NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – KRQE has reported on several high-profile cases where the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) placed abused children back with their abusers, where they were abused again or even killed. A bill that could help stop that cycle is gaining momentum in the Roundhouse – passing the Senate Floor and the Health Human Services Committee Friday.
Amendments to this bill have mostly extended the timeline for caseworkers to deal with these sensitive cases. Backers of this bill said the most valuable thing they can do to help CYFD is to give them more time to decide what’s best for the child. “What we’re trying to do is affect those outlier cases. We’ve had some cases where children have been taken from the home, returned as many as 16 or 18 times,” said backers of the bill.
Senate Bill 107 is a bipartisan bill that extends the time from two days to three days for a case worker to either file a petition in court, find a placement for a child in custody, or return them if a child is removed from a home for suspected abuse or neglect.
The bill also creates an enhanced review – if a child is removed from a home, returned, and then removed again from that home in a one-year period, the case gets five days to be reviewed by someone above the level of a supervisor. After that, a hearing is to take place within ten days.
This bill also requires CYFD to simultaneously inform the new Office of Family Representation if they plan to file a petition in court. This would advocate on the child’s behalf in court—and if the child is indigenous, they have to inform the child’s Pueblo.
“Does this solve all the problems? It does not. However, this is very targeted to work within the resources of the department which are limited,” says a representative. This bill passed that committee unanimously and now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
The executive director of the New Mexico Child First Network said New Mexico remains the most extreme outlier in short-term placement, causing kids a lot of trauma.