SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the legislative session now in full swing, lawmakers are pushing to make changes to better protect kids in the state. There are a handful of bills aimed at changing policies in the state’s Children’s Youth and Family Department (CYFD).

As the 60-day session gets underway, one issue lawmakers are focused on is protecting New Mexico kids.

“I think that one thing that is very clear that all New Mexico can see is that CYFD is failing as an agency,” said Senator Crystal Diamond.

CYFD has long faced heavy criticism for lack of transparency and for a policy it holds, aiming to keep families together which critics argue has put kids back into dangerous situations.

“There’s a great effort to hold CYFD more accountable,” said Sen. Diamond.

In 2021, the agency was criticized for using an encrypted messaging app that critics argued may have violated the state’s public record law. Last December, a lawsuit accused CYFD of putting four-year-old James Dunklee in danger which ultimately resulted in his death. The lawsuit also accused the agency of destroying evidence and covering up how Dunklee’s case was handled.

“Right now, we are seeing some horrific cases of children abuse on which it’s a broken system, so how do legislators go in there and address the system,” said Sen. Diamond.

Multiple bills have been introduced this session to reform CYFD.

“I think there’s a large coalition of us across the aisle coming together to be like what are the solutions,” said Sen. Diamond.

House Bill 129 would change how CYFD cares for children who are taken in for concerns related to child abuse or neglect. If a child is released back to a home he or she was removed from, it would require the department to monitor the home for at least three months following the child’s release.

Senator Diamond believes in some cases, the agency’s policy of prioritizing keeping families together puts kids directly in harm’s way.

“We’re kinda taking a better look at this whole idea that New Mexico re-unifies children with their birth parents almost at all cost,” said Sen. Diamond.

Senator Diamond is also sponsoring Senate Bill 107, which aims to amend the wait between custody hearing after an allegation of abuse or neglect has been made shortening that time from ten days to 72 hours.

“This is a serious matter that needs to be addressed very quickly, but the reality is, it’s not just a failure from this administration, but for years, CYFD has needed to have a much closer look,” said Sen. Diamond.

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Senator Diamond said at least three other bills are on the table revolving around keeping kids safe.

“Reforming CYFD and protecting the kids is really a non-partisan issue up here,” said Sen. Diamond.

KRQE reached out to CYFD for comment on the proposed legislation and are still waiting to hear back.