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Homeless Youth Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to questions frequently asked by homeless and runaway youth. This resource provides basic information and links to more detailed information about a variety of topics related to youth homelessness.

 

Child Abuse and Neglect FAQs

 

HIV/Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STD/STI)

  

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (GLBTQ)

  

   

 

 

Child Abuse and Neglect FAQs

  

What are my rights as a minor child?                                             

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  • Every child has the right to be free from physical abuse or neglect and inhumane treatment.
  • Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation.
  • Every child has the right to a clean, safe living environment.
  • Every child has the right to receive adequate and appropriate medical care.
  • Every child has the right to communicate with “significant others”, such as a parent or guardian, caseworker, attorney or guardian ad litem, current therapist, physician, religious advisor, or probation officer.

 

 

What are parents’ responsibilities to their children?  

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  • Express love and affection for the child.
  • Supply necessary food, clothing, and medical care.
  • Provide an adequate home.
  • Protect children from any sort of harm whenever possible. 

 

Failure to provide these supports, at least minimally, can be considered neglect.

 

What is the difference between punishment and abuse?       

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Parents need to be able to discipline their children, but some behaviors are considered unacceptable. It is justifiable and not a crime for a parent, guardian, or other person entrusted with the care of a child to use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the child to the extent that it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the child. Physical punishment should be restricted to those parts of the body that will not put a child’s health in danger. Even then, if the punishment exceeds certain limits, it could be considered abuse. Examples of excessive punishment would be bruising or leaving marks. The intent should be to make the child understand a wrong behavior, not instill unreasonable fear.

 

What is considered child abuse?                                                   

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Child abuse or maltreatment includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Physical abuse can be defined as non-accidental physical injury as a result of caretaker acts. Emotional abuse is the habitual verbal harassment of a child with put-downs, name-calling, criticism, threat and ridicule. Sexual abuse is any case in which a child is subjected to sexual assault or molestation, sexual exploitation or prostitution.

 

What is neglect?                                                                                  

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Neglect is the failure of caretakers to provide for a child’s fundamental needs, resulting in a serious threat to the child’s health or welfare. Neglect typically concerns lack of adequate food, housing, clothing, supervision, medical care and education, although neglect can include a child’s necessary emotional needs.

 

How can I get help if I am being abused or neglected?           

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What is a mandated reporter?                                                          

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A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report known or suspected child abuse to social services. Any mandated reporter who fails to report child abuse commits a class three misdemeanor. Teachers, health care professionals, school counselors, social workers, and clergy members are mandated reporters according to Colorado law.

 

What will happen if I tell someone I’m being abused or neglected?

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If a child tells a mandated reporter that he is being abused or has been abused, that person will make a report to the county’s child protective services department. If the child protection worker who receives the report feels that child abuse or neglect may be occurring or has occurred, he/she will begin an investigation. During the investigation, the worker will interview the child and the person responsible for the alleged abuse. If there is not enough evidence that abuse or neglect has occurred, the case will be closed and no other action will be taken but the information will remain in the county’s files.

If the worker discovers evidence of abuse a number of things can happen. The caseworker may recommend a treatment plan for the family, which the parents must complete. The child may remain in the home while the treatment plan is completed or the he may stay with a relative or in another safe living situation. If the child is in immediate danger, she will be removed from the home. The caseworker will work to find alternative living arrangements for the child, with placement in foster care or in a group home as a last resort.

For more information on treatment planning, visit http://www.cdhs.state.co.us/childwelfare/Intake.htm.

 

Will my parents get in trouble?                                                       

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The goal of child protection workers is to keep children safe and well cared for, not to punish parents. The worker will help the family find a more acceptable situation and only do what is necessary to keep the child safe. In some cases, the parent will need to attend parenting classes or other recommended treatment. Sometimes the parent is charged with dependency and neglect. If the court finds that treatment will not end the abuse, the parent could lose parental rights and custody of the child in the most extreme cases.

