Each April, communities across Colorado come together to challenge one another to do more to promote healthy child development, strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. This effort is especially timely this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When parents are stressed, have few social connections, and limited access to resources to support their families, the risk to children of experiencing toxic stress and child maltreatment is great. In addition to doing seemingly small everyday things that have a big impact like connecting with families to offer support and talk, Colorado law makers need to be thinking about the policy changes right now that can help prevent child abuse and neglect and help create great childhoods. 

We are thankful that Governor Polis issued a state proclamation declaring this April as Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizing “community leaders, policy makers and elected officials play a unique role in building a community for kids by understanding the programs and policies that support child maltreatment prevention, listening to the needs of the parents in our communities, and examining community planning through this lens to build healthy communities that strengthen families.”

When the state legislature comes back in session, they need to support workers and families both right now and into the future, and here is how: 

Tax credits can boost incomes for families every year, not just in the aftermath of a crisis.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) will help those who work the jobs that have been most affected by the economic downturn created by COVID-19.
  • EITC and CTC are proven strategies to increase parental resilience and concrete support in times of need, which are two of the Protective Factors to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. 
  • They put cash in the hands of families to help with the cost of anything from child care and groceries, to rent and utilities.
  • EITC is directly linked to decreasing physical child abuse: A review of data from 27 states across 1995-2013 revealed that states with refundable EITC had 13% fewer abusive head trauma admissions than states without EITC.

Workers need access to paid family and medical leave, both in the midst of a pandemic and beyond.

  • Offering paid time to parents/caregivers to care for not only their infants, but also themselves, increases parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children.
  • Paid family and medical leave allows the family more time with an infant during the most critical year for preventing child fatality: the first year of life.
  • Such programs are associated with significantly higher rates of successful breastfeeding and maternal health, reductions in hospitalizations for abusive head trauma, and lower rates of family stressors and risk factors. 
  • A program must include safe time for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking, especially given the increased stress and time spent isolated at home due to COVID-19. This is crucial given the intersection between maternal mental health, substance use, and intimate partner violence, all of which impact the wellbeing of children in the home.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that the legislature does not have to meet 120 consecutive days, so the legislature will be reconvening at a later date in 2020. The executive committee of the state legislature has tentatively decided to resume session on May 18th, but acknowledge that a lot may change between now and then in regard to public health and risk. Given reduced revenues from income and sales taxes, transportation, tourism and more, the state will have a much smaller budget and many departments and programs will be facing cuts. Despite these challenges, we encourage our lawmakers to keep the needs of families and children high priority.

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