Gov. Hickenlooper announces changes to strengthen troubled child protection system

CALL7 has exposed deadly flaws in system

DENVER - The state is again making changes to the troubled child welfare system, a fractured system CALL7 Investigators have been reporting on for years.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper, along with state human services director Reggie Bicha announced new changes that include setting up a hotline to report abuse, the creation of a website to check out how a specific county is handling reported cases and making the agency more transparent when it comes to training and performance.

Wednesday’s new changes, known as “Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy 2.0” is part of an approach the governor began a year ago. It will also includes more training for “mandatory reporters” and mobile technology to help caseworkers be more efficient and ease their workload.

These latest improvements are a continuation of sweeping changes begun in 2008 after a 7NEWS investigation uncovered the needless deaths of  children due to incompetence and lack of training by state and county social services agencies. 

In more than two years of reporting, CALL7 Investigators found the deaths of 13 children could have been prevented, and found caseworkers were improperly trained. Several death cases uncovered by CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia were in Denver, where  then-mayor John Hickenlooper accepted the resignation of his head of human services, Roxanne White.  White is now Hickenlooper's chief of staff.

In a series of exclusive reports, the CALL7 investigation detailed the most egregious errors by the Denver Department of Human services in the death of 7-year-old Chandler Grafner who was starved to death, alone, in a closet, by his guardians. The agency ignored pleas on behalf of the child from teachers at his school and took no action to save his life.

As a result of the 7NEWS investigation then-Gov. Bill Ritter appointed a Child Welfare Action Committee. In 2008, based on the committee's recommendations, Ritter signed legislation that included a state training academy for all caseworkers, requirements for county agencies and courts to track cases between counties, and requirements that those designated as "mandatory reporters" of child abuse be notified of the safety of the child who is the subject of their concern.

The 7NEWS investigation also lead to the establishment of the Child Welfare Ombudsman's Office that concerned persons can call if their concerns about a child are not heeded by a county human services agency.

Wednesday’s announcement also will mean the state will give more funding to counties. Hickenlooper, who began to make changes in Denver after the CALL7 investigation, is now following through with his pledge to protect Colorado children. He has requested $22 million dollars to make the changes to the system. 

“The governor’s enhanced plan takes child protection in Colorado to the next level,” Bicha said. “It is an innovative approach to bridging prevention and practice in a way that stabilizes families and helps prevent child abuse.” 

More information on “Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy 2.0” can be found at www.Colorado.gov/cdhs.