Created: December 06, 2019 10:22 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- There are some big policy changes in the works for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). There are also some big concerns about those possible changes to foster care licensing.
According to CYFD, the proposed policy is designed to break down barriers, especially for relatives of a child taken into state custody.
But it comes with some concerns from the people it could impact. There are worries that the new policy could remove some safeguards put in place to make the well-being of the child the first priority.
“It is an entire repeal and replace policy,” said Christi Boomer, a former foster parent turned advocate.
The proposal is posted on CYFD’s website under the Requests for Proposals. It’s 34 pages of policy turning foster parents into foster care providers, with the focus on relative placement.
“While the policy looks good on paper, I think we need to look at the long term implications of what this will do for New Mexico children,” said Boomer. “Are we making sure that we're serving them?”
It would allow applicants who've had their children taken into foster care be licensed, if their problems have been resolved.
A spokesperson clarified some of the broad language regarding that change: “the parent who has had their rights terminated can be licensed to foster their own child if they have resolved their issues. We see this a lot when kids start coming of age and seeking out their bio parents who have cleaned up their act and never had another referral despite having additional children,” said Charlie Moore-Pabst, deputy public information officer in an email Friday.
Being convicted of a crime doesn't mean disqualification either, unless it’s one of these:
“Licensure shall not be approved in any case in which the CRC results for the applicant or any adult household member reveal any of the following federally mandated automatic disqualifiers: (1) a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect; (2) a felony conviction for spousal abuse, domestic abuse, or abuse against a household member; (3) a felony conviction for a crime against children, including child pornography; (4) a felony conviction for any crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, homicide, robbery, and aggravated assault, but not including other assault (not aggravated) or battery; or (5) a felony conviction within the past five years for assault, battery, or a drug or alcohol related offense.”
In a case of an emergency removal, relatives can take in a child with a new provisional license. Another big change, undocumented relatives would be eligible for licensing. Many are concerned that there’s no backup plan written into the policy if an undocumented person gets taken into custody for immigration issues.
But Moore-Pabst said, “we have a backup plan for every single placement that we make regardless of documentation status.”
Boomer said a change of this magnitude should require all stakeholders to work together.
“To have the opportunity to really look at this policy, look at the work that is going on with the various other task forces, the children court improvement committee and all the other entities that are already looking at the policies and practices of what’s going to be best,” said Boomer. “Let’s really come together and meet in the middle.”
CYFD said rules and regulations are updated and changed all the time, and this nothing different.
The agency said it worked closely with the American Bar Association to better reflect national best practices.
A spokesperson also said relatives have to undergo the same background checks and consideration as foster parents. But it would be done as child comes into care instead of before.
The overall goal-- CYFD wants relatives to get licensed immediately so that there are fewer placements and fewer traumas.
CYFD said, per the law, a public meeting was advertised and held this week. Three people showed up to that meeting. CYFD said they also had an employee present the changes in Las Cruces, Roswell, Sandoval County, Farmington and Santa Fe.
But many people are now asking CYFD to hold off and extend public comment. CYFD officials said they intend to extend the online comment period by 30 days.
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