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State expects reports of educational neglect to rise as educators adjust to remote learning

According to the state, educational professionals account for 20% of all calls of child abuse and neglect.

DENVER, Colorado — As kids across Colorado head back to school whether that be virtually or in-person, the Colorado Division of Child Welfare has more answers for educators charged with reporting child abuse and neglect.

According to the state, educational professionals accounted for 20% of all calls of child abuse and neglect before the pandemic. 

When schools shut down due to COVID-19, the state saw a drop in reports of more than 40%.

"It definitely was concerning, of course. I think it was for many child welfare professionals," Yolanda Arredondo, the intake and assessment administrator for the Colorado Division of Child Welfare, told 9NEWS.

Credit: Colorado Division of Child Welfare
Credit: Colorado Division of Child Welfare

In the spring, Arredondo told 9NEWS the Division of Child Welfare collaborated with the Colorado Department of Education and other nonprofits to create a toolkit for educators. 

Before the pandemic, many reports of child abuse or neglect made by educators were the result of in-person engagement.

"It was just looking so different and diverse across the entire state with remote learning," Arredondo said. "Not doing in-person school anymore was quite an impact to our total call volume." 

She told 9NEWS the classroom is often where students will confide in an educator. Those opportunities diminish in a remote setting particularly -- when the adult in question may be overseeing the student's remote learning.

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The toolkit provides educators with answers to frequently asked questions, lesson suggestions and activities to help them gauge changes in a child's behavior or demeanor in a remote setting that may then be cause for concern. 

For example, a journal or art assignment may provide an older student with the opportunity to confide in their teacher.

For younger students, the toolkit recommends a scavenger hunt for a book, snack or adult in the house as a way for the teacher to better gauge the home environment. 

Six months into the pandemic, the Division of Child Welfare has a better understanding of the questions being asked and is providing answers as frequently as it can.

While teacher and student interactions and the strategies behind them have changed in the new school year, the Arredondo and the state still rely heavily on educators' instincts to protect the welfare of Colorado children.

"It’s not an easy job by any means and they play a really important role in working with children and youth and trying to ensure that their well being is looked after," Arredondo told 9NEWS.

To report abuse or neglect, call the Department of Human Services Hotline 24 hours a day at 844-CO-4-KIDS.

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