New Mexico’s child welfare agency, the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), has witnessed a significant reduction in spending on evidence-based abuse prevention programs, according to a recent legislative report. Despite a high prevalence of child maltreatment, the CYFD’s spending on services aimed at preventing repeated abuse and neglect plummeted by 77 percent between fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023, as revealed by analysts from the Legislative Finance Committee, per the Santa Fe New Mexican.
The report highlighted that prevention services accounted for a mere 3 percent of spending on Protective Services in FY23. Acting CYFD Secretary Teresa Casados contested the accuracy of the analysis, stating in an email that spending on preventive services had, in fact, increased by 4 percent from $7.56 million in FY2022 to $7.87 million in FY2023. As of November 16, spending had reportedly reached $13.47 million, indicating a positive shift “reflecting that CYFD is moving in the right direction with a focus on prevention.”
In response, the LFC stressed the importance of understanding how the allocated funds were being utilized, emphasizing evidence-based prevention services as a legislative priority. Maralyn Beck, founder of the New Mexico Child First Network, expressed disappointment at the reported cut in abuse prevention spending, describing it as “both frustrating and deeply irresponsible.” Beck underscored the need for increased investment in upstream services to address New Mexico’s ongoing behavioral health crisis.
The legislative report further revealed that the CYFD had not expended any of the $20 million allocated by the Legislature in FY2023 to expand behavioral health provider capacity. The LFC had previously reported New Mexico’s consistent ranking among the top six states for repeat maltreatment of children within a year of an initial abuse or neglect allegation.
The fiscal year 2024 budget recommendation acknowledged that increased spending on preventive services correlated with a decline in cases of repeat maltreatment. However, it pointed out that the reported drop in abuse prevention spending was a matter of concern, especially considering New Mexico’s record-breaking revenues and the responsibility to prevent child mistreatment.
State Sen. Crystal Diamond Brantley (R-Elephant Butte) emphasized the importance of preventing the “willful harm of our most vulnerable children,” citing the need for an Office of the Child Advocate to enhance oversight of CYFD. Brantley urged the governor to support this proposal in the upcoming legislative session.
State Rep. Liz Thomson (D-Bernalillo), chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, expressed concern over the reported drop in abuse prevention spending, stating, “My reaction is, ‘Wow.’ Of course, I would like to know more details, but that doesn’t seem like we’re going in the right direction.”
As the state grapples with child welfare challenges, stakeholders and legislators are expected to push for reforms in the upcoming legislative session, focusing on prioritizing effective prevention programs and leveraging federal funding to address child maltreatment effectively.