New Mexico’s embattled Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) is on the brink of finding a potential resolution to the issue of teenagers being forced to sleep in agency offices, a situation that’s drawn concern statewide. Despite the Department saying it is already looking into the matter, some legislators are still keen on proceeding with an investigation.
The plight of these young individuals, with no alternative but to spend nights in governmental buildings, has caught the attention of various stakeholders. During a Monday session of the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee, expert witness Brooke Tafoya highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating, “Ultimately, we know that CYFD is in a state of crisis.”
The problem gained further attention following a report by News 13, revealing that youths under CYFD care have had to resort to staying in 19 different offices throughout New Mexico. The discussion on how to address this issue was a focal point at the committee meeting.
In response to the ongoing crisis, H.M. 10, sponsored by Reps. Tara Jaramillo (D-Socorro), Eleanor Chávez (D-Albuquerque), Meredith A. Dixon (D-Albuquerque), Harry Garcia (D-Grants), Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena), among others in both chambers, proposes the establishment of a task force dedicated to investigating and devising solutions for the accommodation issues faced by these youths.
The call for action is driven by a shortage of behavioral health services and an insufficient number of foster homes. Maralyn Beck of the New Mexico Child First Network expressed frustration with the delays in addressing these challenges, emphasizing that a struggling agency cannot rectify the situation on its own.
CYFD’s cabinet secretary-designate, Teresa Casados, however, has expressed reservations about the proposed task force, fearing it might just replicate existing efforts within her department to tackle these problems, “My only concern is that we’re duplicating the efforts that we need to address these issues,” she said during the hearing. However, there is no CYFD task force specifically meant to address the crisis.
Nonetheless, the New Mexico Child First Network believes more assistance is critical. Beck pointed out the need for a broader approach, including step-down services and an increase in traditional foster care options, “I will say that if the department thinks this is only about treatment foster care, then we have a bigger issue. We need step-down services, we need more regular foster parent homes.”
The memorial passed the committee unanimously, with Chairwoman D. Wonda Johnson (D-Gallup), Vice Chairwoman Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque), co-sponsor Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo), Rep Janelle Anyononu (D-Albuquerque), Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque), and Rep. Martin Zamora (R-Santa Rosa) all supporting the measure. It now heads to the House floor for consideration.