The recent investigative report by the Denver Post and 9News has put the spotlight on Colorado’s child welfare system. In Moffat County, where the rate of child abuse referrals is the highest in the state, county officials have been looking for a new director of social services. The new hire faces a tall task and will need the support of the community.
Countless times throughout the year this editorial space is used to promote the old adage “Children are the future.”
And while that may still be true, the tragic reality faced by many youths is a childhood so full of uncertainty and unrest that the concept of any kind of future — let alone a bright one — seems like a pipe dream, destined to be dismantled by harsh environments and unforgiving circumstances.
This especially is true for those in the Colorado child welfare system.
The Denver Post and 9News this week are publishing and airing the results of a joint investigation into the state child welfare system. What they found is staggering.
The investigation revealed 175 children who have died of abuse and neglect in Colorado since 2007, 72 of who were in the Colorado child welfare system, assigned to caseworkers who were supposed to protect them.
That’s 72 times someone encountered a child and thought there was enough of a problem to warrant contacting social services. Seventy-two times an assigned caseworker didn’t follow through.
Seventy-two voices silenced.
Seventy-two lives tragically ended too soon.
And that’s not even considering the children still alive who face similar situations.
It would be easy to classify this problem as urban, a byproduct of living in overcrowded and underfunded cities. But that assumption would be wrong.
In fact, per capita Moffat County has the highest rate of child abuse referrals in Colorado. We suspect there are probably even more instances of child abuse and neglect that go unreported, too.
That’s why we at the Daily Press have been closely monitoring Moffat County’s search for a new Director of Social Services, someone to replace the retiring Marie Peer who would be in charge of child welfare services in the county.
The county commissioners last week interviewed several candidates for the job, and deserve credit for inviting commissioners-elect Chuck Grobe and John Kinkaid to participate in the interview process. It is a great example of local officials ignoring politics in pursuit of improving the lives of the people they represent.
However, we were disappointed to learn that Kinkaid didn’t stay for the interviews, choosing to leave after lunch was over. Although he wouldn’t have had an actual vote and he did reportedly leave a list of questions for the candidates, it seems to us a candidate who ran on the promise of being a “full-time commissioner” should want to participate in any and all discussions regarding county business — particularly one involving one of the county’s most critical positions — even if his term doesn’t start until January.
In any event, the commission moved forward Tuesday by voting to offer the job to Kerri Klein, a Lakewood resident with ties to the area who once was employed by Moffat County Social Services.
Although Klein has yet to accept or decline the offer, the commissioners again deserve credit for avoiding the usual pitfalls involved with political decision-making and swiftly moving ahead in the hiring process.
For Klein or whoever ends up with the job, the task no doubt will be tall. While it would be naïve to think this person can fix the system — teams of highly trained people have attempted that to no avail — we simply hope the new director of social services will institute a system that helps improve the child abuse and neglect problem in Moffat County.
We as community members need to be willing to help as well. Whether it’s mentoring a child from an abusive home, providing a safe environment for children or even just reporting abuse when we see it, every little bit of help could go a long way toward helping save a child’s life.
Because while that old adage about children may be true, it’s up to us to make sure that future is a bright one.