Email Address for Citizens to Report Child Abuse & Neglect Suspicions Wasn't Checked for Nearly 5 Years

Twenty20/bagussugianto

Minna Castillo-Cohen
Twenty20/bagussugianto

An email account created for Colorado residents to report suspected child abuse and neglect went unchecked for more than four years, new reports claim. Now, state officials from the Department of Human Services are confirming that as many as five cases were missed due to this. 

  • An official from the Colorado state DHS explained that the "oversight" happened as a result of a mix-up of email addresses.

    Minna Castillo-Cohen, director of the government agency's Office of Children and Families, admitted to ABC News that the department had no idea it was missing leads on cases until about May of this year.

    "It's of great concern that we had five that did not reach the level of attention they needed in a timely way," she said.

    It all started with an email account created in 2015 by the state, as support for a website where citizens could report suspected abuse or neglect, CBS Denver reported. An email address hccc@state.co.us was initially created for the site, but almost immediately CDHS was alerted to the fact that the email address was in the incorrect format. It then set up a second email account cdhs_hccc@state.co.us, as well as a telephone hotline, to correct the problem. 

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  • The problem was that after the new email address was created, no one deleted the old one.

    In fact, the old email address remained active since it was first created nearly five years ago but no one was assigned to monitor the account. 

    When CDHS learned of the account in May 2019 through an internal audit, it discovered 321 unanswered emails in the inbox, many of which were spam or mass marketing emails. But 104 emails “expressed concerns of child abuse or neglect" and after being evaluated, five cases were deemed to be cases where immediate attention was needed, but no one had ever looked into them.

    The New York Times reported that a department spokesperson told it in a statement that none of the 104 emails sent to the old email address came from the public, but rather state employees who were trying report concerns about suspected cases, but unfortunately addressed them incorrectly.

    “The emails were immediately reviewed, first to address each case, but also to remedy the issue and prevent this from happening in the future,” the statement read.

    “We wish we would have been able to identify these earlier but we did not know this email even existed,” Castillo-Cohen lamented to CBS Denver.

  • Now CDHS is working to correct the oversight and said it will be looking into the cases it had missed.

    Castillo-Cohen said she could not disclose the details of the five cases that the state missed, but did clarify that none of the incidents involved child abuse. She added that CDHS would now be looking into the cases and reminded residents that if they have have any concerns of child abuse or neglect they can call the state's telephone hotline which is being monitored 24-hours a day. (1-844-CO-4-KIDS or 1-844-264-5437).

    While it might seem like five cases of neglect is a small number of cases, Linda Newell, former state senator who introduced the legislation that created the hotline told The NYT that these were five cases too many.

    “Seeing the glitch was very startling, I hope no one is dead or injured because of it,” Newell said. “These numbers may be small, but in anybody’s opinion, one child is too much.”

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