Denver mayor creates initiative to target, report child abuse

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DENVER -- Ten days after 23-month-old Javion Johnson died from alleged child abuse, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced a new initiative aimed at helping fix the system that failed the young boy.

“What happened to Javion, I know everyone agrees, should never happen to any child in this city,” Hancock said.

The mayor wants to bring together leaders from numerous groups involved with child welfare, from human services and police to schools and libraries, in hopes of improving communication and response.

Part of the tragedy surrounding Javion Johnson’s death, is that it wasn't completely unexpected.

"This is the second incident,” Javion’s grandfather Earl Lampley said following his death on July 7th.  “On the Fourth of July I didn't say nothing. He had a burnt mark on his leg. It was so deep to where you could see the flesh in there."

Ten days after Lampley shared his heartbreak and regret, the apartment remains a crime scene and Javion’s mother and her boyfriend remain behind bars on charges of first degree murder and child abuse. City leaders also remain troubled by a child welfare system that received several referrals to look into the parents, but never opened a case.

“Our community failed Javion,” Hancock said. “My heart continues to hurt, as I know this does, for the loss of this little boy.”

In response, the mayor is creating the new Child Safety Net Impact Team, consisting of leaders with each of the following groups and government agencies.

  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Butler Institute for Families
  • CO Dept of Human Services
  • Denver Human Services
  • Denver District Attorney
  • City Attorney
  • Denver Health
  • Denver Human Rights and Community Partnerships
  • Denver Parks and Rec
  • Denver Police
  • Denver Public Library
  • Denver Public Schools
  • Denver Technology Services
  • Office of Children’s Affairs
  • Office of Child Protection Ombudsman
  • The Kemp Foundation
  • Mile High United Way

The goal is to improve communication and response before it’s too late.

“If child abuse goes unattended, we see them later in life,” said Steve Siegel with the Denver District Attorney’s Office. “Either as crime victims or as offenders.”

But they can't do it alone, last year 80 percent of calls/referrals to Denver Human Services came from mandatory reporters.

“Why are neighbors, friends, family members and other residents, who are seeing or hearing the signs of abuse or neglect not reporting them?” said Don Mars, incoming director of Denver Human Services.

It's one of many questions those who knew Javion will forever be haunted by.

"I didn't do what I was supposed to do,” Lampley said. “Now he ain't here."

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