Democrats propose child-welfare reforms

Vic Vela
Posted

Gov. John Hickenlooper and other Democratic state leaders announced a series of reforms Feb. 6 to the state’s child welfare system, which are in part aimed at preventing child abuse before it happens.

The proposals include the setup of a statewide child abuse reporting hotline, more training for child welfare caseworkers, and other efforts designed to protect children.

“We want to make sure we keep our kids healthy and safe, and make sure we stabilize families,” Hickenlooper said at a Capitol press conference.

The reforms, which have been dubbed “Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy 2.0,” is a follow-up effort to changes to the child welfare system that Hickenlooper announced about a year ago.

The hotline streamlines the current reporting system, one where all 64 Colorado counties have their own child abuse hotlines.

Hotline workers, along with child caseworkers, also will receive more training to help them investigate abuse cases.

The plan also allows families involved in child welfare referrals, ones that may not rise to the level of abuse or neglect cases, to receive services and support aimed at preventing abuse.

The governor’s plan also calls for greater transparency, through the development of a website where the public can keep tabs on efforts taking place inside the child welfare system.

And the plan calls for modern technology, such as the use of smart phones and tablets to help caseworkers with their workloads.

Hickenlooper will seek funding for his proposals by asking the Legislature to set aside $22 million in next year’s budget.

The governor also said that Colorado will receive $8 million in federal funds in each of the next five years, which will also go toward funding reforms.

The governor was joined at the press conference by legislators who will be involved in drafting the bills.

“We may not be able to prevent every child death by abuse, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” said state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk.

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