For more information on treatment planning, visit http://www.cdhs.state.co.us/childwelfare/Ongoing.htm.

 

Will I have to live with people I don’t know?                                 

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Caseworkers must make reasonable efforts to keep children with their parents. If staying at home is not a safe situation for the child, the caseworker will try to find a relative for the child to stay with or another alternative to foster care through the county. Foster care and placement in a group home are a last resort option in cases of child abuse or neglect.

For more information about foster care, see Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Child Welfare's "My Journey into Foster Care Guide".

 

Will I be able to see my parents while I’m living somewhere else?

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Parents with children in the custody of social services have the right to supervised visits with their children.

 

Will I be able to live with my parents again?                                

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If parents complete the treatment plan and the caseworker determines that the child will be safe at home, the child may return home, and the family will no longer need to work with the court or caseworker.

 

Will my parents know what I reported?                                        

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If a caseworker comes to investigate the case, he will interview the parent and the child. The caseworker will ask questions concerning the information reported, but will not name the person who reported the suspected abuse. The caseworker will not directly tell the parent what was reported, but will ask questions pertaining to the specific allegations in the report.

 

Who will have access to my information?                                   

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Child abuse reports and information gathered during investigations are confidential. Only those who have a release of information signed by the parents and the child, if he is twelve years of age or older, will have access to information about the case.

 

Will I have to testify in court against my parents?                     

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Most of the time, child abuse cases do not go to court, so there is no need for a child to testify. However, sometimes children do have to testify against their parents. This is usually only if the case goes to criminal court, the parent is pleading not guilty, and the parent’s attorney asks for the child’s testimony. This is more common in cases of sexual and emotional abuse because there is less evidence than in physical abuse cases. When a child has to testify, the caseworker will make every effort to make the process as comfortable as possible.

For additional information, visit Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Child Welfare's "Frequently Asked Questions".  

 

 

HIV/Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STD/STI)

 

Where can I find more information about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases/infections?                                                                         

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Visit Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program for youth-specific information on HIV infection, prevention, hotlines, programs available through the Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program, and helpful links to other programs and information.

Colorado AIDS Project has a Frequently Asked Questions page on HIV and AIDS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has fact sheets on the most common STIs.

 

Where can I get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases/ infections?                                                                                            

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Colorado AIDS Project’s FAQ page has a section on testing centers throughout Colorado,or go to National HIV and STD Testing Resources to look up testing centers using your zip code.

You may also contact the Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program Youth Project at 303-777-2604.

  

 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (GLBTQ)

 

I’m having problems at home or at school because of my sexual orientation, where can I get support?                                            

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You are not alone. About half of the youth who identify as GLBTQ experience a negative reaction from friends or family, but positive support is available.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has information about LGBT organizations and youth groups throughout Colorado, as well as information and pamphlets on coming out, answers to questions you may have, and other resources.

Rainbow Alley, a drop in center located in Denver, offers youth support and discussion groups and also has a list of resources outside of the Denver Metro area.

The Coming Out Project also has some information you might find useful

 

What kind of policies do shelters and agencies have regarding confidentiality? Will my parents know what I talk to the staff about?   

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Generally speaking, people working for federal- and state-funded organizations are required to keep information about you confidential. The only exceptions are when there is a disclosure of child abuse, or when you are a danger to yourself or to others. In those cases, the person you talked to will share only enough information to ensure your safety or the safety of the person who was threatened. Otherwise, staff members should not share information about you without your permission.

 

However, keep in mind that this is not true for every organization. If you are unsure about what information will be kept confidential, ask about the policy before you tell a staff member anything you wouldn’t want others to know. If you see a Safe Zone sign in someone’s office, that person should be safe to talk to and should respect your privacy. But, it is still a good idea to ask before you disclose any information you want kept confidential.

 

 

To submit additional questions or to make suggestions regarding the current page content, please contact Andy Johnson at andrew.johnson3@state.co.us or 303-866-7366.