ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A day after the state announced a new CYFD task force to help New Mexico children, changes are already being made. Those changes come after state lawmakers and others noticed a key group wasn’t included. The department is acknowledging they messed up when it came to deciding who was on the task force, and now they’re looking to fix it.
It was a high profile sexual abuse case that rattled the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). A school counselor reached out to the department after a 10-year-old claimed her foster parent, Clarence Garcia, was touching her inappropriately. He was later charged with sexually abusing six girls in his care.
It’s cases like that that has lawmakers calling for betting protection for children in foster care. That’s why they recently announced a new task force stemming from House Joint Memorial 10, which was approved during the last legislative session. It aims to improve transparency within CYFD to ensure children are safe.
“When you look at the joint memorial, it really focuses on foster families and kin that step up to take kids into the foster care system,” said NMCAN executive director Ezra Spitzer. He is also on the task force.
The list of who is on the task force was rolled out Tuesday, but it’s who isn’t on the list that has some people concerned.
“From the very start, it says we need to consult educators,” said State Representative Joy Garratt (D- Albuquerque).
Out of the 26 members on the force, there are no teachers, even though the memorial requests that educators should be part of the group, especially since they spend a lot of time with these kids.
“I think since educators are really the front line reporters of so much multi-age abuse,” said Rep. Garratt.
After several complaints, CYFD said they’re now going to fix it and give educators a seat at the table.
“I think the Secretary has done a fantastic job pulling together a task force, with a few little tweaks, it will only benefit everybody more,” said Rep. Garratt.
CYFD told KRQE News 13 over the phone six teachers applied for a spot on the task force before members were announced. They’re now going back to those applications to re-review them. It’s not clear when those teachers will be added to the group. The task force’s first meeting is next month.
CYFD also issued the following statement:
CYFD followed the recommendations explicitly listed in HJM 10 to fill the Task Force. One of those recommendations was to invite an expert in education to participate in discussions of the Task Force. CYFD did one better by adding an LCSW social worker who works in an educational setting. There is also a former classroom teacher on the Task Force.
Charlie Moore Pabst, Deputy Public Information Officer
Based on feedback from the public, the selection committee and Secretary Brian Blalock are adding a teacher as an additional member. This is purely based on public and stakeholder feedback and not in any way requested by the memorial. The teacher will be named before the first meeting in November.