is the youth attending school?
  • Has the youth runaway?  How many times?  How long are they gone when they run?  
  • Are there other agencies involved such as the courts or therapists?
  • How are the youth’s behaviors affecting the family?
  • Does the youth have any informal supports such as mentors and/or close friends or family?
  • What is going well?

Tangible supports

  • How long has the family lived in the community?  How long at the current address?
  • Does the family have a telephone, transportation, car seats etc.?
  • Are the adults in the home employed?
  • Is the family receiving any public assistance (cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid)?

Child Information

  • How would you describe the child (happy, sad, worried, tired, fun loving)?
  • Does the child have any developmental delays or physical handicaps?
  • How does the child do in school and do they express any fear/apprehension of going home? 
  • Does the child have friends?
  • What does the parent say about the child – how would they describe the child?

Family/Community Supports

  • Does the family call on others to help solve problems?  Who do they call upon?
  • Are you familiar with any of the extended family?
  • Who are they and how is their relationship with the family?  What do they say?
  • Are there aspects of your relationship with the family that, in conjunction with our intervention, might help to influence them for the better?

Family Coping/Strengths

  • Are the parents concerned about these problems?  How did they react to you expressing concern?
  • How do family members usually solve this problem?  What have you seen them doing?
  • What would you say is good about mom’s/dad’s parenting?  What would the child say about the same?
  • Based on what you know, who is in charge of the family?
  • Has the family had any previous involvement with the law/courts?  Have any children been previously removed from the home?
  • Are there times when the mother/father is attentive rather than neglectful?  Can you tell me more about those times?  What did the parent and child do instead? 
  • What do you think contributed to the parent’s responding differently?
  • According to what you know, how did the non-offending parent react to what occurred?
  • If this has happened before – how has the family addressed the situation?
  • Are you aware of any efforts make by either of the caregivers to protect the children from abuse or neglect?

Race/Ethnicity/Culture

  • If you know this, could you please tell me the race, ethnicity or other information related to this child or families culture?
  • How does this family identify themselves regarding race, ethnicity or culture and if you don’t know, you don’t have to guess. If you do know this, how do you know?
  • Does the family belong to any religious community that you are aware of? If so, how do you know this? Why is it important for me to know this?
  • Do you know what the family’s’ primary language is?

Next steps/solutions

  • Have you taken any other action in addressing this problem, other than making this call?
  • Have you talked about these concerns with anyone else who knows the family?
  • Did you tell the parents you would be calling?  How did they react?
  • What do you think is the cause of the problem?
  • What convinced you to make this call?
  • What would it take to make the child safer?
Can I report my concerns nights, weekends or holidays?

Yes, 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 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437). Individual counties also have the flexibility to choose who answers their after-hours hotline calls. They may choose to route their calls directly to an on-call caseworker or to another county or law enforcement agency that has agreed to take after-hours or overflow calls. 

Can callers choose to give all information to the hotline or will all calls be sent directly to counties?

The main purpose of the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Reporting System is to quickly route callers to the appropriate county. Callers will be asked to speak the name of the county where the child resides and then will be directed to that county. Callers who are not sure of the county, speak a language other than English or Spanish, or are deaf or hard of hearing will be directed to a Hotline County Connection Center representative who will assist them in identifying the appropriate county.

Why should I call the hotline vs. reporting suspected abuse directly to my county?

The toll-free hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) is designed to provide one, easy-to-remember phone number for individuals to use statewide. The intent is to reduce confusion for reporters of child abuse and neglect and to make reporting suspected abuse and neglect as simple as possible. All callers will be connected with the appropriate county to speak with a call-taker who is trained and certified to use a screening guide designed to drive a structured process for interviewing callers who are reporting concerns of child abuse and neglect. 

I’ve seen child abuse and neglect public awareness campaigns in my county that cite a different, county-specific hotline. Which number should I use?

The toll-free hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) is designed to provide one, easy-to-remember phone number for individuals to use statewide. The intent is to reduce confusion for reporters of child abuse and neglect and to make reporting suspected abuse and neglect as simple as possible. All callers will be connected with the appropriate county to speak with a call-taker who is trained and certified to use a screening guide designed to drive a structured process for interviewing callers who are reporting concerns of child abuse and neglect. 

If counties already have phone numbers for reporting suspected abuse in place, why are we spending state funds on a new hotline, when we could be better spending that money elsewhere?

