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Changes at CYFD | The Line

CYFD Changes

February 14, 2020 Gene Grant and The Line opinion panelists look at proposed changes within CYFD, the Children, Youth and Families Department. CYFD is “thinking outside the box” for big-picture solutions.  The Department is also doing everything possible to keep foster children with family members, and especially aiming to place Native American children within their communities. 

Line Panelists:
Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group PR
Sophie Martin, attorney
Edmund E. Perea, attorney and public safety analyst
Giovanna Rossi, Collective Action Strategies and The Well Woman Show (KUNM) 

For Further Reading:
CYFD forging ahead with major changes Santa Fe New Mexican
Big Plans for Increased Transparency and Accountability from New Mexico’s Children, Youth & Families Department  blog post, Public Information Officer for New Mexico’s Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD)
CYFD Unveils Foster Care Regulation Changes that Align with Federal Law   from CYFD website
Short stays, long impact Searchlight New Mexico 

 Transcript:

>>GRANT: NEW MEXICO CONTINUES TO RANGE NEAR THE BOTTOM OF JUST ABOUT EVERY CHILD WELL-BEING LIST AND STUDY. WE HAVE HIGH RATES OF TEEN SUICIDE, ALCOHOL USE AND POVERTY RATES, BUT AS THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN REPORTED THIS WEEK, NEW LEADERSHIP AND NEW OUTLOOK AT CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES HOPES TO CHANGE ALL THAT. ACCORDING TO THE ARTICLE, BY STEVE JANSEN, PART OF THE EVOLUTION OF CYFD HAS TO DO WITH NEW VOICES FROM OUTSIDE THE PROTECTIVE SERVICES ECOSYSTEM. SECRETARY BRIAN BLALOCK WHO CAME TO NEW MEXICO FROM THE NONPROFIT WORLD IN CALIFORNIA, HE HAS NO PRIOR GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE BUT SAYS THE GOVERNOR, BEEN A BIG HELP IN HIS LEARNING CURVE. I AM CURIOUS AS A START IS MOVING AWAY FROM THAT INSTITUTIONAL THINKING A POSITIVE STEP IN BRINGING NEW FRESH IDEAS TO THE SITUATION.

>>ROSSI: YEAH, I THINK SO. AS I OFTEN BRING UP ON THIS SHOW, I REALLY LIKE TO SEE BOLD IDEAS. LET’S NOT JUST DO THE SAME OLD THING AND EXPECT A DIFFERENT OUTCOME. SO, YES, I THINK BRINGING IN SOME OUTSIDE, OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKING ON THIS. AND, REALLY, THE SOLUTIONS, OUT-OF-THE-BOX SOLUTIONS, ARE REALLY VERY REASONABLE. SO, IT IS NOT EVEN THAT OUTRAGEOUS OF AN IDEA. I THINK IT IS GREAT THAT THIS IS A PRIORITY AND THAT SECRETARY BLALOCK IS COMING UP WITH THESE DIFFERENT KINDS OF SOLUTIONS THAT WILL HOPEFULLY HELP OVER THE LONG-TERM. I DON’T THINK — NONE OF THESE SOLUTION ARE LIKE A ONE SHOT, LIKE ONE ANSWER IS THE THING. AND, CERTAINLY, YOU KNOW, TRYING TO HELP KIDS WHO WALK IN THE DOOR OF SCHOOL WITHOUT HAVING HAD BREAKFAST, WITHOUT HAVING HAD A SAFE PLACE TO SLEEP, NEEDING TO GET TO WORK IN ORDER TO PAY FOR THEIR OWN FOOD OR THEIR FAMILY’S BILLS OR WHATEVER, THESE ARE REALLY TOUGH ISSUES THAT I THINK WE PUT A LOT OF RESPONSIBILITY ON TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEM, THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM TO FIX. AND, SO, THE FACT THAT HE IS BRINGING THIS BIG TASKFORCE, I DON’T KNOW IF HE IS BRINGING A TASKFORCE TOGETHER, BUT THE SOLUTIONS THAT HE IS PROPOSING ARE INTERESTING AND I THINK MORE CREATIVE.

>>GRANT: YOU KNOW, TOM, ONE IDEA OUT THERE FOR A WHILE, BUT SEEMS TO BE MOVING AHEAD WITH, IS THE IDEA OF KEEPING FOSTER KIDS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS. AND AS IT STANDS RIGHT NOW, RIGHT NOW ONLY 23% OF OUR STATE’S FOSTER YOUTH CURRENTLY ARE LIVING WITH A RELATIVE. THE SCIENCE SEEMS CLEAR. IF YOU WANT STABILITY THERE, A RELATIVE OF SOME SORT IS THE BEST WAY TO GO. THAT IS A PRETTY GOOD START THERE WHEN YOU SEE THAT?

