Guest Commentary: The Troubling Intersection of Child Protection and Disability Rights in Colorado

Photo by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

By Judi Atwood

As someone who has delved into the complexities of Child Protective Services (CPS) reports through my involvement with the Child Protection Ombudsman Office, I recently stumbled upon a disturbing revelation that sheds light on a system fraught with inadequacies and negligence. On March 22, 2022, my ex-husband was found guilty by CPS for child abuse and neglect. Attorney Rebecca Pepin will not acknowledge this nor provide any proof that our children are getting the appropriate treatment in therapy.  Using projections and her affiliations with like-minded members of the AFCC Colorado she manages to convince others to protect abusive men.   However, what is even more disconcerting is the revelation that the Longmont Police Department failed to report an additional case of child abuse—felony imprisonment to CPS, as documented in police report 22-5072.

Despite the gravity of these findings, they seem to pale in significance to the shocking response I received from Krista Nash, a figure associated with the denial of women’s abortion rights in Colorado. In an email dated January 10, 2024, Nash claimed to have followed the directives of the Boulder County Court. She not only identified herself as a Child and Family Investigator (CFI) but also as an employee of the Office of the Child’s Representative. Disturbingly, Nash asserted that she was exempt from mandatory training on Child Abuse, Neglect, and Domestic Violence because she deemed herself adequately trained in these areas.

In the face of her professional dismissiveness, Nash went so far as to insinuate that my concerns regarding the exclusion of child abuse in her report were rooted in mental illness. This attempt to discredit and silence legitimate concerns speaks volumes about the systemic issues within the institutions designed to protect vulnerable children.

Compounding these concerns is a broader issue that extends beyond the realm of child protection—the violation of rights for people with physical disabilities in Colorado. A federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday asserts that Colorado continues to infringe upon the rights of individuals with physical disabilities by unnecessarily segregating them in nursing facilities. The lawsuit estimates that up to 1,100 Coloradans could be living more independently in their own homes.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division expressed deep concern, stating, “Far too often, people with physical disabilities — including older adults — are institutionalized in nursing facilities when they could live in their own homes.”

This alarming revelation is not new, as the federal government had previously addressed the issue in a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis in 2022, following a lengthy investigation that began in November 2018. The investigation involved a comprehensive review of state documents, interviews with patients, families, and staff in nursing facilities, as well as consultations with county social services, community service providers, and advocates.

The intersection of these two crises—child protection and the rights of individuals with physical disabilities—underscores a systemic failure within the institutions meant to safeguard the vulnerable. As we grapple with the implications of these revelations, it is imperative that we demand accountability, transparency, and comprehensive reform to ensure the well-being and rights of those who depend on these systems for protection and support.

Judi Atwood – Member of CDHS Family Voice Counsel – Activist/Public Policy Advocate/Civil Engagement Promoter

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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