October 21, 2014

HB 13-1271: Creation of a Child Abuse Reporting Hotline

On March 18, 2013, Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Linda Newell introduced HB 13-1271 – Concerning Methods to Respond to Initial Contacts Made to a Child Abuse Reporting Hotline System, and, in Connection Therewith, Authorizing the State Board of Human Services to Adopt Rules Governing the Hotline System and Providing Consistent Practices in Response to Contacts and to Reports of Known or Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

As introduced, the bill authorizes the creation of a child abuse reporting hotline system (hotline system) that provides a uniform method of contact that directly, immediately, and efficiently routes the person to the applicable entity responsible for accepting a report about possible child abuse or neglect, and that is advertised to the public as a place for reporting known or suspected child abuse or neglect (report) or for making a request for information or services (an inquiry). The hotline system will be developed through a statewide child abuse hotline steering committee (steering committee) that includes state, county, and comprehensive and appropriate stakeholder representation.

The bill declares that the purpose of the hotline system is to enhance the current child welfare system and to provide an additional option for the public to make an initial report or inquiry. The bill further states that a county department of social services (county department) will retain screening responsibilities, unless the board of county commissioners of that county has approved the use of the hotline system on behalf of the county and such arrangement has been approved by the executive director of the state department of human services (state department).

The purpose of the steering committee is to develop an implementation plan for the hotline system to be advertised to the public and to make recommendations for rules relating to the hotline system and providing consistent practices in response to reports and inquiries. The steering committee shall submit a report no later than July 1, 2014, containing its recommendations to the executive director of the state department, who shall provide the report to the state board of human services (state board).

The hotline system will provide some method of contact to the public that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The hotline system shall be operational and publicized to the public statewide no later than Jan. 1, 2015.

With the express written consent of the board of county commissioners, a county department may request that the state department assist that county department with taking reports of possible child abuse and neglect and inquiries from the public. The executive director must approve of this arrangement in writing.

The state board is given rule-making authority to adopt rules, based upon the recommendations of the steering committee, governing the following:

  • The type of technology that may be used by the hotline system for directly routing initial contacts from the hotline system to the applicable entity responsible for taking a report or responding to an inquiry, including but not limited to a single statewide toll-free telephone number, with flexibility to adapt the methods to changing and emerging technologies as appropriate;
  • The operation of the hotline system, including the central record-keeping and tracking of reports and inquiries statewide, and a requirement that record-keeping and tracking of reports and inquiries be accessible to all counties;
  • Standards and steps for information and referral (instances where there is no report of abuse or neglect but the person contacting the county department or the hotline system is making an inquiry);
  • How an initial contact to the hotline system is directly routed to the applicable entity responsible for taking a report or responding to an inquiry;
  • A formal process for a county department to opt to have the state department receive reports or inquiries on behalf of the county department after hours subject to a requirement that the board of county commissioners must officially approve the use of the hotline system on behalf of the county and that the arrangement must be approved by the executive director;
  • A process for a county department to opt to have another county department receive reports or inquiries on behalf of the county department after hours or on a short-term basis with notification of such arrangement to the executive director;
  • Standardized training and certification standards for all staff prior to receiving reports and inquiries;
  • A consistent screening process with criteria and steps for the county department to respond to a report or inquiry;
  • A consistent decision-making process with criteria and steps for a county department to follow when deciding how to act on a report or inquiry and when to take no action on a report or inquiry.

The state department is directed to report about the hotline system and the adoption of rules as part of the state department’s annual SMART act presentations to the general assembly.

The bill makes conforming amendments to the statutes concerning reports made by the public or by a mandatory reporter to allow a report to be made through the hotline system when the county commissioners have given prior approval for the report to be filed through the hotline system and the executive director of the state department has approved such an arrangement.

On April 9, the Public Health Care & Human Services Committee amended the bill and referred it to the Appropriations Committee for consideration of the fiscal impact to the state.

Since this summary, the bill was amended in the Appropriations Committee and sent to the Committee of the Whole for Second Reading.

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