Child Protection

Our Mission

    - To protect children 
    - To preserve and strengthen families 
    - To promote a safe and permanent home for every child

We work to protect Denver's children and youth by providing services and advocacy while promoting family stability, respecting diversity, and working to strengthen family connections to community resources.

We are responsible for investigating physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and child neglect and we work with families where abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse issues have been identified. Our main focus is to identify and address the safety issues that brought the family to our attention.

Our goal is to work cooperatively with families and to provide services to keep families together. Working in collaboration with community agencies, as well as the Denver Police Department and Denver Juvenile Court, all allegations of child maltreatment are addressed through services designed specifically to identify and protect victims from further abuse.

We work on maintaining children's safely in their own home when that is possible. When that is not possible, Denver Human Services provides temporary placement of a child out of the child’s home. We are committed to working with families on identifying relative (kin) resources for the children and keeping the children in their own community. We work toward reunifying children safely with their parents and creating a permanent plan for the welfare of every child.

Families involved with our services will receive direct service from a caseworker, combined with services from the community and/or other service providers. Other services we provide include substance abuse and mental health treatment for parents and children, home-based services, and sexual abuse treatment.

We are committed to protecting children, working with families, and respecting the process of change.

Child Protection Services

We provide services and support to adolescent victims of maltreatment, and those who are at risk for maltreatment if protective measures are not taken, as well as their families. Additionally, we help the families of adolescents who are beyond the control of their parent(s), including juvenile delinquents. We help youth and adolescents with issues such as histories of abuse and/or neglect, substance abuse, delinquency, truancy, a mental health diagnosis, and, homelessness.

We provide a range of services and support to adolescents and their families, with specialties in diversion programs, intensive family treatment, addressing juvenile delinquency, and providing independent living and emancipation skills. By providing in-home family services and advocacy, we make every attempt to keep youth with their families. When a youth’s or family’s situation makes living in the home impossible, we explore other options such as foster care and residential treatment.

The youth and families we work with are often involved in other systems, such as the Denver Juvenile Probation Department, the Denver Juvenile Court, the mental health system, and the Denver Public School system.  Whenever possible, we work with professionals in these other systems to develop an integrated treatment plan that will benefit the youth.
We provide Special Circumstances Child Care services for children when protective services are in place, when a child has special needs which can best be met in a child care program, and when parents are first employed. Child care is also provided for children placed with relatives who do not receive foster care payments but need child care assistance so they may continue working while a child is placed in their home.
We work with children who have developmental delays and disabilities, who are also at high risk for abuse or neglect within their families. The children we work with often have other medical and/or emotional disorders, including cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, and mental illness. 

When there is a concern about the safety of the child, we work to place the child with other family members or other living situations. We work closely with the children and their families, with a goal of reunification whenever possible. The Denver Juvenile Court oversees these placements. While we are working with the parents and child, we help connect them with community resources and services for additional assistance including behavioral management, educational resources, and respite care. 

Other Denver public agencies which provide services to Developmentally Disabled children and their families include: Denver Public Schools (Child Find or an assessment resulting in an Individual Educational Plan); Denver Options, ( the Community Center Board ); ARC Denver (advocacy for children with developmental disabilities and their parents); Denver Early Childhood Connection at Denver Health Medical 
Center; and Children's Hospital.
Our family advocacy program works with families to keep children in their homes or, when that isn’t possible, to work toward bringing a child home. When children have been removed from their homes, maintaining contact with family members and siblings is paramount. Frequent and quality visitation in a safe and nurturing environment is the foundation of reunification services. 

The Family Enrichment Center provides families a home-like setting that includes private, cozy visiting rooms and nurseries, kitchens with dining rooms, a children's library, an activity room, and an outside playground. 

By teaching life and parenting skills, and connection parents with community resources, we are able to work toward bringing children and their families together.
We work with children who are at high risk for being taken out of their home because of abuse or neglect and children who are returning home after an out-of-home placement. Our goal with home-based services is to help families create a safe and nurturing environment for their children. We provide intensive therapeutic and other services for up to eighteen months.

We are dedicated to helping youth in the Denver County foster care system transition out of the system and into successful independence. We support youth during that transition by providing guidance and by directing them to resources and opportunities.

Youth receive services and guidance to:

  • Obtain official documents;
  • Identify and work toward their educational goals;
  • Find, apply for, and get jobs;
  • Secure permanent housing;
  • Create and follow financial plans;
  • Develop support systems in their community and beyond.

The goal of Team Decision Making meetings is to involve birth families and community members, along with resource families, service providers and agency staff, in all placement decisions, to ensure a network of support for the child and the adults who care for them. 

Values which we strive to uphold are:

  • Every child deserves a family
  • Every family needs the support of the community
  • Public child welfare agencies need community partners


We believe a group can be more effective in decision-making than an individual and that families are the experts on themselves. When families are respectfully included in the decision-making process, they are capable of identifying and participating in addressing their needs. Members of the family’s own community add value to the process by serving as natural allies to the family and experts on the community’s resources.

