Child Care Prevents Child Abuse And Neglect, State Officials Say

Seventy-seven Colorado children were involved in fatal, near fatal and egregious incidents of child maltreatment in 2018, according to the Department of Human Service’s latest Child Maltreatment Fatality Report.

The report identified child care as one of the most important factors that could reduce abuse and neglect. Subsidized child care has been shown to decrease child maltreatment. Between 2013 and 2017, state officials identified 223 child maltreatment deaths that “might have been prevented had quality, affordable child care been available to all families that needed it.”

Child care costs in Colorado are rising, often eclipsing the cost of college. Child Care Aware of America estimates that in Colorado the annual cost of center-based child care is $14,950 and home-based child care is $10,522. The annual cost of college tuition at a four-year college is $10,797.

Megan Verlee/CPR News
Children take a nap at an Aurora child care center.

The report is presented to the Colorado legislature annually in order to identify the factors associated with abuse and neglect.

State lawmakers passed several bills in 2019 aimed at addressing the shortage of affordable child care, including mandating a strategic action plan on the shortage, offering free full-day kindergarten, establishing a child care expenses tax credit for low-income families and a pilot program to provide child care services to parents seeking substance use disorder treatment.

Child maltreatment is less likely in families where caregivers experience less economic strain and decreased stress, according to the report. It also recommended offering more education for parents about infant and child development, more opportunities for family engagement and for working outside the home.

By The Numbers

Younger children are the most vulnerable to child maltreatment. In Colorado, nearly a third of the fatalities involved victims younger than one-year-old, and two-thirds were three or younger. The same is true for near-fatal incidents. Most victims were white, reflective of the overall population.

Typically, families had been or were currently involved with the child welfare system. Nearly a third of families where a child had died because of maltreatment had some history with domestic violence. Nearly a third experienced substance abuse issues and more than a third included a history of mental health treatment for at least one caregiver.

Males accounted for 55 percent of the children who died; boys typically have a higher death rate from abuse and neglect. But there were more female victims in 2016 and 2017. Forty percent of children in the worst cases of child maltreatment lived in a household with two parents, similar to previous years.

If you are concerned about the safety or welfare of a child, you can report it anonymously at the Colorado Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS. People are available to answer calls 24-7, 365 days a year.