State lawmakers receive update on CYFD improvements

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SANTA FE, N.M. – Six months ago, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered a complete overhaul, calling the Children Youth & Families Department “fundamentally broken.”

On Monday, state lawmakers learned exactly how that transformation is going.

Staff shortages play a critical role in keeping children in the state safe. So, the ability to attract and retain CYFD workers is a big priority.

In the Protective Services Division alone we’re talking about more than 200 vacancies. But the state says there is progress.

The massive statewide push to get folks through the door and to a desk at the CYFD is working thanks to rapid hire events around the state, CYFD officials told lawmakers Monday.

The department is making a dent in hundreds of vacancies, saying they’ve sent offer letters to more than a hundred applicants. They’ve heard back from around 80 of them.

“I think the biggest piece is the caseload. Bringing the caseload down to our staff, so they are able to fully work on their current cases,” said Natividad Posada, deputy director for the northeast and Metro regions for CYFD.

But retention is another challenge, including with department leadership. The state is still searching for a new CYFD secretary to lead the department.

CYFD’s Interim Secretary Teresa Casados says, six months in, interest has slowed. The same goes for new department deputy secretary positions. 

Casados says, in the meantime, they’re narrowing in on other problem areas, focusing on reducing overnight office stays for children in care with nowhere to go. She says they’re working on building out family resource centers around the state places where families can go for help.

The department also wants to incentivize and recruit more families to care for the state’s most vulnerable children.

There’s a lot of work in progress here. But the goal is to get started with these conversations so that there’s a solid plan moving into the next legislative session.

Casados says they are taking a hard look at what all of this means for the budget.

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