Key elements of the TDM process:

  • A TDM meeting, including birth parents and youth, is held for all decisions involving child removal, change of placement, and reunification/other permanency plan;
  • The TDM meeting is held before a child is moved, or in cases of imminent risk, by the next working day, and always before the initial court hearing in cases of removal;
  • Neighborhood-based community representatives are invited to participate in all TDM meetings, especially those regarding possibly moving the child;
  • The meeting is led by a skilled, immediately accessible internal facilitator, who is not a case-carrying social worker or supervisor;
  • Information about each meeting, including participants, location, and recommendations, is collected and ultimately linked to data on child and family outcomes, in order to ensure continuing self-evaluation of the TDM process and its effectiveness;
  • Each TDM meeting that results in moving a child serves as a springboard for the planning of a “First Meeting” family team meeting, ideally to be held in conjunction with the first family visit, so that the birth-foster parent relationship can be initiated.
We support teen parents, often younger than 18 years old, in raising their children.  Whenever possible, we work with teen parents so they can live with their child. We do expect the teen to be a parent, but understand that they may not yet be an adult.  We help teen parents learn to make responsible choices, work toward becoming self-sufficient, and develop their knowledge and understanding of parenting.

Children can experience trauma even when they are not the victim of the neglect or abuse; bearing witness to abuse can have lasting, negative consequences on a child. The Trauma Informed Practice Initiative (TIP) aims to help children who have been exposed to trauma.  This practice helps newborns to children ages 18 who have suffered  traumatic experiences, including exposure to substance abuse or domestic violence, mental health issues, and/or child abuse.

Trauma Informed Practice works by  identifying the underlying causes from unhealthy behaviors and teaching social workers, providers and the broader community how to best provide care for children in a way that minimizes the impact of past or current trauma, while increasing a families coping skills to deal with life stressors. Instead of only treating  the symptoms of a problem, it gives caseworkers the tools to get to the root of the problem where concrete, permanent changes can be made. 

The Trauma Informed Practice Initiative primarily focuses on the following areas:


The Trauma Informed Practice Initiative is supported by the Children’s Bureau through a grant that was awarded to The Kempe Foundation for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect and Denver Human Services by the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families.

To learn more about the different types and effects of trauma, click here.

For more information about the Trauma Informed Practice, please contact 720-944-6108 or

Helpful Links

The prevalence of substance abuse among families involved with child protective services is estimated to impact between 70- 80% of families. Denver EFFECT is a family-focused, collaborative program that integrates the child welfare, substance abuse treatment and criminal justice systems to coordinate care for families affected by substance abuse.

Families that are referred to Denver EFFECT receive specialized care including:
  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • Trauma-informed and gender-specific substance abuse counseling
  • Psycho-educational multifamily groups
  • Child care
  • Criminal court advocacy
  • Case management services
  • Referrals for pediatric assessment and care, domestic violence, mental health, vocational services and aftercare and transportation bus

Denver Effect Model (pdf)

If you are a professional that would like to know more about this program and how to implement it into your organization, please contact Nachson Zohari, LCSW, at 720-944-6375. 

In November 2007, the Denver Department of Human Services (DDHS) requested a third party review of its policies, protocols, and practices related to investigating and intervening in possible incidents of child abuse and neglect. The review was conducted by two organizations with expertise in child welfare policy and practice. 
The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is a national organization that specializes in best child welfare practices. The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) is the largest foundation devoted to disadvantaged children and families. The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) also reviewed the report for consistency with current state policy and attended many of the review meetings.

The Review Report is composed of six documents:

Executive Summary (PDF)

Third Party Review Report (PDF)

DDHS Workplan and Response (PDF)

Appendix A – Assessment Closure Policy and Checklist (PDF)

Appendix B – Voluntary or D&N Filing for Ongoing Services and Decision Tree (PDF)

Appendix C – Child Protection Division Director Job Announcement (PDF)
While DDHS has aggressively engaged in enhancing child welfare practice for a number of years, DDHS also takes seriously the key areas and recommendations made by the review team and set a deadline to implement every recommendation contained in the Report by November 30, 2008. 
The following documents provide details of the department's response to the third party review, through updates, as well as the final progress report and the department's response.

DDHS Third Party Review Response, July 22, 2008 Update (PDF)

DDHS Third Party Review Response, September 9, 2008 Update (PDF)

DDHS Third Party Review Response, May 1, 2009 Update (PDF)

Progress Report on the DDHS Third Party Review, November 23, 2009 (PDF)

The Student Internship Program at Denver Human Services provides an outstanding educational environment for students at either the bachelor’s or master’s degree level who seek field placements.  Accredited by the Child Welfare League of America since 1943, our Child Welfare Division provides outstanding opportunities for students to prepare for careers as social workers specializing in child welfare.

We have a lot to offer student interns and would love to have you join us.

For information about student internship and field placements, please contact Mary Peagler, 720.944.6193,

Report Child Abuse

Report suspected child abuse and neglect

Statewide: 1-844-4-CO-Kids (264-5437)

Denver: 720-944-3000

Contact Us

Child Welfare Main Offices

Richard T. Castro Office
1200 Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80204

East Satellite Office
3815 Steele St.
Denver, CO 80205

Child Welfare Management Information 

Joe Homlar, LCSW
Child Welfare Director

Melissa Carson, MSW
Child Welfare Deputy Director

Sheila Aiken, LCSW
Clinical and Support Services Manager

Dane Anspach
Intake Administrator

Janice Cannon, MSW
Prevention Manager

Jude' Liguori-Oliver
Child Welfare Administrator    
Heather O'Hayre, MSSW LCSW
Family Engagement Services Administrator

Katrina Schrock
Child Welfare Administrator

Erin Stremming, MSW
Youth Services Administrator

Lucia Waterman
Placement Services Administrator