DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado’s Department of Human Services is now acknowledging that five reports of neglected children were missed- possibly for as long as five years- after they were sent to a state email address that was not being checked or monitored.
“It’s of great concern that we had five that did not reach the level of attention they needed in a timely way,” said Minna Castillo-Cohen, the Director of the Office of Children and Families at CDHS.
A CBS4 Investigation tracked down what happened with the child neglect reports, which are normally investigated and acted on immediately. In these five cases, that did not happen.
In 2015, the state set up a Colorado child abuse and neglect hotline for reporting of suspected abuse or neglect. An email address was created to support the hotline effort, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Almost immediately, CDHS was notified the email address was an incorrect format. So the department set up a second email address, email@example.com in connection with the telephone hotline.
But, the first email address was never deleted, disabled nor assigned to anyone. So, from 2015 through May of this year, emails collected in the inbox that nobody saw or read. It turns out some of those emails were to notify state authorities of suspected child neglect cases that needed to be investigated.
When CDHS learned in mid-May that the email address had not been checked for nearly five years, they found 321 unanswered emails in the inbox.
Castillo-Cohen told CBS4 that the vast majority were spam and mass marketing emails. But 104 were related to “expressed concerns of child abuse or neglect.” When those were evaluated, five were reports of child neglect that needed immediate attention, but did not receive it.
“And we wish we would have been able to identify these earlier but we did not know this email even existed,” said Castillo-Cohen.
While she said none of the unanswered emails were about child abuse, she also said confidentiality issues prevented her from providing more information on the five child neglect cases that had gone undiscovered until May.
She said those cases are now being addressed.
Castillo-Cohen emphasized that when members of the public do have concerns about child abuse or neglect, they are urged to call the actual telephone hotline which is manned 24/7.
That number is 1-844-CO-4-KIDS or 1-844-264-5437.