Amid intense criticism from Senate Republicans and bills from both sides of the aisle addressing issues with CYFD, the governor announced a list of eight changes to the way CYFD is run.
“The number one priority of that department is protecting children and improving their well-being. That is not what is occurring in the state of New Mexico in the way that either the secretary or I want,” Lujan Grisham said.
The executive order elevates the role of personnel in charge of protective services, behavioral health, and juvenile justice. It commands the Emergency Health and Behavioral Services Division to make sure a statewide system is in place to give families access to immediate services. It mandates that the Protective Services Division deals with child intake, foster care, and placement services; and it assigns the Juvenile Justice Division prevention, rehab, and recovery services.
The order creates a Policy Advisory Council and an Office of Innovation to research best practices for children. It also calls for a statewide grievance system and subjects the department to an annual audit from an out-of-state firm.
This comes on the heels of several Senate Republicans voicing their disappointment with CYFD.
“I’m frustrated that CYFD does not seem to want to meet us in fixing a broken agency,” said Senator Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte), “As much as we’d like to put the blame, and ultimately the blame does fall on the presiding secretary, it seems to be lost in the bureaucracy of that agency and the further and further we get into it, it just seems like the entire agency needs to be dismantled at this point, and rebuilt.”
The Republican Senators—Diamond, and Senators Gregg Schmedes (R-Bernalillo) and David Gallegos (R-Eunice)—highlighted their own bills on Thursday that included efforts to create new standards in abuse and neglect cases, and having custody hearings within 72 hours.
The executive order goes into effect immediately. The governor also said to expect a new leadership team for the department after the session.