Report: NM child abuse and neglect cases up by 50% this year
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new report shows child abuse and neglect cases in New Mexico are way up. It’s just the latest challenge for the troubled Children, Youth, and Families Department.
Back in August, there were more than 300 vacancies in the Protective Services Division of the CYFD. That number hasn’t really changed and there are still 250 vacancies.
CYFD says any increase is incredibly taxing on staff, but child welfare advocates say enough is enough.
“These are issues we have known about consistently and nothing has been done,” said Maralyn Beck with New Mexico Child First Network.
In a September newsletter from the state’s Legislative Finance Committee, it shows child abuse and neglect cases are up.
It’s on pace to increase by more than 50% this year over last.
“We knew coming out of the pandemic the numbers of abuse, not just neglect, but significant maltreatment, significant harm would increase. We’re seeing that now. Unfortunately, our agency is such in a state that we can’t support the need for these children,” said Beck.
A spokesperson for CYFD also attributes the rise to the pandemic, saying in a statement:
“Our current number of 510 cases for the first six months of this year is comparable to the number of cases, 504, for the same six-month period pre-pandemic. Many of our referrals come from the schools which were closed during the pandemic. We believe the increase in reporting coincides with the return to the classroom.“
They’re reporting dropped with students out of the classroom. But it’s even more complicated by the nearly 600 vacancies department-wide.
“I will tell you, from where I’m sitting on the ground level, this agency has never been in worse condition,” Beck said.
It was eight months ago, when Beck says Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham promised transformative change, new department leadership, and reorganization.
Beck says they’re still waiting.
“This is a public health crisis, it’s exhausting and anything less than demanding immediate action right now is just words,” said Beck.
KOB 4 asked CYFD for an on-camera interview. That didn’t happen. We did get some short written responses after our deadline Monday:
Why has there been an increase in abuse and neglect cases?
Our current number of 510 cases for the first six months of this year is comparable to the number of cases, 504, for the same six-month period pre-pandemic. Many of our referrals come from the schools which were closed during the pandemic. We believe the increase in reporting coincides with the return to the classroom.
Anything to attribute that to?
As stated above, we believe the increase is related to schools reopening, increasing the number of referrals from mandatory reporters.
How is it impacting caseworkers who are already struggling with department vacancies?
The increase in caseloads is incredibly taxing on our staff, and we are working diligently to hire staff.
I believe last time we checked, there were more than 300 openings in Protective Services. Can you update that number for me? I know there have been some hires since we reported that number.
Protective Services currently has approximately 250 vacant positions.
How many people does CYFD need department wide?
CYFD has almost 600 vacancies department wide.
How many vacancies are there in Protective Services?
Upwards of 250
Any other efforts planned around recruiting?
CYFD continues to recruit qualified staff. In addition to our rapid hire, we currently have 145 posted on the SPO website and are exploring additional hiring events.