In this time of global health crisis, it is even more important to find ways to strengthen families such as focusing on parental resilience, building social connections and connecting families to concrete supports in times of need, as stated in the Proclamation for Child Abuse Prevention Month approved unanimously Tuesday by the Board of El Paso County commissioners.
“Our message this year is thriving communities, thriving families and thriving children,” said Julie Krow, El Paso County Department of Human Services executive director. “We want to emphasize the critical role the community plays in preventing child abuse and neglect.”
Last year, DHS received more than 16,500 reports of child abuse. About 6,600 of those became assessments. In the days immediately following the first state orders closing schools and businesses, calls reporting child abuse and neglect decreased by more than 40 percent. With schools and other entities closed, most mandatory reporters no longer have regular interactions with children.
Although many things have changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff with the Department of Human Services (DHS) continue their work of protecting the most vulnerable.
“Caseworkers are still working in the community, conducting home visits to make sure children are safe and connecting families to resources,” Krow said. “DHS is not closed, and families needing help can apply for economic assistance at Colorado.gov/PEAK.”
Anyone concerned for the safety and well-being of a child may call 1-844-CO-4-Kids (available 24 hours a day, every day). Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.
“Now more than ever, it is important to find ways to strengthen families and build skills, such as resiliency,” said Commissioner Cami Bremer.
Parenting is hard in the best of times, and it is OK for parents to reach out for help. It is important for everyone to remember that social distancing, does not mean social isolation. Reach out to parents, and sometimes even the simple act of listening can be a tremendous support.
“When families are thriving, abuse decreases because families are in a good place to take care of their children,” said Commissioner Stan VanderWerf. “Thank you for your ongoing efforts, especially in these times.”