Each year, there are more than 100,000 suspected cases of child abuse and neglect in Colorado. This number represents 100,000 children who deserve access to proper evaluation, diagnosis and care to ensure their physical and mental health and safety. Unfortunately, Colorado does not have the critical expertise throughout the state to provide this service.
The number of experts qualified to conduct these medical and behavioral health assessments is extremely limited. There are only six board-certified specialists in the field of child abuse pediatrics in Colorado. Five of these specialists live in Denver, and the other in Colorado Springs. Their distance to most of the state’s 64 counties limits the access our children have to expert evaluations following suspected abuse or neglect.
A new bill sponsored by Representatives Caraveo and Pelton, and Senator Fields aims to ensure all children who may have experienced physical, sexual abuse or neglect have access to high quality medical evaluations and behavioral health assessments.
HB 19-1133 creates Colorado’s Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network (CARENetwork), a program to build local capacity by recruiting designated providers from communities across the state and training them to provide quality assessments for suspected victims of child abuse and neglect in their local communities.
These designated providers could include family care physicians, nurses, advance practice providers and behavioral health providers. Each provider will be required to complete advanced training on the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as the risk factors for maltreatment. They will also be equipped with education about the resources available to support families who present these risk factors. Not only will these providers ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, they will also serve as a bridge for families who need continued care by specialists or multi-disciplinary teams.
The CARENetwork will ultimately expand the safety net for children, and will likely contribute to a reduction in severe incidents of child abuse and neglect, including fatalities. If Colorado passes HB19-1133 and creates the CARENetwork, we will take a significant step toward improving the safety and health of babies, toddlers and young children in all Colorado communities.
Kathryn (Kathi) Wells, MD, FAAP
Executive Director | Kempe Center for the Prevention and
John D. Faught
Chief Executive Officer | The Kempe Foundation