Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to provide details on the statistic cited from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, and how the number of impoverished children in a state are factored in to the statistic.
DENVER (KDVR) — A new bill would require tipsters to identify themselves when they call the state’s child welfare hotline.
Child advocacy organizations who spoke with FOX31 are strongly in favor of the idea and say that it’s long overdue.
Child abuse investigations ‘not a benign act’
As of Thursday night, there’s a standstill at the statehouse on House Bill 23-1142, an effort to move away from anonymous reporting of suspected child abuse, with certain exceptions.
“First of course, a child abuse investigation is not a benign act,” said Richard Wexler, the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. It’s a nonprofit child advocacy organization dedicated to improving the system to better serve the most vulnerable children in the U.S.
“It’s often accompanied by a strip search as the worker looks for bruises. If anyone else did that, it would be sexual abuse,” Wexler explained, adding: “The trauma is compounded, of course, if the worker then walks right out with the child and places the child in foster care. Colorado’s record on this is Colorado counties tend to have a hair trigger for needlessly removing children.”
NCCPR compiled an index comparing the number of children taken away from families to the number of impoverished children in each state. For Colorado, that number is 23.2 children removed for every 1,000 impoverished children. This is 30% more than the national average of 18.2 removals per 1,000 impoverished children.
This statistic weights the raw data so all states can be compared regardless of poverty level, a factor which the organization says plays a large role in children being removed from their homes.
“If you don’t do that, states with high child poverty populations will say, well, of course we have high rates of removal, or states with low child poverty populations will look like they’re not taking away too many kids, even though they are in effect concentrating on poor neighborhoods in otherwise rich communities,” Wexler said.
He also said the organization even compares the numbers to total child population for those who prefer that measure.
“When we hear the words ‘child abuse’ overwhelmingly, they involve neglect. Sometimes neglect can be extremely serious. More often it’s poverty. The other thing those data will show is the extent of racial disproportionality … the extent to which Colorado disproportionately takes away the children of Black families and the children of Native American families,” Wexler said.
“Colorado misses more children in real danger by allowing false reports, many of them anonymous, to cascade down upon caseworkers stealing their time from finding children in real danger,” Wexler said.
House leader lends support to abuse reporting bill
Meanwhile, since FOX31’s initial report on Monday, a high-ranking Democrat is now co-sponsoring the bill, House Majority Leader Monica Duran. She released a statement on the bill.
“Every day since I was elected, it’s been my mission to fight, advocate and stand up for survivors of abuse and domestic violence,” the statement reads. “As a survivor of domestic violence, I know the feeling of displacement all too well and the struggle of navigating your next move to keep you and your children safe. We’re always working toward solutions that prioritize survivors, including children. This bill makes sure there is still a safe avenue for anonymous reporting and works to help protect families and children from further trauma.”