Children in New Mexico are vulnerable to abuse from family members and caregivers alike. New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) exists in no small part to intervene and protect children from abusive home environments.
If a teacher, neighbor or medical professional notices warning signs of neglect or abuse, they will report the matter to CYFD and prompt an investigation. You would think that when the professionals working for CYFD find evidence corroborating allegations of abuse or neglect, they would immediately intervene for the protection of the children involved.
Unfortunately, statistics about child abuse in the state make it clear that CYFD frequently fails to protect children in unsafe home environments.
The professionals at CYFD have an obligation to the children at risk of abuse or neglect. They should look into the family circumstances and intervene to protect children who are in a dangerous situation. All too often, the interventions employed in cases with substantiated claims of abuse or neglect are inadequate. The CYFD workers do not protect the children or push the parents to improve their behaviors, which ultimately means the child is still in danger.
According to a recent report released by the state, more than 40% of the children who have sought medical care for serious injuries caused by abuse or neglect had an interaction with CYFD within the last year. Simply put, almost half of the children who required medical care for serious injuries caused by abuse or neglect had prior involvement with CYFD and could potentially have been protected from the recent serious injury that they suffered.
The failure of CYFD to adequately intervene on behalf of the child and either provide the parent with the support they need to improve the care of the child or remove the child and place them in a safer environment is a major contributing factor to the child’s injury. CYFD frequently fails the children who are at highest risk of serious abuse and neglect.
If you are a grandparent or other close family member who has recently learned that a child in your family has suffered a significant injury in part because the CYFD failed to act, you are potentially in a position to push for reform.
Families affected by negligent failings on the part of state agencies can potentially pursue a civil claim against the agency. However, the statute under the tort claims is very tight. You only have 90 days to put the State on Notice of your intent to bring claims forward. Then, you have two years to file a lawsuit. Taking legal action against CYFD could be a means for families to demand justice and prevent tragedy for others.