On April 2, more than 45 guests tuned in for 2021’s first Not One More Child in Arapahoe County meeting. The gathering coincided with national Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month, which occurs every April.
Among the attendees at the virtual meeting were human services professionals from area non-profit agencies, K-12 school officials and educators, health experts, foster families and faith community leaders. They were joined by several new members, including those from Servicios de La Raza’s VISTAS program, a social services group for the underserved Spanish speaking community.
The mission of the Not One More Child in Arapahoe County community coalition is to help improve the work around child abuse prevention in the County by sharing each other’s experiences, strategies and insights. “One of the most important things about Not One More Child is the connection between all of the organizations we have in Arapahoe County that can support families in difficult times,” said Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe. “By recognizing issues and providing support, we want to try to get issues resolved before they get to human services and before they get to an issue that goes to law enforcement or the district attorney’s office.”
This event’s agenda featured presentations from John Kellner, the new 18th Judicial District Attorney, as well as a look at the work of the Special Victims Unit, presented by 18th Judicial District Chief Deputy District Attorney, Christopher Gallo. Kellner outlined his office’s commitment to continuing the partnership with the County by helping families and prosecuting those who have acted criminally against children. “I want to leverage the 90-plus prosecutors in our office who are doing this job out of the love of community service, to get them out in the community and educate folks about what we do and how we do it,” he said. “[This will] help try to rebuild what I think is some of the lost trust in the justice system, and partly in policing, over the last year. That’s a really important part of our job, because it’s those same folks who are being brought in as members of our juries and we need to have their trust and belief that we are doing this job for the right reasons.”
Among his goals are making the DA’s office more open and transparent by establishing a data dashboard with public access, being more responsive to victims, and ensuring that there is one standard of justice and that prosecutions are conducted with integrity. Kellner also plans to address violent crime by targeting illegal guns, and he wants to expand adult and juvenile diversion counseling programs as well as address addiction via “problem-solving” courts that consider factors such as mental health.
Chris Gallo’s presentation complemented Kellner’s by describing how the DA’s special victims unit runs its operations. He said that misdemeanor child abuse decreased 26% from 2019 to 2020 and that child sexual assault decreased 21% over the same period, but this seemingly good news comes with a caveat. “While it may look like, hey great, crime is down, this is excellent, what we were concerned about is maybe the pandemic just hid a problem that has always existed,” he said, because the widespread shutdowns resulted in fewer eyewitnesses who can call 911 or the abuse/neglect hotline—1-844-CO-4-KIDS,or 303-636-1750 in Arapahoe County—if they see something concerning.
This is especially concerning because abuse victims are often in the same home or family as the perpetrator, and the pandemic-related closures meant that daily personal interactions children have with, for example, teachers or guidance counselors, were less frequent or eliminated entirely. Gallo’s advice as the world is reopening is to remember what it was like to actually look out for each other, and to make a concerted effort to check in with the kids in our lives to make sure everything is alright.
Watch a recording of the Not One More Child meeting. To learn more about Not One More Child, visit our website.