Updated: October 01, 2021 01:03 PM
Created: September 30, 2021 05:05 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An eye-opening memo is raising some serious questions about the state's Children, Youth and Families Department.
According to new documents, CYFD saw a massive increase in abuse-related deaths in 2020.
There were questions around transparency before, and even more so now. That's because the report contradicts the information given to lawmakers this summer, from the secretary himself.
Not only is it raising the alarms on children's welfare, but that more needs to be done to provide the necessary oversight.
“There seems to be a myth out there statewide that New Mexico children are in real danger perpetually in a way that's disproportionate to the rest of the country,” said Blalock during a Legislative Health and Human Services Committee meeting on July 9. “That just does not seem to be true.”
In that same meeting, Blalock went on to say, “per the Department of Health, New Mexico is below the national average in both child abuse-related fatalities and child maltreatment.”
Other meetings prompted the Legislative Finance Committee to do its own homework. According to the memo sent to lawmakers, maltreatment death rates actually doubled in 2020. There were 11 deaths in 2019 and 23 deaths in 2020.
The report shows New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of children suffering from repeat maltreatment – second only to the state of New York.
Therefore, it's unclear why the department told state leaders otherwise.
LFC was tasked with coming up with the next steps for CYFD – that includes addressing staffing and leadership, child safety and deaths, and child welfare oversight.
A spokesperson for CYFD, Charlie Moore-Pabst, Acting Public Information Officer, sent KOB 4 this statement:
“The Children, Youth and Families Department, under new leadership, will approach this issue and all of its work to protect and improve child wellbeing with a commitment to transparency, collaboration and accountability. The department will fully analyze the LFC memo including the supporting data in addition to the previously presented information and take any steps deemed necessary upon that full analysis, including reporting back to the legislature.”
Blalock resigned from his post in August. He is being replaced by former state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil, who starts next week.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said they “expect transparency and accountability from all state agencies.”
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