Phones at the Hotline County Connection Center facility in Lamar have rung more than 1 million times since it first opened up its doors five years ago.
“The calls have trended up over time,” said Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families at Colorado Department of Human Services. “What we believe is that it’s attributed to more people understanding how to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect and what it shows us is that more families are able to get the support they need to be able to address those concerns.”
The hotline number, 844-CO-4-KIDS, should be called when someone has a concern about child abuse or neglect, she said, adding that someone can call any hour of any day, including holidays.
“What we share with people is anytime they have a concern about a child, you don’t have to make a determination whether it’s child abuse or neglect,” Cohen said. “You don’t have to have that expertise. You just need to make that call to the hotline and let the folks on the other end of the line make that decision about what’s going on in that child’s life and they will make that determination.”
Cohen said it’s a myth that kids are always removed from a home when there’s a concern.
“We know that children and families do best when they can be together and receive the services together,” she said. “We really don’t remove kids from their homes unless there’s truly a safety issue. In fact, in 70 percent of child welfare cases, the child or the teen is able to stay safely in their home while the family receives the services.”
Before the center opened up in Lamar, calls were taken by various counties across the state.
“There was a recognition that by having one centralized number, it would make it easier for people to remember the number when they saw something and it would help us really look at the data behind how many calls were coming in, what were the trends we were seeing at a statewide level and really help support the counties who weren’t having to take those calls on their own and perhaps who didn’t have the capacity to do that,” Cohen said. “With the hotline, that created an opportunity that no matter where the person is calling from or what time of day that it is that there’s always someone available to take those calls.”
The Hotline County Connection Center is in Lamar because no other counties were able to present their bid before the deadline, said Ron Trowbridge, manager of the HCCC.
“I have to hand it to our commissioner, Wendy Buxton-Andrade, and Lanie Meyers-Mireles, the director of human services in Prowers County who worked very hard to get figures put together and get a good proposal sent off to the state in a very short time frame,” he said.
Trowbridge said his employees stay busy.
“The phones are generally ringing all the time,” Trowbridge said. “It’s not at all unusual for not only all of the call takers to be on the phone, but almost every day the two supervisors have to jump on the phone and I have to jump on the phone and we are all taking reports.”
The facility started off in January 2015 with nine call takers and two supervisors, he said.
“As we’ve grown, we started adding people to suit our needs, so right now we are up to 25 call takers,” Trowbridge said.
Visit www.co4kids.org, the hotline’s website, to learn more about the signs of child abuse and neglect.