>>GARRITY: ABSOLUTELY. WHEN IT COMES TO FOSTER CARE THAT IS ONE OF THE KEY TOUCH POINTS THAT COULD USE IMPROVEMENT. YOU STARTED OFF THE SEGMENT BY TALKING ABOUT CHANGING AN INSTITUTION. ORDER TO CHANGE TO OR GET RID OF THE INSTITUTIONAL THINKING, YOU HAVE TO GET RID OF THE INSTITUTION. SOMETIMES A LOT OF THE EMPLOYEES ARE JUST SITTING THERE WAITING FOR, OKAY, THEY ARE HERE FOR — NEW SECRETARY IS HERE FOR FOUR YEARS OR EIGHT YEARS. I’LL JUST KIND OF WAIT THEM OUT AND KIND OF SEE WHAT HAPPENS. BUT, THERE ARE GREAT EMPLOYEES TOO. I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THAT AWAY BUT WE HAVE HAD A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKERS, YOU KNOW, HEATHER WILSON WAS AND OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKER. SHE WAS HEAD OF CYFD. MONIQUE JACOBSON DEFINITELY AN OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKER. WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRIAN BLALOCK, HE COMES FROM A NONPROFIT EXPERIENCE IN THIS PARTICULAR ARENA. THE EXPECTATION IS GREATER WITH HIM THAN HIS PREDECESSORS. I THINK THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM, HAVING FRIENDS WHO ARE ACTUALLY IN THAT SPACE, WHO ARE EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED WITH IT. HEARING THEIR STORIES MY HEART BREAKS, YOU KNOW, FOR THE CHILDREN THAT ARE CAUGHT IN HERE. BUT, YOU KNOW, WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO IT, SOMETHING THAT BRIAN BLALOCK SAID, HE WANTS TO SUPPORT FAMILIES SO THAT THEY ARE ABLE TO HAVE BETTER OUTCOMES. THAT TO ME IS A REALLY GOOD SIGN.

>>GRANT: GOOD POINT. SOPHIE, THIS, OF COURSE, HAS A LEGAL BACKGROUND IN NATIVE AMERICAN KIDS NOT BEING PLACED LED TO A LOT OF LAWSUITS OUT THERE ON THIS VERY ISSUE SO THERE IS OTHER THINGS I WANT TO TALK ABOUT, BUT TOUCH ON THIS.

>>MARTIN: THERE IS A LONG-STANDING INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT THAT THE U.S. SUPREME IS EXPECTED TO — DON’T KNOW IF THEY HEARD IT YET BUT CERTAINLY EXPECTED TO ISSUE A DECISION ON THE STATUS OF THAT PROGRAM, BUT THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT ESSENTIALLY REQUIRES THAT A NATIVE AMERICAN CHILD BE PLACED WITHIN THE NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITY WHETHER IT IS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS OR NOT. KINSHIP GUARDIANSHIP IS THE TERM WE USE, TO TALK ABOUT THIS IDEA THAT EVEN IF IT IS NECESSARY TO REMOVE A KID FROM THEIR PARENTS CUSTODY, THAT THERE IS A VALUE IN PLACING THEM WITH OTHER KIN OR PEOPLE WHO CAN TAKE ON THE ROLE OF KIN, BUT WHAT WE SEE IS WITH THE NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITY, THERE HAS BEEN A STRONG PREFERENCE FOR, AND LAW BEHIND, THE IDEA THAT CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE COMPLETELY RIPPED FROM THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND IT IS ENCOURAGING TO SEE NEW MEXICO TAKE THAT SAME TACK BECAUSE WE ARE ONE OF THE WORST STATES FOR THAT. WE REALLY DON’T SUCCEED OFTEN IN KEEPING KIDS WITHIN THEIR FAMILY STRUCTURE AND WE HAVE THE RESEARCH NOW THAT TELLS YOU HOW VERY DAMAGING THAT IS FOR THE CHILDREN AND WE KNOW CHILDREN WHO ARE HARMED BY THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM HAVE HIGHER SUICIDE RATES, HIGHER SCHOOL AND GRADUATION RATES AND STRUGGLE IN WAYS THAT GO BEYOND THE DAMAGE THAT IS DONE FROM LIVING IN A HOME THAT IS NOT FUNCTIONAL. WE COMPOUND THAT DAMAGE WHEN WE TAKE THEM AWAY COMPLETELY FROM THEIR SAFE ENVIRONMENT, WHAT THEY FEEL IS AN EMOTIONALLY SAFE ENVIRONMENT.

>>ROSSI: IT CREATES LIFE-LONG TRAUMA FOR THAT CHILD. JUST TO BE TAKEN AWAY, SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS, NO MATTER IF IT IS SHORT OR LONG TERM, IT CREATED THAT LIFE-LONG TRAUMA. SO NOW WE ARE DEALING WITH ALL THESE OTHER –

>>GRANT: SOCIETY WILL DEAL WITH IT DOWN THE ROAD AS THAT CHILD GROWS INTO AN ADULT. OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKING, ONE OF THE ONES THAT EXCITES ME IS EXTENDING THE AGE FROM 18 TO 21 TO BE ABLE TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR FOSTER CARE SERVICES. OTHER STATES HAVE FOUND HIGHLY EFFECTIVE IN KEEPING, FRANKLY, KIDS OUT OF JAIL. INTERESTED IN YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT.

