Child welfare: Hickenlooper's new plan calls for "common practice approach" in all 64 counties

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State officials have a new plan for improving Colorado's child-welfare system, one that will beef up training for caseworkers, make data about child deaths more readily available, and employ a "common practice approach" in all 64 counties -- an idea that hasn't gotten far in the past, as explained in our cover story, "Death Knell."

In 2009 a committee appointed by then-Governor Bill Ritter to recommend ways to fix Colorado's child-welfare program suggested an overhaul of the state's entire system to give more power to the state and less autonomy to the counties. But the counties balked and the recommendation went nowhere.

The new plan, announced last week by Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Department of Human Services head Reggie Bicha, calls for implementing "one practice approach and philosophy for the entire state to ensure the collaboration of best practices in caring for kids." As for what that approach will look like, Bicha notes that it involves expanding the "differential response" model, which allows caseworkers more flexibility in the way they respond to reports of child abuse. As for other details, Bicha says, "This is not a finalized process, and certain details will continue to be shaped as the plan evolves."

In unveiling the plan, officials pointed out some sobering statistics: 43 children involved with the child-welfare system have died in the past five years.

Those deaths include well-known cases, such as that of Chandler Grafner, and lesser-known ones, including that of Ashaquae Foster, whose mother and stepfather found her bleeding on a urine-soaked mattress in the bedroom she shared with her developmentally delayed aunt. They waited six hours before seeking medical attention because they worried they'd get in trouble for locking Ashaquae in her room, where she'd gone to sleep the night before with a bloody nose. The coroner found that she'd choked to death.

Colorado took a much-lauded step toward better protecting children last year, when it opened the Office of Colorado's Child Protection Ombudsman, designed to serve as a neutral organization to hear grievances about the child-welfare system, make recommendations for improvements and help families navigate the system's ins and outs.

But Hickenlooper and Bicha want to do more. Read a summary of their plan below.

Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy

More from our News archive: "Police brutality: Denver provides eight years of complaints in James Moore case."

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Grandma J

Gee I don't even know where to start. I have been one of those families torn apart by an unfair social worker.  You know your against the grain when your sitting in a meeting with a complaint supervisor and we are in this meeting to get answers as to why an MSW has falsified reports, behaved in a manner that is unbecoming as an MSW including one who deviated from the scope of her job.  When Tammy Raatz expresses that it is not against the law to spank your child as to be indicating that this is what Joe M now stepfather did to my grandson in the bathroom.  She declared "its not against the law to call your children little fuckers", which for me was conscience shocking.  We didn't need this.  She even told my daughter that she was in-love with her nephew and it didn't seem to matter to this supervisor that mom was really never around in the 5 years of my grandson's life and could be proven to this day she is part-time mom and stepdad is bonding and caring for my grandson because mom works nights.  I am not comfortable with this at all.  We wanted answers not fed policy and procedures that their people don't even follow.  We were there because I wanted answers as to why a social worker was allowed to betray, coerce, be fraudulent and corrupt a young father and look away from the real problem of his son's high probability that he was molested in the bathroom of his mother's boyfriends apartment. According to the child victim, "he took him to the bathroom"  doing God knows what! but instead of truly finding out the problem with integrity doing what was right, they tear apart a family and lied and continue to do so. Elizabeth Kalkstein (Betsy) age 30 at the time blamed a grandmother and an Auntie that they made the story up so that her job would be easier.  The state is not ready to address the elephant in the room.  They hide behind confidentiality rules and meet with people to discuss their own agenda.  The same rules that EK broke when she shared personal and private information about me to my son is what confidentiality rules they shared with us and so I give it back to them.  What is the remedy for this behavior?  The state was not ready to address the way in which their social worker MSW crossed many boundaries with my grown son, who was age 30 at the time as well and along with my ex daughter-in-law her clients and they certainly weren't ready to address child sexual abuse and sodomy against my grandson. 

A Colorado Elk gets justice but a child victim does not.  At least not yet!

I am currently working on resolve and Justice.  in upwards of $10,000.00.  for an attorney.  I need an angel investor if you are out there please help.  Also anyone who would like to send me a private message please do so.

Hickenlooper's new plan calls for a "common practice approach".  That is fine in all but until these social workers get a handle on lying, deceit, willful and wonton behavior and retaliatory behavior against individuals and families nothing will change. Until they work with dignity and respect for human beings and for themselves, there really isn't any approach that will help. 

With all do respect to the Governor  it isn't going to matter how many new plans Governor Hickenlooper's team  comes up with. In Colorado in one city.  The city of Lakewood over 200 cases of child abuse and child sexual abuse from a Detective who worked in the crimes against children were over looked, "ball dropped".  They say they have to "re-open the wounds" The wounds were never closed. My grandsons case is overlooked and never reevaluated even though they say they were.  They were not because if they were they skipped us again.  If it was we would have been interviewed and we were not. But we were bullied and told by an officer, "it didn't happen the first time and it didn't happen now".  "if you show those pictures to anyone you will be arrested for pornography".  They fail to see that there was no help offered to these families because they according to their own sources "were not high profile cases". Commander Loar  that we talked to recently and as we requested that we audio tape our conversation was fine with it.  Eventually during our conversation he became  offended and said that we got it all wrong.  He said our source of the media was inaccurate and are not trustworthy, but my daughter reminded him that the DA from Jefferson county was a reliable source and declared that Justin LoBurgio was negligent as he saw the writing on the wall and resigned his position.  He said all that happened to Justin LoBurgio was that he was on FMLA because his wife was having a baby.  Anybody who wants additional information of what else was said on the audio let me know.  I can be reached at 


This plan represents the first indication in decades that, when it comes to child welfare, the state finally might be ready to address the elephant in the room: the fact that Colorado tears apart families at one of the highest rates in the nation, taking away children at a rate more than 70 percent above the national average and double and triple the rate in systems widely regarded as national models for keeping children safe, even when rates of child poverty are factored in.

 Colorado compounds the problem by warehousing children in the worst form of placement, group homes and institutions at the highest rate in America, more than double the national average. Not only does this do terrible harm to the children needlessly taken away and institutionalized, it also overwhelms caseworkers.  All that time wasted on needless removal steals time from finding children in real danger – that’s almost always the real reason for deaths of children “known to the system” in cases like the ones in this story. Richard WexlerExecutive DirectorNational Coalition for Child Protection

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