GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Following the closure of school campuses in March, calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect hotline fell nearly 50% according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
“For kids who live in homes that they’re at risk of abuse or neglect, it’s very concerning to think about the fact that they’ve been isolated in their home for over three months,” said Janet Rowland with ‘How are the Children?’, the Mesa County Partnership for Children and Families.
As a result, teachers across the state are calling on Coloradans to be the eyes and ears of the community, all in the name of protecting children.
“We’re asking parents and neighbors and everyone to please keep your eye out on all the kids that you see,” said Kevin LaDuke, a 6th grade social studies and science teacher at Orchard Mesa Middle School.
“We always encourage citizens to pay attention to the kids around them but right now it’s more important than ever,” said Rowland.
Due to the pandemic, kids have been off school campuses and virtually learning since March.
“So, even if they start school in August as planned, you’re talking about five months those kids have not had anyone really paying attention to their care and safety,” said Rowland.
“It’s definitely something that should be stressed and it’s something everyone should be aware of, not just parents,” said Heather Gross, a local mom.
As parents know, quarantining with kids can create more of a challenge, especially since they’re not in school.
“Tensions are high and people are stressed and you know I’m sure some of the rates of things go up so we need to be aware,” said Heidi Power, a local mom and nurse.
If you’re not sure what to look for, there are a number of indicators.
“Emotionally, look for children that have changed, kids that were more excitable, outgoing suddenly have become more introverted,” said LaDuke.
“For physical abuse you could look at bruises or other injuries that aren’t normal, of course kids play every day and get bruises in certain places,” said Rowland, “If there’s bruises on their back or on their face, a lot of times those are not ones that come naturally.”
According to advocates, you shouldn’t hesitate to intervene.
“You don’t have to, like, go over there and get involved but you can be empowered through the Mesa County hotline and reaching out for child protective of services,” said Power.
“Whether it’s in their neighborhood, their church, a playground, the grocery store, if you see something that looks concerning please report that to authorities,” said Rowland, “And the reporting isn’t just about identifying abuse, but it’s about supporting the families and the Department of Human Services has services to help those families.”