Keep Kids Safe by Dialing #SAFE (#7233)
Governor and CYFD Secretary Announce User-Friendly Hotline Number for Public Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect
ALBUQUERQUE -- Governor Susana Martinez and Children, Youth, and Families (CYFD) Secretary Yolanda Deines today enlisted the public in the state's fight against child abuse and neglect. Together, they announced the state's new user-friendly hotline number for public reporting of child abuse and neglect, #SAFE (#7233) or 1-855-333-SAFE. Governor Martinez has declared April Child Abuse Awareness Month and encouraged all New Mexicans to be vigilant about reporting child abuse and creating a positive environment for children across the state.
"Child Abuse Awareness Month is a time for speaking up, confronting abuse, and standing up for innocent children across New Mexico," said Governor Martinez. "As a prosecutor, I dedicated my career to fighting for the defenseless. Now, I am asking all New Mexico citizens to join this fight. We can do this by joining together as parents, teachers, family members and neighbors to create a safe and positive environment for our children. I encourage everyone to be vigilant about reporting child abuse and neglect by dialing #SAFE from any cell phone or calling 1-855-333-SAFE."
"If you know, or even suspect, that a child is in danger, starting now you can dial # SAFE or 1-855-333-SAFE. It's our moral responsibility to watch out for the kids around us," said CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines. "Children are the most precious resource we have in New Mexico. Take a deep breath this month and really think about child abuse in our society. There are no easy answers. But working together and increasing our awareness strengthens our ability to protect our children."
Calls to the hotline, useable from anywhere in the state, will go to CYFD's Statewide Central Intake unit, housed in Albuquerque. From there, a trained caseworker takes your call and asks for as much information as possible. The calls are immediately reviewed by a supervisor, screened in or out for investigation, assigned a priority response level, and rerouted to the county office where the child resides. Some calls are screened out for various reasons, including calls that are not allegations of child abuse. Calls are also cross-reported to appropriate law enforcement agencies. For example, a call about a parent dealing drugs from the home may or not be a child abuse call, but will always be cross-reported to the local law enforcement agency.
There are 561,318 children in New Mexico under the age of 19. In any given year, CYFD receives an average of 33,000 phone calls to their state-wide reporting system. Of those, 18,000 are screened in for further investigation, and approximately 4,700 are "substantiated" for abuse or neglect of a child. The vast majority of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect are for physical neglect (72.7%). Twenty-five percent of substantiated claims are for physical abuse, and only 1.6% of cases are for sexual abuse.
Deines says the new hotline number has been in the making for several months. When the statewide system was first implemented 12 years ago, 800 numbers were at a premium and the Department received a random number that wasn't easy to remember. The old number, 1-800-797-3260, will continue to work for an indefinite period of time. With the newly released 855 toll free prefix, the Department saw an opportunity and picked up the SAFE (7233) numbers.
Deines is traveling the state throughout the months of April and May to get the word out in local communities about the new reporting number. The Department used a small budget of $150,000 to develop the campaign, print materials, purchase 9 billboards placed strategically throughout the State, and record television and radio Public Service Announcements, featuring actor Armand Assante, that will air state-wide. In addition, CYFD staff throughout New Mexico will hold open houses, picnics, and barbecues and distribute materials, including bumper stickers and magnets.
"Keeping kids safe is a team effort," says Dienes. We need the community to take this responsibility very seriously, because our social workers can't even knock on a door unless we get a call first. Call #SAFE from your cell phone. It doesn't get any easier than this."
"We owe it to all the children out there, who right now may be living in fear, scared of the adults in their lives who are supposed to love and protect them," says Martinez. "Preventing child abuse and neglect, protecting our kids, it is up to us."
Deines also discouraged so-called malicious reporting, or people who falsely accuse neighbors or ex-spouses or others. "Every hour we spend sorting out false and malicious allegations is an hour taken from a frightened child who truly needs our help," says Deines, who has personally investigated hundreds of child abuse cases over her career. "Please find a healthier way to express your anger, and don't take time away from a child who might be in danger."
Governor Martinez and Secretary Deines made the announcement today at the UNM Children's Campus, a center that provides the children of UNM's student, staff and faculty families with a high quality early childhood, educational and childcare experience. Governor Martinez and Secretary Deines read portions of "A Very Touching Book", to three hundred Children's Campus students.