NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The most horrific child abuse cases fall under one category in the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department called an Emergency Report. Child welfare advocates are now sounding the alarm after learning that in just one month, there were more than 400 New Mexico children who had been hurt so severely they needed emergency help and intervention.
CYFD classifies situations such as what happened to 4-year-old James Dunklee Cruz and the poor living conditions at a home in Curry County as “emergency” level situations. Just in the month of May, there were 435 emergency level reports taken by CYFD which averages out to 14 emergency calls every single day.
Maralyn Beck founded a children’s advocacy group called the New Mexico Child First Network. She obtained the numbers from CYFD and discovered just how dire the situation is for hundreds of New Mexico kids. “This is not a CYFD problem. It is a state of New Mexico problem. Our kids are not okay,” said Beck.
Children at the center of emergency CYFD calls who survive their injuries are removed from that home. Child psychiatrist Dr. George Davis says those removals are trauma in itself. “Statistically, children who are pulled out of the home have a very rocky future,” said Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis, who has worked with CYFD for decades, was also shocked and alarmed by the number of emergency calls the department is receiving. “I thought there were not more than 50-60 of those cases. 100, I would’ve been surprised. But 435 is off the charts,” said Dr. Davis.
However, those 435 worst of the worst calls are just the tip of the iceberg. In May, CYFD received 3,638 total reports of child abuse and has received similar numbers of reports for the last year. Of those, staff at CYFD’s statewide central intake determined that 1,613 reports warranted investigation which Dr. Davis believes must mean CYFD case workers are stretched thin. “Kids are going to fall through the cracks. They definitely will. Even the ones that don’t may not get the type of attention that is required for that child,” said Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis and Beck believe the overall solution is systematic change but think a good starting point is to raise salaries to help with high vacancy and turnover rates. Beck says without quality CYFD case workers and investigations, horrifying and tragic cases of child abuse will only continue to happen. “One call is too many, 435 is a crisis,” said Beck.
KRQE News 13 reached out to CYFD to ask them about their reaction to this level of emergency calls and how the workload is impacting their employees. News 13 did not receive a response.