SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – There’s a push at the Roundhouse to take a hard look at New Mexico’s Children’s Code which is the legal framework regarding a child’s care, health, and safety in the state as well as any abuse or neglect investigations.
Children advocates say it’s time to reform the Children’s Code. “In conversations in our community, those who are advocates for children- it’s time to look at it, see where we need to make amendments,” said Senator Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque).
Senate Bill 196, sponsored by Sen. Lopez would create a task force to review the Children’s Code. The Children’s Code is large and complex covering a variety of topics like adoption, child development even children’s court. The bill doesn’t specifically outline which areas in the code the task force should evaluate.
Story continues below
Foster care advocates already have recommendations for the proposed task force such as addressing the vagueness of the term ‘confidentiality’ when dealing with child abuse or neglect cases. Maralyn Beck of NM Child First Network feels the state uses it as a way to not comment on those cases and says the public has the right to question the state and hold them accountable.
“So if I have one request it’s to look at what does confidentiality mean and take that under a microscope and fight it and fight it and fight it because the children’s code should only be protecting children, not the department,” Beck said.
Advocates pointed to the death of James Dunklee-Cruz in 2019. The New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department had taken him away from his mother because she couldn’t care for him but then placed the four-year-old back in her home later on. One of the mother’s roommates has been accused of beating the child to death. CYFD has said they can’t talk about cases because of the state’s children’s code.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. If passed, the state’s Supreme Court could ask state lawmakers, CYFD members, attorneys, and child advocates to be part of the task force. The task force would later present any recommendations to the state legislature.