EL PASO COUNTY — April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and 2020 was a difficult year.
The adults who are considered mandatory reporters, such as teachers and other health care professionals, weren't seeing kids as often during the pandemic. As a result, DHS saw a significant decrease in calls to the child abuse and neglect hotline.
Officials with the El Paso County Health Department, now say calls are trending right back up again.
In 2019, there were 25,000 calls made to the DHS hotline in El Paso County. In 2020, that number shrank to 20,600.
For the past 3 months, calls have been steady, averaging 1,700 a month. Officials with El Paso County say they're now seeing an uptick in calls because things are starting to open back up in Southern Colorado.
"We're going to the home to make contact with the family, and to provide resources and support," said April Jenkins, Children and Youth Family Services Manager. "We are also there to preserve that family," she said.
Staff members at Kids Crossing in Colorado Springs, a child placement agency, say this month is not about getting parents or families in trouble. It's about making sure families are safe and our children are healthy.
"A child who is living in a home with abuse and neglect isn't going to be able to play the way we would like them to, or learn the way they usually would," said Hillary Bridges, Assistant Executive Director at Kids Crossing. "The impact is pervasive on the whole child," she explained.
If a child typically is engaged and is suddenly withdrawn, or if you notice signs of anxiety, depression, or self harm, Bridges says these are all signs a child could be experiencing abuse or neglect.
To show that child abuse prevention is a community wide effort, there will be a proclamation reading April 13Th, during the regular board of El Paso County Commissioners meeting,
following by a pinwheel planting. More than 100 blue pinwheels will be planted around the area, a national symbol for child abuse prevention.
If you think a child maybe experiencing abuse or neglect, call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS.
For more resources and information, click here.