State's email hotline for abuse went unchecked for four years, officials say

State's email hotline for abuse went unchecked for four years, officials say

Officials in Colorado say that an email account meant to collect reports of child abuse and other crimes went unattended for years due to a mistake made when setting it up.

CBS 4 Denver reported Thursday that an email address operated by Colorado’s Department of Human Services (CDHS) was mistakenly set up with an improper name in 2015 and then neglected for years after a second corrected email address was set up.

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CDHS officials told the news outlet that the first email address, hccc@state.co.us, was set up and immediately abandoned after officials realized that it was not formatted correctly under state guidelines.

A second address, cdhs_hccc@state.co.us, was set up and then used by the department, but the first address was never shut down.

Officials reportedly realized in mid-May that the old, unattended address had been the recipient of hundreds of emails since 2015 — most of which were spam or otherwise junk mail, but 104 of which contained descriptions of child neglect or abuse.

"We wish we would have been able to identify these earlier but we did not know this email even existed,” Minna Castillo-Cohen, director of Colorado's Office of Children and Families, told CBS 4.

After further investigation, five emails were found to contain credible instances of child neglect that warranted investigation by state authorities, she said. None of the cases that the authorities found which required investigation involved abuse, Castillo-Cohen said.

“It’s of great concern that we had five that did not reach the level of attention they needed in a timely way,” she added.

Those five reports are now under investigation, Castillo-Cohen added, but no further information on the cases was immediately available.