Letter to CYFD leadership reveals case backlogs, staffing concerns
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Seven pages filled with seven areas of observation paint a picture of what the neutral parties saw in Children, Youth & Families Department offices across the state.
They cite “deteriorating conditions and crisis situations in most of the offices” on page one. They say “serious risks to child and staff safety” exist.
“To see it reached this stage. I’m just really saddened by that,” said state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino.
Ortiz y Pino spent half of his professional career in CYFD. He has concerns about current turnover and recruitment.
“People do not want to work for the department as it’s structured right now. Its reputation has plunged,” said Ortiz y Pino.
The recent letter to CYFD Cabinet Secretary Teresa Casados and Human Services Department Secretary Kari Armijo reveals there is a 2,000 case backlog in the metro and northeast regions.
It says some date back to early 2023 and many children involved have never been seen.
They call it a “clear and urgent safety risk for children.” It says workers have also reported having to work outside of their area of expertise without the right training. For example, caring for children with serious medical or behavioral challenges.
It describes low office morale as staff feels frustrated by lack of resources, angry at unreasonably high caseloads, and fearful about children’s safety.
It recommends the state take “immediate and extraordinary steps” like “over hiring” and expanding training.
“We are failing New Mexico’s kids. It’s a disappointment to our New Mexico constituents,” said state Sen. Crystal Brantley.
Brantley has been calling for CYFD reform for years, including within the CARA program that serves mothers who give birth to babies impacted by substance use.
“It is up to the legislators and hopefully the call of the governor to really come in and fix it because CYFD clearly is not fixing itself,” said Brantley.
“I think both parties are in agreement that this department needs to be fixed and made productive again and made something that we can all as New Mexicans be proud of the job they’re doing. And it’s not there right now,” said Ortiz y Pino.
Ortiz y Pino believes the solution lies in a Constitutional amendment.
He wants the voters to have the final say on whether the department should stay under state oversight, or move to an independent commission format.
“They have not had professionals running that department who know that field. And until we restore the public’s confidence, and put professionals in charge, I don’t think we can really restore the department to its function,” said Ortiz y Pino.
The Constitutional amendment is scheduled for its first committee on Friday.
KOB 4 asked for an interview with the governor, and CYFD secretary Casados Monday.
A CYFD rep sent us the following statement:
“We share the concerns of the Co-Neutrals outlined in the letter we received on Friday. While work force and staffing continue to be a challenge, we are focused on ensuring tangible results. We truly believe that the results in the upcoming months will more effectively demonstrate positive change.”
The governor’s office also sent the following statement:
“The governor is aware of the urgent challenges facing CYFD. What this letter fails to capture are the successes of Secretary-designate Casados and her team, including removing barriers to speed up hiring, making improvements to on-boarding and training and creating the Family Services Division to meet families with support before they are in need of intervention by Protective Services or Juvenile Justice. We see the Department making bold changes and progress and expect that momentum to continue.”