>>PEREA: THAT IS SUCH A WISE MOVE. THIS NUMBER 18 YEARS OF AGE AND SUDDENLY YOU THINK THE PERSONS WHOLE LIFE IS GOING TO CHANGE. I THINK IT IS ABOUT TIME WE PUT SOME FOCUS ON CONTINUING TO SUPPORT THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE MOST IN NEED. WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS, THIS NEW PHILOSOPHY, SOUNDS LIKE IT IS NEW PHILOSOPHY, REFOCUSING THE ISSUE PROVIDED MUCH NEEDED RESOURCES. IT IS SO IMPORTANT, AGAIN, WITH A LAW ENFORCEMENT BACKGROUND, YOU OFTEN SEE NEGATIVE OUTCOMES WHEN WE TRAUMATIZE CHILDREN AT VERY YOUNG AGES ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY NEED IT THE MOST. IN MY PRACTICE, I HAVE CASES WHICH INVOLVE CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILY, AND I HAVE TO SAY THAT THOSE THAT I HAVE WORKED WITH, DO AN OUTSTANDING JOB. THEY ARE COMPASSIONATE AND IN MOST CASES THEY HAVE THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILDREN IN MIND, BUT IT IS A SYSTEM AND IT IS A PHILOSOPHY. OF COURSE, THE LEADERSHIP IS IMPORTANT, BECAUSE, THOSE THAT REPORT RISE TO THE LEVEL OF LEADERS EXPECTATION.

>>GRANT: INTERESTINGLY, THIS CAUGHT MY EYE TOO, POLICY ISSUES AT PLAY HERE AND CHANGE ALLOWED FOR PROSECUTION OF SEX WORKERS UNDER THE AGE OF 18 TO BE TRIED FOR PROSTITUTION INSTEAD FOR TREATING THEM AS SURVIVORS OF SEX TRAFFICKING. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE THERE. INSTEAD OF CRIMINALIZING YOUNG WOMEN FOR PROSTITUTION, WE DIG DEEPER AND FIND OUT WHY THEY ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF PROSTITUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE.

>>MARTIN: IF I CAN JUMP IN, A CHILD CANNOT BE A PROSTITUTE. A CHILD CAN BE THE VICTIM OF SEX TRAFFICKING. A CHILD CAN BE RAPED, BUT A CHILD CANNOT BE A PROSTITUTE BECAUSE SHE OR HE IS NOT CAPABLE OF CONSENT.

>>GRANT: GOT YOU.

>>ROSSI: GOOD LEGAL DISTINCTION THERE. ABSOLUTELY. PROTECTING CHILDREN AND NOT — I MEAN, I WOULD JUST, YOU KNOW, REFER TO SOPHIE’S COMMENTS THERE AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOUR ACTUAL QUESTION WAS.

>>MARTIN: SORRY.

>>GRANT: THERE ARE THINGS IN POLICY THAT CAN HELP US AS WELL. IF WE STOP CRIMINALIZING KIDS WHEN THEY ARE 18 OR 19 YEARS OLD, WHEN THEY ARE MINORS, AND JUST IN GENERAL TERMS.

>>ROSSI: STOPPING CRIMINALIZING KIDS AND LOOKING AT, AGAIN, THE ROOT CAUSES OF WHY ARE THESE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE HOME AND WHY IS THIS GOING ON AND LOOKING AT SOME OF THE POVERTY AND HOUSING ISSUES AND IT IS SUCH A BIGGER SYSTEM AND SO WHEN WE TRY TO GO IN AND LOOK AT THE PROBLEM LIKE A CAR, LIKE, LET ME FIX THAT TIRE AND FORGET ABOUT THE REST OF THE CAR, YOU KNOW, WE NEED TO LOOK AT A HOLISTIC SOLUTION HERE.

>>GRANT: GOOD POINT. THE GOVERNOR IS SEEKING 28 MILLION FOR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH PROGRAMS TO GO ALONG WITH THIS. THAT WILL BE A BIG PART OF THIS. TIME WILL TELL IF NEW CHANGES HAVE IMPACT. WE WILL CONTINUE TO TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT HERE AT THE TABLE. STILL TO COME, HOW SANTA FE SCHOOLS ARE WORKING WITH CYFD ON A NEW APPROACH TO KEEPING KIDS IN SCHOOL.

The Line: Lawsuit Alleges New Mexico’s Foster Care System is “Broken”

boy child sad alone

September 28, 2018 – A new lawsuit alleges New Mexico’s foster care system is “broken.” The potential class action suit was filed by 13 children and two nonprofits, and alleges, among other things, a lack of an appropriate number of foster parents, training and resources for those families, and inadequate medical treatment for children placed in the system. Host Gene Grant and the Line opinion panelists dig into the specifics, debate the state’s response to the allegations and discuss possible fixes.

Line Panelists:
Mark Boitano, Former NM Senator
Adrian Carver, Executive Director, Equality New Mexico
Tom Garrity, the Garrity Group PR
Sophie Martin, Attorney

Suggested Reading:

Advocacy Group Sue New Mexico Agencies Which Claim Foster Care Improving

Investigation Reveals Serious Abuses Within Treatment Foster Care System

CYFD Sets Up Procedure to Help Foster Kids Who Need to be Heard