Case reports, investigations of child abuse on the rise in Mesa County
Child Protective Services doing more
The number of people reporting suspected child abuse in Mesa County, and the number of cases being investigated by the county, have increased in the past couple of months.
The increases show that some of the county’s recent efforts have paid off, Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland said. People are becoming more aware of the issue and more comfortable with the county’s system of child protective services, she said.
The percentage of child abuse reports referred for further investigation, or assessments, has historically been below 50 percent. In the past couple months that number has increased beyond 50 percent, said Len Stewart, Mesa County’s Director of Human Services, who oversees the county’s Child Protective Services division.
“That’s a considerable jump in the percentages,” Stewart said.
The number of founded allegations may also be on the increase, but that won’t be known for several months, he said.
“Sometimes those determinations (of a founded case of child abuse) take 60 or more days,” he said.
The number of calls referring cases of suspected child abuse in the last few months has increased from 204 in July to 242 in August and 263 in September. The increased reporting could be a reflection of some recent changes within child protective services, Stewart said.
There is now a dedicated hotline, 242-1211, for residents to report child abuse, which has gotten some minimal advertising. The phone is answered by a community liaison, who when not working the phone goes to schools and talks to teachers about how to spot signs of child abuse.
Each report of abuse is also now reviewed by an intake supervisor with the assistance of a case worker and the community liaison.
The county has also added some new state-recommended standards to a minimal set of mandatory factors used to determine if a child is at risk and requires the county to intervene. Among the additional assessment factors considered: Past history of drug use or criminal activity within the household, domestic violence, past instances of reported sexual abuse and any negative family associations, such as with drug abusers or prostitutes, Stewart said.
Rowland added that the county now offers the public more classes on how to spot and report suspected child abuse. Additionally, she said, referrals always increase at the start of the school year, as children return to the classroom and have adult supervision.