SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD) is once again getting a change in leadership. On April 13, Secretary Barbara Vigil announced she’s leaving the role.
CYFD provides a range of services for families and youth in New Mexico. They oversee foster care and adoption services, juvenile justice, and behavioral health for youth.
Now, the department’s Chief Operating Officer Teresa Casados will step in as the interim leader. This marks the third instance of turnover at the top since 2019.
Vigil has served as the secretary since 2021. She promised to bring big changes to a department that has been plagued with allegations of misconduct and allowing abuse to happen on its watch.
The governor’s office says Vigil did bring positive change to the department, including pushing for legislative changes such as the Indian Family Protection Act, which is aimed at strengthening the department’s ability to serve tribal partners. The governor’s office also says Vigil laid foundational work to fulfill requirements under the Kevin S. Settlement – the fallout from a lawsuit against the department several years ago.
An assessment of CYFD’s performance in 2021 agrees that the department, under Vigil, did make “significant accomplishments.” Still, the department faces continued lawsuits and allegations dating back from before Vigil took over as Secretary.
Vigil is leaving the position to serve on the Policy Advisory Council, a new CYFD-adjacent policymaking group created by the governor in February 2023. With no immediate replacement, the governor has announced a nationwide search for a new CYFD secretary. In the meantime, COO Casados says they’re ready for the temporary responsibility.
“I do not step into this role lightly. The stories of the children in our care keep me up at night and surface-level changes will not suffice,” Casados said in a press release. “We need long-lasting, fundamental changes to this system of care that deliver vastly better outcomes for New Mexico’s children. I am committed to ramping up the rigor and driving outcomes until we identify a leader to continue our agency reform and transformation work.”