(CBS4) – Since schools released in March, the Colorado Department of Human Services has seen a sharp decrease in the number of calls to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Now teachers across the state are calling on the entire community to protect children this summer.

“The kids in my class know that I’m their momma duck at school,” said Cara Godbe, a 3rd grade teacher in Montrose.

Godbe is among the teachers calling on the community to keep an eye out for children and families who may be struggling this summer.

“It is unsettling because there are kids in really, really tenuous situations,” Godbe told CBS4.

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Coronavirus has made those situations even more tenuous. Many families are facing unemployment, food insecurity, and eviction.

“It’s not that there is more abuse and neglect happening, it’s just that there are fewer people with their eyes on kids, for kids to share those experiences,” said Minna Castillo Cohen, Director of the Office of Children, Youth & Families.

In the first week of March, the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline received 4,839 calls. The number of calls dropped to 2,671 by the end of May, after schools closed due to COVID-19. In June, the number calls dropped another 10-percent.

“What we want our community members to do is to be those eyes and ears to look for families who might be struggling,” said Castillo Cohen.

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“In my career, I’ve seen a lot of good come out of those calls, where families maybe suddenly have more access to housing, to food, to mental health support,” Godbe explained.

“In nearly 70-percent of the child welfare cases, counties can provide the services, and kids can remain safely in home with their parents,” Castillo Cohen explained.

The Office of Children, Youth, & Families recently put together a new online toolkit, with resources that work for just about anyone who had a concern.

“My teaching colleagues and I, we definitely have kids we wonder…like, ‘Oh,’…you know? You just hope that everyone’s a momma duck.”

The message from teachers this summer is if you see or hear something that doesn’t seem right, it’s okay to make a call.

The number for the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline is 844-CO-4-KIDS.

LINK: co4kids.org

Libby Smith

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