DENVER (AP) - Colorado has created a website that provides the public with child-protection and child-abuse information for each county, the latest in a series of reforms that follow a number of child deaths in the state.
According to reports, 202 children died of abuse or neglect between 2007 and 2013 in Colorado. Among those, 75 had parents or caregivers who were known to the child-welfare system before the child’s death.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to be transparent with the public and to keep our families safe and healthy,” said Julie Krow, director of the Office of Youth and Families in the Colorado Department of Human Services. “This is something we can’t do alone. We need our community to help us.”
In more than half of the child-abuse deaths reviewed during a six-year period, caseworkers did not follow state policy regarding how to investigate abuse and neglect allegations, according to an analysis, the Denver Post and KUSA-TV reported.
Colorado’s website provides county-level data on child-abuse referrals, instances of child abuse and how many children are reunited with their families after being placed in foster care. Other information includes instances when children are removed from troubled families, caseworker visitation rates, child fatalities, types of maltreatment, and timeliness of responses to allegations of abuse.
Krow said county child-protection officials can use the data to see how they are doing compared with their peers in the state. If those officials see one county excelling in certain areas, they can reach out to the other county to find out how to make improvements, she said.
Krow said that over the past year, the state sought to improve response times for reviewing and investigating child-abuse allegations. The counties now meet time standards nearly 90 percent of the time, up from 50 percent, she said.
Stephanie Villafuerte, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, an advocacy organization, said the information being made public is critical to understanding issues with the state’s child-protection programs.
“Now we can talk about the facts,” she said. “We can talk about the numbers and statistics and talk about all that as opposed to just talking about anecdotes. I think that this is a brand-new day.”
Colorado officials launched the website after they spent nearly $1 million to provide child-protection workers with new laptops, smartphones and computer tablets to help them become more efficient. The state also plans to have a new child-abuse hotline up and running by January.
Department of Human Services: www.cdhsdatamatters.org
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