City of Albuquerque leaders discuss strategy behind splitting department

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leaders with the City of Albuquerque recently took the expansive Family and Community Services Department and split it – for a good reason.

Not much will change overall. There’s no extra funding or new employees, at least for now.

Rather, each department has a more streamlined focus.

“It’s not at all about not handling it, so what it’s about is focusing on really key priorities for the city.”

That is Carol Pierce. She is the former FCS director who will now lead the Health, Housing and Homelessness Department.

The other department is the Youth and Family Services Department. That department will take over youth programs, child and family development, education programs and other similar divisions.

It’s not groundbreaking but Pierce believes this unlocks a lot of potential.

“I will say who’s mostly impacted by this, is, you’re looking at it. It’s Kata and myself because the teams that are doing the work are continuing to do that work,” Pierce said.

Pierce’s department revolves around a group of overlapping issues she’s already managed for years.

“Those things are like three circles in a Venn diagram. They really work complementary to really keep the safety net in place in our community. So it allows us, and me as the director, to focus directly on those pieces,” Pierce explained.

Katarina Sandoval, a former teacher and PED deputy secretary, is launching the Youth and Family Services Department.

“Our community centers have done a wonderful job of creating a variety of programs for elementary children. I want to do the same for our middle school students,” Sandoval said about her plans to focus on Albuquerque’s teenagers.

Sandoval believes an independent department focus on Albuquerque’s youth and families will hopefully provide new resources to combat a surge of teen violence across the city.

“I think the number one way is to give options, as many different kinds of options, that are interesting and realistic for our young people. Like, participating in positive programs, developing their own talents and exposing them to new activities. We know that we’ve got to do better, and we will do better,” Sandoval said.

For Pierce’s department, the split is giving her team some breathing room.

“We’re still talking about prevention, as it relates to keeping people housed and rental assistance and food assistance. The conversations are just more focused in that area,” she said.

The two departments officially split in July. With talks about splitting the department going on for years, though, this has been a long time coming.