CYFD is being challenged and reformed by New Mexico lawmakers

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Legislators are calling for more oversight over the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Family Affairs, claiming all decisions about children in the system are made internally with no transparency or accountability.

CYFD report outlines new ways of investigating cases

Two lawmakers say they believe the system is broken and children are not safe. State Representative Rebecca Dow believes that establishing a process for individuals to challenge certain CYFD decisions through an independent hearing officer could help.

“It’s an agency with a governor-appointed secretary and it doesn’t have an independent appeal process,” said Rep. Dow. “The purpose of an independent administrative redress process would be to address potential retaliation and resolve licensing disputes and decisions by CYFD.”

Rep. Dow tried to do a similar calculation last year. She says this hearing process would apply to anyone associated with the child, including law enforcement, foster parents, clerks, or other family members. She argues that the current appeal process is running low on teeth because people have to petition the CYFD directly, which means the agency will self-assess. Rep. Dow hopes the new CYFD Secretary Barbara Vigil will be more receptive to change.

Meanwhile, Democratic legislature Jacob Candelaria tabled a similar bill in the Senate last year, which also failed. Rep. Dow said he will try again this year. “This department either needs to be completely dismantled or remodeled, or serious independent oversight needs to be brought in,” said Senator Candelaria.

Rep. Dow said some lawmakers are pushing for someone to look into CYFD guidelines that need reform.

The governor’s office responded to the effort in the following statement:

“[CYFD] is currently engaging an outside expert to facilitate a review process along with a variety of stakeholders at the table to identify policies, procedures and practices within CYFD that need to be addressed and improved. This review will serve as an essential step in reviewing how the Agency operates internally, as well as with children and their families. The administration is working with lawmakers throughout the process, which will build on new complaints procedures introduced at the CYFD over the past three years that did not exist before, including those specifically involving contributions from young people with real experience with the department and the CYFD were designed to be foster parents. “

Rep. Dow said she will only support the effort if that person is independent from CYFD.

A spokesman for CYFD made the following statement on Monday regarding its transparency efforts:

“The Department of Children, Youth and Family is working with others to consider the formation of a Steering Committee to look at ways to strengthen the agency’s guidance and accountability. It is imperative that any oversight structure effectively serves the interests of the children and families of New Mexico.

“It is still too early to know what the final structure would look like and where it would best be located in the structure of the state government. CYFD is committed to being transparent throughout the process while providing confidentiality to the families and child victims we protect every day.

“CYFD is keen to participate in this system improvement process.”

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