Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Kristen Stillman survived unspeakable horrors of abuse -- and the nightmare isn't over

What happened to eight-year-old Kristen Stillman and her twin brother after their mother left them in northwest Denver was unspeakable. And after a few frustrating attempts to tell adults of the abuse, Kristen quit trying. A prisoner, she stayed silent through four pregnancies, all the result of rape, for twelve long years -- until she found out her oldest child was also being abused.

To save her daughter, she finally found the courage to break free, finally found a Denver police officer who would listen to her. And eighteen months later, in May, Eric Torrez was sentenced to 300 years in jail for his treatment of Kristen. His wife was sentenced. His son was sentenced. And Kristen's mother was sent to prison.

But the story is not over. Kristen has been freed from her tormentors, but not the system that failed her during her own childhood.

On September 14, Kristen has a hearing scheduled in Denver Juvenile Court to voluntarily, and permanently, relinquish her parental rights to her four children; she knows that she cannot raise them the way they deserve to be raised. She cannot give them the life she never had.

But she'll have something to remember them by: big child-support bills. Kristen is being billed for her children's foster care by the Department of Human Services -- even though she was a child herself when she had her first, second and third babies, and was still a prisoner of her rapist when she had her fourth.

The department cites these rules from the state: "The county department or designee shall collect a fee from the legally responsible custodial parent(s). All fees must be established using the Colorado child support guidelines to determine the amount to be ordered. County staff shall not deviate from the guidelines."

Not even when the children being supported resulted from the failure of the Department of Human Services to save their mother.

Read more about Kristen in the story "Kristen Stillman puts her family first. That's why she's letting her four kids go."