Last fall, I was honored to be named the 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year. As the teacher of the year, I ask for the community’s involvement in supporting Colorado kids this summer and beyond. I’m proud to be a teacher and for the opportunity to play a role in shaping the lives and minds of our youth. As part of my job, I also report concerns about child abuse and neglect involving my students. Teachers are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, which means that we are legally obligated to report any concerns. We also receive training to help us identify the signs of abuse and neglect.
As teachers, we are in a unique position to notice things such as changes in a student’s behavior and a child’s basic needs going unmet. And school is a safe place for kids to talk about these types of concerning situations so that they can get the support they need. That’s why summer break – even in a ‘normal’ year – makes me worried for our students, and the Coronavirus pandemic creates further challenges.
This summer, as parents and families are under increased stress and uncertain about their futures due to the pandemic, I am asking you to look out for Colorado kids and families by staying connected, offering support and reporting any concerns you may have as you interact with families in your community. If you have any concerns about a child or teen’s safety or well-being, please call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 844-CO-4-Kids.
Here are a few things to think about as you interact with families from a safe distance this summer:
●Is your gut telling you something just isn’t right?
●Are you noticing uncharacteristic changes in a child’s behavior?
●Does it appear that a family is struggling, perhaps with food insecurity?
●Is there crying – especially endless crying – coming from a home?
●Are you hearing constant yelling and screaming from next door?
●Are kids sharing things about their friends that concern you?
The statements above don’t necessarily describe child abuse and neglect, but I encourage you to listen to any concerns you’re having. Err on the side of caution. It is better to be wrong than to not report your concerns. You don’t have to know all the details; you just have to make the call.
County caseworkers continue to assess the safety and well-being of children and youth in Colorado. In nearly 70% of child welfare cases, counties can provide services and kids can remain safely at home with their parents. Some of these services may include assistance applying for benefits or classes to help parents manage stress.
For additional information and ideas to help strengthen families and build parental resilience, visit co4kids.org. If you have any concerns about the welfare of a child, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 844-CO-4-Kids. If a child is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
- Hilary Wimmer is a business teacher at Mountain Range High School in Adams 12 Five Star Schools and Colorado’s 2020 Teacher of the Year