State lawmakers push to update background checks at CYFD
SANTA FE, N.M. – There are just 10 days left in this 30-day legislative session. One of the big issues going in – the troubled Children, Youth & Family Services Department – is looking less like it will see any major changes cross the finish line.
The Senate did approve one CYFD bill Monday. It’s a pretty simple proposal updating background check requirements for CYFD workers, and other state employees who work extensively with children.
Democratic State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill told lawmakers her bill is meant to address some concerns from the FBI, who reportedly determined the current CYFD statue is not specific enough for them.
The bill is a technical fix, not a radical change to the department operations.
The Senate eventually approved the proposal with unanimous support, but not before addressing the elephant in the room.
“It’s the only bill we’re probably going to see on this floor that does anything to deal with the deficiencies at CYFD. And we’re going to allow them to continue to run background checks, that’s our solution. We have a lot of other things that we need to be doing in law, to help with CYFD and help protecting our children. But this is what we get,” said state Sen. Craig Brandt.
Brandt is far from the only state lawmaker frustrated with the lack of action over CYFD. A Senate Committee grilled the CYFD secretary during a confirmation hearing last week where she admitted CYFD is in crisis.
Despite that, she told lawmakers earlier in the session that she asked the governor to limit CYFD bills, suggesting they wanted to address their own issues while also asking for more funding.
Lawmakers on both side of the aisle say enough is enough.
“Money isn’t fixing the problem. We have a lack of leadership, and we have not identified the right programs and solutions on how to make sure that we are we’re assisting those children in need,” said state Sen. Crystal Diamond Brantley.
“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 state Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino.
Both lawmakers introduced CYFD reform bills this year, including one to make a drug exposure program for newborns mandatory. KOB’s 4 Investigates team has highlighted that. And a proposed constitutional amendment asking voters to remove CYFD from the governor’s control.
As of Monday night, both of those bills are still near the starting point and may not even make it halfway.
The proposed state budget includes an extra $20 million for CYFD programs, but barring a last-minute scramble, it appears any significant reform efforts will have to wait until next year.