Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 24, 20183min479

The Colorado Department of Human Services is reminding those getting a tax refund this year to consider helping domestic abuse victims.

The Colorado Domestic Abuse Fund is one of the causes listed among the check-offs on tax returns. It helps fund 47 local domestic violence programs that answered 63,671 crisis calls and served 18,124 adults and 4,501 children in 2017.

“As adults, we want to protect children in our community and ensure their safety. That’s why it is so heartbreaking to know that problems like domestic and dating violence, which we tend to consider ‘grown-up issues,’ affect so many of our young people every day. Last year, of the thousands of Coloradans who sought help from the Colorado Domestic Abuse Fund, 31 percent were 24 years old and younger, and 21 percent were under the age of 17,” Reggie Bicha, DHS’s executive director, tells Colorado Politics.

“The Colorado Domestic Abuse Fund provides crucial services for those kids, teens and adults who need our help immediately, but emergency services are only one part of the equation. We know domestic violence can be an early indicator for larger, underlying issues. Through our awareness and prevention efforts, we can work to make Colorado a safer place for all our kids and families.”

The tax return check-off generated more than $167,000 from Coloradans who donated on their 2016 tax returns.

DHS offered some examples of the programs the donations support.

  • 24-hour crisis line
  • Emergency housing
  • Support groups, counseling and advocacy
  • Safety planning and information and referrals for victims and their families
  • Community education and prevention
  • Children’s programming and advocacy

DHS said 54 percent of its domestic violence service providers are in rural areas.

“Making a one-time contribution on your state income tax form is one of the simplest ways to make a difference in the life of a survivor of domestic violence,” Brooke Ely-Milen, DHS’s Domestic Violence Program, said in a statement. “Domestic violence survivors are the women, men and children who live just down the street. Providing help, hope and a pathway to safety through your generous contributions helps build stronger communities together.”

The Colorado Domestic Abuse Fund has been listed on state returns since 1983, when Colorado became the first state to allow taxpayers to chip in a share of their return to help the domestic violence programs.


Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 23, 20183min1191

Last year, Coloradans called the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 211,554 times, the most since the line’s launch in January 2015.

More calls could be the product of DHS’s public awareness campaign to the hotline, 1-844-CO-4-KIDS, to help people spot and report child abuse, neglect or sex trafficking.

In 2016, DHS logged 206,107 calls.

‘“If you are worried about a child or teenager in your neighborhood, at your church or in school, don’t hesitate to call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS,” Minna Castillo-Cohen, director of DHS’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, said in a statement. “Even if you aren’t sure, making that phone call is one of the best ways you can help a kid in Colorado.”

For the first time last year, DHS tracked the number of potential cases of child sex trafficking reported to the hotline. The total was 307.

Coinciding with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month last year, DHS launched public awareness campaign — including online ads, billboards and information at bus stops and gas stations along interstates 70 and 1-25 — to help people spot the signs of child sex trafficking and report them.

“Child sex trafficking can sound far removed from our lives and communities, but we know survivors can be Colorado kids and teens from our own neighborhoods,” Sara Nadelman, DHS’s human trafficking specialist, stated.

“Children and teens of any gender, age, race or background can be at risk. Sometimes traffickers identify and groom a child, and in other situations the trafficker is an individual the child knows, such as a parent, caregiver or ‘friend’ they met online. Even if you are unsure, we need everyone who has a concern to call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS to report suspected child abuse. You can help put an end to trauma and ensure survivors receive the treatment and support they need.”

DHS said warning signs of sex trafficking include when a child:

  • Has money or other material items, such as a cell phone, they cannot explain.
  • Has tattoos or scars they are hesitant or unable to explain.
  • Has “stomach aches” or difficulty sitting or standing.
  • Posts sexually explicit material or images online.
  • Discusses having sex for shelter, transportation, drugs, alcohol, money or other things of value.
  • Is accompanied by an overly controlling “friend,” “partner” or “boss.”

“Other signs and factors that could increase risk include a history of abuse or neglect, identifying as LGBTQ, homelessness with no consistent caregiver and a lack of educational or socioeconomic opportunities,” DHS stated Monday.


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