Community Comes Together, April is Child Abuse Month
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
It comes on the heels of a number of recent child deaths in Albuquerque.
Roughly 100 people marched Saturday with the hope of changing that, saying changes need to happen now.
The Children and Youth Family Department sponsored the march.
It is the third year the organization has done it.
It was clear the recent child deaths were at the front of everyone's minds.
People from all walks of life marched with one message and spoke for the children who can no longer speak for themselves.
“We're here today to be their voices. Our voices will be heard,” New Mexico Pink Lady member Mari Lopez said.
Some called for elected officials to get more involved.
“In order to make change, I do believe our representatives, our senators, our city council - something needs to be done,” marcher Veronica Rael-Garcia said.
They hope what happens today is not forgotten tomorrow.
“It just doesn't stop here, and it doesn't stop when a child dies. It needs to be ongoing,” New Mexicans Against Child Abuse
Member Crystal Gutierrez-Baca said.
CYFD spokesperson Brian Blalock said there is plenty of blame to go around.
“Anytime a child dies, it represents a catastrophic failure by public systems and by relationships in communities,” Blalock said.
Blalock said new leadership is working hard to revamp processes that are not working at CYFD.
One is cutting down wait times for people wanting to report child abuse or neglect.
A couple of weeks ago, some wait times could be measured in hours, not minutes.
He said the longest wait times now are around 20 minutes.
“We're going to do everything we can to be sure that wait time is there and we continue to shrink it. I don't think there should be any wait time when it's urgent calls,” Blalock said.
But activists said even improvements at CYFD will not be enough.
“CYFD is an after-the-fact scenario, and they're dealing with things after abuse has happened, after something has been reported,” marcher Ernest Cuaron said.
Even though they do have some proactive programs, we need to step up as a community.>
CYFD officials said a big concern is the lack of community-based mental health services across the state.
Those allow people to get treatment at lower costs and often without having to leave their job or families.
Blalock said they're having strategy meetings with Albuquerque police and Albuquerque Public Schools.
The next one is scheduled for next week.
Source: KOAT 7 Action News