On Thursday, it was announced that Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s New Mexico Children, Youth, and Family Department Secretary Barbara Vigil is stepping down from the role after fewer than two years.
“My time at CYFD has been the culmination of a career working in both the judicial and the executive branches of government, always with a particular focus on the well-being of New Mexico’s children and families,” Vigil, a former New Mexico Supreme Court justice, said in a statement.
“Collaborating with child welfare professionals, we built a foundation for lasting change and positive outcomes for our children and families. It’s been my honor to serve these families. I am grateful to the thousands of dedicated professionals – foster families, service providers, and CYFD staff and believe deeply in their capacity to achieve transformational change.”
CYFD, which has been failing for years, did not get meaningful reform during the 2023 Legislative Session, despite many Republican and Democrat proposals to fix issues at the ailing department.
CYFD has suffered a 39% turnover rate for youth care specialists for the 2022 budget year, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Lujan Grisham said she is conducting a nationwide search to fill Vigil’s position, saying the candidate “must have experience in successfully pioneering major systemic reforms.” The governor’s chief operating officer Teresa Casados will serve as interim secretary.
Although Vigil is leaving the role of secretary, she will remain on the governor-sanctioned Policy Advisory Council to make “recommendations” to the administration.
Following Vigil’s announcement, House Republican Leader Ryan Lane of Aztec wrote, “While New Mexicans are frustrated that more meaningful reforms did not take place under Justice Vigil’s leadership of CYFD, we will continue to hold accountable the next CYFD leader. House Republicans remain resolute that the children and families within CYFD need better support and more accountability, and we will continue to lead on presenting reforms that benefit the families and not the broken system.”