McQueeney: Supporting safety for Eagle County kids
No opportunity is ever missed for any child to feel safe, and be safe, in Eagle County. This is our one, simple statement of what success looks like in supporting our communities’ children and families.
Family is a structure. Like every structure, each of our families has great strengths but also vulnerabilities that threaten its stability. Safe living situations for all our children requires a collective effort to help every family achieve and maintain stability.
The past two years have brought the value of this commitment into clear focus. The pandemic is perhaps the single greatest destabilizing event of our lifetimes and serves as a reminder that all of us may suddenly face significant, unexpected changes that impact our families.
That is why the Eagle County Board of Commissioners joins the nation in recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s an opportunity to highlight the ways our county Department of Human Services is prioritizing the objective of child safety through the implementation of a Child Maltreatment Prevention Plan. Developed by DHS and partners comprising our Family Wellbeing Collaborative, this plan gives us a meaningful and achievable path to delivering positive futures for all Eagle County kids and their families. It’s our honor as county leadership to support such a valuable initiative.
When a family is referred to child welfare services, they may not be experiencing a serious crisis, but something is probably not right. This is considered a “yellow flag” situation. Frequently, the family has encountered new or increasing stresses and pressures: loss of income, changes in relationships, or any number of the unanticipated events that arise in life.
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Recognizing and appropriately marshaling the right mixture of support and resources during yellow flag events is an opportunity to deliver preventative assistance. Getting the right support when a family reaches these points can help get them back on track and thriving, preventing further and often more serious crises.
Our Human Services personnel seek to complement and amplify prevention work that is already underway. That begins with ensuring we have a robust ability to identify families and children who are struggling and vulnerable. While anyone can reach out on a child or family’s behalf, it is often our educators, public safety, medical, and youth service providers who play a significant role in starting the process of getting families the support they need. The Family Wellbeing Collaborative is working to equip these front-line professionals with the training and skills to confidently engage officials when help may be needed for a child or family.
Next, our plan calls for increasing insight into how parents and caregivers in Eagle County find information about the services and support that are available. Getting help, especially during times of vulnerability, must be a quick and easy process. The more our Human Services team and its partners understand where and when families look for resources, the more effective we can be in connecting them to services.
While a rare outcome, we must also prioritize efforts focused on children who may need to be removed from a living situation. This is never ideal as we know children do best when they can remain with a parent or caregiver in their family.
As a county, our response focuses on surging services and resources to provide the child with stability and positive support during these traumatic events. Simultaneously, we work with family members to rebuild a safe, sustainable environment with the goal of getting a child back with their family where they can safely thrive.
The well-being of our families is foundational to the well-being of our communities. If you’re concerned about the safety or well-being of a child or family, call 844-CO-4-Kids (844-264-5437). Help us deliver the thriving futures every family deserves.
Jeanne McQueeney is an Eagle County Commissioner representing District 3.