DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families joined with child advocates, and community partners to raise awareness about Child Abuse Prevention during the month of April.  The goal of the awareness campaign is to emphasize the importance that everyone plays in strengthening families.

“Strengthening families is the very best and most effective thing that we can do to help prevent child abuse and neglect,” said Minna Castillo Cohen, Director of the Office of Children, Youth, and Families.

Throughout the month participants wore blue to show support for promoting positive childhood experiences, and some took to social media with the hashtag “#GrowingBetterTogether” to show support for growing a better tomorrow for all children.

“With that campaign, we are asking everybody to get involved, and you can use that hashtag, #GrowingBetterTogether, as you do work in the community to strengthen families,” Castillo Cohen explained.

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The pinwheel is the national symbol for the prevention of child abuse.

“It represents the bright childhood that we want for all of our children,” Castillo Cohen said.

The Pinwheels for Prevention campaign provides free pinwheels to those who want to show their support for those bright futures.

“Pinwheel gardens you may see springing up around the state. I know I have one in my front yard, but you can plant pinwheels that you can get for free if you go onto copinwheelsforprevention.org.

In 2021, the number of calls to the state’s child abuse reporting hotline began to rebound as children went back to school, daycare, and doctors appointments. As Coloradans returned to pre-pandemic levels of activity, calls to the hotline increased by 8-percent. Local county human service agencies investigated 34,890 reports of child endangerment. Of those, 7,512 children experienced abuse or neglect and an additional 4,508 families got voluntary support from social services.

“As families have been sort of struggling during the pandemic with economic insecurity, or food insecurity, loss of jobs, those kinds of things created stressors and that type of isolation didn’t help as well,” Castillo Cohen said.

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There are real things that people can do to help strengthen the families around them. Some of them include:

— Offer to babysit to give parents a break
–Coordinate a meal sign-up calendar for new parents or a neighborhood family in need.
–Organize a neighborhood party so families can meet each other.
–Ask a family if they need something picked up the next time you run to the store

For a list of more than 50 ways you can help strengthen families go to co4kids.org/myrole.

It’s every Coloradans responsibility to make a report if they suspect a child is experiencing abuse or neglect. CO4Kids Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is 1-844-co-4-Kids or 1-844-264-5437.

Libby Smith