Oct 6, 2009 6:54 AM by Jeannette Hynes

State-run social services idea not getting local approval

Seven children have died from abuse in El Paso County so far this year, according to the Department of Human Services (DHS).  Many of those cases never made it to DHS.

“That worries me,” says Child Protective Services Intake Manager Marian Percy, “the calls we don’t get.”

El Paso County DHS took 11,026 calls for child abuse last year.  This year so far, the department has taken more than 8,400 calls.  A committee commissioned by Governor Bill Ritter studied child abuse-related deaths, and came up with 29 recommendations for change to the system.

Colorado County Commissioners agree with 23 of those 29 recommendations, but one recommendation local agencies have issue with is having the state run social services.  Right now, the state provides funding and supervision, and the counties provide the direct services.

"We wouldn't be able to have that immediate response for the people, and for law enforcement who may need us out there right away,” says Percy. "I think it would be really difficult to maintain some of the community relationships and community partnerships that we've built."

A state-run system would likely cost local governments more, under the proposal.  Right now, counties provide 20 percent of DHS funding.  Under the new plan, a county may have to provide 25 percent. 

“To assume that we can just raise the mill levy to compensate is not a logical step for us,” says Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner.

Clark says there are gaps in the system, but control needs to stay local.

“We believe that we have the best interests of our kids at the local level, and a state bureaucracy is not going to necessarily run it better,” says Clark.

Five counties are paying $1,200 a piece to lobby against a state takeover of DHS.  Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, Jefferson, and Mesa counties are paying a political consultant to help in their efforts.

Any change to the system would need a change in legislation.  Ritter says he'll meet with county officials this month before any decision is made.

To report a case of child abuse call 719-444-5700 or go to the El Paso County Department of Human Services website to report online.


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