Colorado legislators split on oversight changes for child welfare system

· Feb. 24, 2015, 6:17 pm
State lawmakers split Tuesday over whether to change one oversight tool in the child welfare system.

Last year's audit of child welfare system recommended that Colorado stop requiring counties maintain citizen oversight panels. These Child Protection Teams are supposed review every case a county opens to make recommendations or spot problems.

But the audit found that few counties use the teams the way they’re supposed to, that the panels often just sign off on staff decisions, and that their work isn’t easily available to the public.

Adams County Human Services Director Chris Kline told lawmakers that the child welfare system has a lot of other safeguards and the teams are an unnecessary burden on caseworkers.

But Democrats on the legislative audit committee believe the citizen panels need to be fixed, not eliminated. 

"These kids have no voice and we’re taking away something where we should be stepping in," said Senator Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge.

The committee split on partisan lines over whether to introduce a bill making the volunteer child welfare oversight teams voluntary for counties. That means the legislation won't go forward.

The state Human Services Department chair Reggie Bicha warned lawmakers that if the state wants the panels to continue, it needs to put up some money to help make them effective.

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