Big Plans for Increased Transparency & Accountability from CYFD
ALBUQUERQUE – The State’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) has big plans for increasing its transparency and accountability to the community.
At the top of the list: increasing funding to the Substitute Care Advisory Council (SCAC), which currently operates in an ombudsman-like role with the Department. Along with more funding, CYFD is considering options for supporting its increased independence by moving it to a new place within state government where SCAC could have a broader reach, promote better coordination and oversight of multiple child-serving agencies and be most effective at providing oversight and implementing needed changes. CYFD plans to provide more data to the SCAC so that they can have more information for exploring the Department’s operations and outcomes respective to goals.
And that’s just the beginning of a series of changes that Cabinet Secretary Brian Blalock and the CYFD Leadership plan to make CYFD more transparent and accountable.
CYFD is creating an Office of Children’s Rights that will advocate on behalf of children and youth in care, especially with regard to educational and disability rights. Right now, much of the work that CYFD’s Office of the General Counsel does is supporting children, youth, families, and foster care providers in successfully accessing each child’s federally protected educational and disability rights, and we see a need for a dedicated team to do this work. The Office of Children’s Rights would have staff specialized in educational rights, disability rights, and constituent affairs, also making it a place where grievances from children in care, foster care providers, and other community members can be heard and responded to.
Right now, CYFD is engaged in a process of evaluating how CYFD can best support foster care providers, especially foster parents and families. CYFD currently convenes meetings of the Child Protective Services Task Force, better known as the HJM-10 Task Force, a group of individuals with expertise in various fields that relate to child welfare who are working to develop recommendations for how the agency can better support foster care providers. The HJM-10 Task Force was created during the 2019 Legislative Session with the passing of the House Joint Memorial 10, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Dow (R.), Representative Kelly Fajardo (R.), Representative Patricio Ruiloba (D), and Representative Gail Armstrong (R). On the Task Force are several current and former foster and adoptive parents from throughout the State who also have expertise in the areas of education, social work, the medical field, LGBTQ2AI concerns and other areas relevant to children in care. The HJM-10 Task Force keeps CYFD in continued conversations with foster parents who have their fingers on the pulse of how foster parents really feel about us, and we’re grateful for all of their feedback.
On the Task Force there are also young people who were formerly in foster care, and they are letting CYFD know what is going right and ways they can improve. Making space for the children and youth in care to have their voices heard, their opinions fully considered and to really take up space is one of CYFD’s preeminent goals.
To that end, the agency supported young people in developing a Youth Grievance Process that has been very well utilized and received by youth. The Youth Grievance Process stands out as an accountability measure that was created in the right way — by the people who are going to use it — and we’re looking to base a new Foster Care Provider Grievance Process on the one created by youth in the next year.
A Foster Care Provider Grievance Process would provide objective reviews of concerns and complaints from providers in the community, including foster parents, biological parents, relatives of children, and treatment foster care providers. The objective reviewer would be able to request a more thorough review from a Supervisor or other individual who is outside the chain of command for the case in question and may also refer the complaint to higher bodies such as the SCAC or the Office of Children’s Rights.
It’s time that we make sure that the children and youth we serve, the foster care providers we partner with, and the general public know more about the incredibly hard work our staff do each day do to keep children safe and to strengthen families.
This Administration is 100% committed to making sure that the public, the taxpayer, and all of our stakeholders and partners in keeping children and youth safe remain aware of our work, our successes and also our challenges. As a government agency, the public’s involvement in oversight and expectation of accountability are crucial elements of ensuring we stay on the right path for kids.