Child abuse cases are rising dramatically in Colorado courts, reports the Denver Post. “It’s off the charts. It’s unbelievable,” said Theresa Spahn, executive director of the state Office of the Child’s Representative. Spahn’s office, which assigns attorneys to represent children’s interests in court, found that guardian appointments for new child abuse cases jumped 54 percent in Jefferson and Boulder counties from the last half of 2002 to the last half of 2003. Child abuse cases grew by one-third overall in Denver-area courts, and many rural counties also had “a serious increase,” Spahn’s office said.
Spahn blamed the jump on economic problems, state budget cuts for mental health and other social programs, and the abuse of methamphetamine. “People have lost their jobs, they don’t have insurance and it’s much harder to get treatment for mental illness,” she said. “When families are in crisis and they can’t get services, they do things like abuse their children.” The rise in meth use puts “kids in the most unbelievable environments,” she said. “They’re living in horrible homes.”
A state legislator announced a new commission to explore why many children die despite calls to Colorado child protection agencies. Rep. Debbie Stafford of the House committee overseeing Colorado social services, said the panel would review how counties respond to child abuse complaints and whether legislation is needed to improve the system. Stafford created what she called an informal commission in response to a three-part series in The Denver Post this week on child abuse fatalities.
The Post reported that child protection agencies had been called for help before 41 percent of child abuse and neglect deaths in the last decade.