Governor Susana Martinez Issues Two Child Welfare Executive Orders
SANTA FE -- Today Governor Susana Martinez issued two executive orders to take a more proactive and coherent approach to working with families who have faced multiple Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) investigations, and to improve communication between child welfare caseworkers and law enforcement officers.
“This new approach allows us to take a more proactive, deeper interest in families where CYFD has been regularly called to intervene, even when investigations of those incidents were unable to substantiate abuse or neglect of the children in the home,” said Governor Martinez. “Something's clearly happening in these homes that periodic interaction with a family support worker and counseling services might be able to address.”
Executive orders signed by Governor Martinez today direct CYFD to implement a policy change requiring that any family who has been investigated twice by CYFD will have any subsequent CYFD investigation reviewed by a high-level supervisory team. This team will include the county office manager, supervisor, caseworker, and children’s court attorney. The Governor today has also required CYFD caseworkers to seek and review police reports and other law enforcement materials related to the cases they work before rendering a final investigative decision. Her order also directs all law enforcement entities under the State’s control to comply in a timely fashion with any CYFD request for this information.
Governor Martinez also announced the creation of a pilot program in Bernalillo County, establishing a new class of child welfare caseworker known as “family support workers.” To start, a team of roughly 10 family support workers will be hired to regularly interface with families in Bernalillo County who have been the subject of three or more child welfare investigations in the past 10 years, connecting those families to services, visiting their homes, and monitoring the use and effectiveness of interventions. If the program is successful at helping these families avoid further interaction with CYFD and law enforcement, the family support worker model could be extended to other areas of the state.
“This is a critical, necessary change that will ensure greater scrutiny of the activities in homes where there appears to be a pattern of concerning conduct,” said CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines. “We spoke with several caseworkers who felt as though this new policy, in concert with our high-level supervisory reviews, would bring greater consistency and coherence to the investigative decisions relating to cases involving families that interact with CYFD regularly.”
The Governor’s executive orders today also direct state law enforcement officials to contact CYFD’s State Central Intake (SCI) system as a source of information for new referrals to obtain all relevant information regarding all prior reports of abuse and neglect maintained by SCI. Governor Martinez says that law enforcement will have access to historical protective service information that includes information on the child, the parents, guardians, and custodians who were the subject of any prior investigations and/or case history that includes the number of prior referrals, the dates of prior referrals, the investigative decisions to substantiate or unsubstantiate prior referrals, and any other case history that may affect important safety decisions.
CYFD caseworkers are now also required to make every effort to obtain police reports and investigatory materials prior to rendering an investigation decision.
“It’s important for our law enforcement officers and CYFD caseworkers to be on the same page and work collaboratively when making very difficult decisions about the custody of a child,” said Department of Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Greg Fouratt. “Too often, police officers and CYFD caseworkers investigate the same case separately, with little contact and communication with one another after the initial incident has occurred. I’m hopeful that local law enforcement agencies throughout the State will also agree to provide their reports and other materials from their child abuse investigations to CYFD caseworkers.”
Governor Martinez recently announced numerous proposals to improve the well-being of New Mexico’s children and the investigation of child abuse incidents. These initiatives and directives are designed to improve communication between CYFD and law enforcement, better work with families who have faced multiple investigations and recruit and retain more CYFD caseworkers. In this same vein, the Governor will continue to fight for legislation that would allow a court to order counseling services and interventions for families who frequently interact with CYFD. The legislation failed to pass in the recently concluded legislative session.