The objective of the hotline is twofold: 1) to make reporting suspected child abuse and neglect as simple as possible for the general public; and 2) to enable CDHS to capture critical information that it has not previously been able to track on a statewide basis, such as number of calls received, call volume, call duration, speed of answer, wait time, call transfers and abandonment rate. This data is critical to ensuring that calls across the state are quickly and appropriately handled.

Where does my call go if I use the hotline? How do I know the proper authorities will receive and take action on my reported concern?

The hotline system for routing callers to counties is largely automated, incorporating interactive voice response technology that allows callers to speak the name of the county where the child resides. However, callers also have the option of speaking with a live person through the Hotline County Connection Center and the primary function of the Hotline County Connection Center is to route callers to the appropriate county. 

Who works at the Hotline County Connection Center?

The Hotline County Connection Center is staffed by trained call-takers, certified annually through the Child Welfare Training System. 

What happens after I call to report my concern?

Once a you make a report of suspected child abuse and/or neglect to child protective services, there are many functions to fulfill as the child welfare safety net team continues to work toward keeping Colorado children safe. After you have made a report, you may never learn the outcome of the assessment. If so, please trust the child safety net and others on the team to continue to look out for the welfare of Colorado’s children.

However, it is likely you may be contacted during the assessment, and possibly during the life of the case, for additional information since you have contact with the child.  Section 7.202.52 of the policies and procedures manual for child protection caseworkers indicates that “other persons identified through the assessment who may have information regarding the alleged maltreatment shall be interviewed, if possible, as part of the assessment.”

Here is an overview of the process for reporting to child protective services:

  1. The first step is identification, which means recognizing the signs of child abuse and/or neglect.
  2. The second step is reporting. This means to contact a designated agency (either CPS or law enforcement) and provide information on suspected child abuse and/or neglect.
  3. The third step is screening. During screening, it is determined whether a referral meets statutory and agency guidelines.
  4. A decision is made whether to intervene and a determination is made regarding the urgency of the response to intervene.  In Colorado, the response time is based on a number of factors, such as the level of danger present and how vulnerable the child is. 

The caseworker will either

  • respond immediately,
  • by the end of the third calendar day, or
  • within five business days.

If the report does not meet statutory and agency guidelines (also called "screened out"), the family can be referred to other services, depending on whether any other needs were identified, or the referral is closed.

If the report does meet statutory and agency guidelines (also called "screened in"), it goes through an initial assessment phase. In this process, the caseworker will contact the child and family to gather information and then make a determination of whether abuse and/or neglect occurred. The caseworker also will assess the safety of the child and whether there is a need for emergency removal or services. In addition, they will assess the risk of future abuse and/or neglect.

If the assessment rules out that abuse occurred, the case is closed. The family also can be referred to other services depending on whether any other needs were identified.

If the assessment determines that abuse and/or neglect occurred, more information is gathered to identify the family's strengths and needs, and to assess factors contributing to the risk of future abuse and/or neglect. 

The next step is planning. In this stage, the caseworker and family identify the outcomes and goals that will reflect a reduction or elimination of the risk of abuse and/or neglect to the child. The caseworker and family identify strategies or services to achieve these goals and outcomes; develop case plans, permanency plans, and other plans; and establish time frames to meet these goals.

After developing case plans, the caseworker and family decide on what type of service provision is necessary. The services can be provided in-home, (for example, family preservation and parenting education), or provided out-of-home (for example, foster care and reunification services.).

The next step is an evaluation of family progress. This includes assessing the safety of the child and the reduction of risks; evaluating the achievement of family outcomes, goals, and tasks; and reviewing progress and the need for continued services. If such services need to continue, the caseworker will perform additional family and case planning and review the types of services to provide.

Based on the outcome of the family progress evaluation, the caseworker will decide if the planning goals have been met. If so, the case is closed once the caseworker assesses the levels of safety and risk, and determines whether the family can protect the child without further child protective services in place. The family also may be referred to other services depending on whether any other needs were identified.

What if I don’t know what county the child/family I’m calling about resides in?

Callers to the toll-free hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) have the option of speaking with a live person through the Hotline County Connection Center. The primary function of the Hotline County Connection Center will be to route callers to the appropriate county for follow-up. 

Where can I learn more about the signs of abuse and neglect?

This website is intended to help you better understand the legal definition of child abuse and neglect in Colorado and recognize the signs and behaviors associated with the various types of child abuse and neglect. You may also want to visit the FAQs regarding child abuse and neglect.

Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1‑844‑264‑5437)
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Don't hesitate to call and get help. 
Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.