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State addresses child welfare issues

6:59 PM, Oct 15, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - 9NEWS forensic psychologist Max Wachtel knows the difficulty of being a mandatory reporter in this state when it comes to allegations of child abuse.

"You go on a website, and you can't find a (phone) number. You call five to six people and you have to leave voice mail messages at that point. It's a real problem," he said on Tuesday.

Alleviating that frustration is part of the reasoning behind a new statewide child abuse hotline that remains in the infancy stage. It's not expected to roll out until 2015, but already state leaders are heralding this year's decision by the state legislature to create a single and easily accessible hotline.

"Essentially the public can become the eyes and ears for child protection in Colorado," said Colorado Department of Human Services Director of Office of Children, Youth and Families Julie Krow.

The current system, as highlighted in our "Failed to Death" series - relies on a patchwork and oftentimes cumbersome county child abuse hotlines. It's thought the complicated system is enough to discourage mandatory reporters like psychologists and fully dissuade members of the public.

"In Colorado, 10 percent of our calls come from the general public. The majority of our calls come from mandatory reporters," Krow said.

When Krow and others looked into a single hotline system in New York, for example, they found that states with a universal system get upwards of 50 percent of their calls from the public.

"I think this is long overdue. I think what this will do will create a great step toward protecting our children and make our public more aware of what they can do to get involved," said Douglas County Commissioner Jack Hilbert, a member of the Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Steering Committee.

"Today (the public has) a fear of reporting. We need to remove that," he added. "This will allow us to do that."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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