Lawmakers seek to reform CYFD with multiple proposals

[anvplayer video=”5165456″ station=”998122″]

SANTA FE, N.M. – There are just a couple of weeks left in this year’s legislative session, and it’s clear lawmakers want to see reform at the Children Youth and Families Department. 

The House Health and Human Services Committee signed off on House Bill 11. It would create the Office of the Child Advocate, otherwise known as an ombudsman.

The office would review CYFD services and operations, investigate and review complaints, subpoena witnesses, operate a toll-free hotline, and make recommendations to the department.

HB 11 would also make create an annual report on its findings on CYFD.

“The office would provide oversight to Children’s Services, so that kids and families who are in CYFD can trust that the system is acting in their best interests, including their safety, dignity, right to privacy, and appropriate health and education.,” said state Rep. Tara Jaramillo. 

There are nearly a dozen sponsors on House Bill 11, including Democrats and Republicans from both chambers.

The broad support is a good sign for the bill as lawmakers race the clock to get bills passed before the end of the session.

There are a just couple weeks left in this year’s legislative session, and it’s clear lawmakers want to see reform at the Children Youth and Families Department.

HB 11 is just one of a number of CYFD reform bills being considered in the legislature this session. 

Lawmakers agree it’s time for change at CYFD. 

“What we know is that CYFD has been dropping the ball,” said state Sen. Craig Brandt. 

“We must act now. How are we going to continue to let the clock run out on providing solutions for our children?” said Erica Poindexter, board president to the New Mexico Child First Network.  

There are dozens of bills introduced into this legislative session aiming to create reform. Only a few are moving forward, including Senate Bill 107

SB 107 would extend the deadline for CYFD investigations and custody hearings. That bill has unanimously passed the Senate.

The Senate also unanimously passed Senate Bill 150. It would close gaps in the 2019 “CARA” legislation, which serves as a safety net for babies born exposed to alcohol or drugs.

CYFD would be required to do an assessment for families to decline services under the CARA program.

“If we’re not going to remove the child, and that’s what CARA says, we don’t automatically remove the child, then we have to make sure that they do get services so that the child isn’t in danger,” said Sen. Gerald Ortiz Y Pino. 

Both Senate bills are in the House Health and Human Services Committee. 

On the House side, House Bill 231 aims to get CYFD children aged 12 and up legal ID cards, is headed for a floor vote. 

House Bill 10 was introduced in mid-February, and it would increase transparency within CYFD, forcing the department to disclose more case information with certain agencies and courts.

“We cannot trust CYFD to monitor themselves. We need outside eyes on the agency, and we need to start putting children first,” said Sen. Crystal Diamond. 

House Bill 461 is scheduled for its first committee hearing on Friday. It would codify into law some changes made to CYFD by an executive order from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this year. 

That includes the creation of a Child Welfare Innovation Center to advise CYFD of a grievance system to allow families to have meaningful dialogue with the department, and require an outside audit of the complaints to CYFD.