NEW MEXICO (KRQE) — In 2020, 13 children in the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Family Family (CYFD) foster care system filed a class action lawsuit against the state over the conditions in which they were forced to live. This included sleeping on CYFD’s office floors.
“These young people were placed in homeless shelters as a first refuge, rather than with foster families. These children were not receiving the mental health care they were entitled to under the law.”
Sara Crecca, one of her attorneys, said those 13 children represented the 4,500 children in CYFD demanding action at the time.
“The purpose of the lawsuit was to reform our system, introduce trauma-informed care and train child protection staff,” Crecca said.
CYFD eventually settled down, promising change and a transformed system for the thousands of children in their care. For example, reforming the mental and behavioral health care system, hiring more CYFD staff and making them better paid. Plus better placements for foster children.
Two years later, however, there is still no sign of any change. A new report by three experts hired by the state shows CYFD has failed to meet its requirements. The report found that CYFD needs to improve in all areas of the comparison and they have not met any of the 34 target results.
It indicated that the system needs to stabilize its workforce, add more foster families and strengthen its behavioral and mental health services.
Although there have been some improvements within the CYFD, the report showed that it did not achieve what it needed to do in 2021. However, Crecca believes the state can still change that: “I believe that the report is a negative finding for the department, with the support of the Legislature and the Governor, these agencies can still fulfill the promise made to the children in the settlement.” “
Statement to KRQE from CYFD
The New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Family and the New Mexico Department of Human Services continue to make the improvements required in the settlement agreement with Kevin S. to overhaul the state’s child welfare system. A team of advisors acting as liaisons between the plaintiffs and the state has released its annual report on the state’s progress during calendar year 2021. The report of the co-neutrals can be found here.
“We’re proud of the significant work and achievements of our employees and partners over the past two years – but we continue to push hard to make any changes needed to ensure every child in New Mexico is in the CYFD system.” the best gets the best possible care,” said CYFD Cabinet Secretary Barbara Vigil. “Although we still have more work to do, I’m sure we’re on the right track.”
“HSD has made significant efforts to expand access to health care for children in government care,” said David R. Scrase MD, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department. “From establishing a dedicated managed care organization for these children in the recent 2024 Medicaid plan to more than doubling the number of behavioral health professionals serving our Medicaid customers, we are committed to improving the health of children in New Mexico.”
From the Co-Neutral’s report:
“The State continues to work on its Kevin S. commitments in 2022, and this progress report through December 31, 2021 does not provide a current or comprehensive picture of all work currently underway in 2022.”
According to the report, “Some of the achievements of states in 2021 included:
- “Significant completion of comprehensive data validation plan
- “Development of a resource family recruitment and retention plan
- “Publication of guidance on non-retaliation
- “Development and Promotion of a Warm Line for Resource Parents
- “Working with the nations, pueblos and tribes of New Mexico leading to the passage of the New Mexico Indian Family Protection Act (IFPA) in 2022, which will be codified into state legislation of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
- “Reintroduction of ‘No Reject, No Eject’ language in certain Medicaid contracts
- “Completing the protocols for communicating actions and complaints for denial or delay of recommended services”
“These are significant achievements,” says the report.
While CYFD and HSD achieved two targeted outcomes, the divisions failed to meet the majority of the objectives assessed in this report, which were due to be completed by December 31, 2021. “However, in many areas the state has made efforts and made progress in 2022, which are not fully detailed in this report as they go beyond the reporting period.” The ministries are confident that the significant reforms already planned in 2021 and 2022 have been implemented will serve as a strong basis for the further ongoing work of both agencies.
Highlights of ongoing work by CYFD and HSD through 2022 include:
- New Mexico has reduced the number of children placed in out-of-state facilities from 65 in March 2019 to 17 today. The goal is to keep all children and youth in state custody in New Mexico and in family-like settings.
- In 2018, the proportion of family referrals was 14.8%. In 2022 it will be 41.6%. This type of kinship placement offers children more stability than other types of placement, such as family homes. B. Foster families.
- In full cooperation with the leadership of the nations, tribes and pueblos of New Mexico and the state, the Legislature passed the Indian Family Protection Act in March 2022. Legislation, among the strongest in the country, guarantees protections for Native American children and families to prevent the arbitrary removal of Native American children from their homes and tribes and to ensure Native American children retain important ties to their culture .
- CYFD has worked with tribal partners to remove barriers to promoting parental licensing for Native American families, including, for example, removing financial barriers to the equipment needed and clarifying that traditional housing that meets tribal community standards (e.g., homes with clay soils), is acceptable and more.
- CYFD has enhanced its grievance procedures to make it easier for children and families to raise and resolve concerns.
- CYFD has successfully introduced new assessment tools that better inform case managers about children’s needs. Together, the Crisis Assessment Tool and the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Tool support decision-making for employees, families, and providers. The CAT guides staff in crisis situations and the CANS identifies the services children and young people need when they enter state care.
- HSD and CYFD have worked diligently to develop a nationwide, community-based mental health system that is accessible to all children and families, regardless of where they live. The system includes various community-based services that will reduce reliance on community care, keep families together in their community, and significantly reduce out-of-state residential housing.
- HSD continues to expand the Behavioral Health Network for New Mexicans, including children in federal care, by increasing Medicaid outpatient behavioral health reimbursement rates by approximately 30%.
- As a result of the state’s efforts, since 2017, HSD has seen a 103.8 percent increase in the number of Medicaid “core” behavioral health providers and an 87.9 percent increase in Medicaid behavioral health prescribers.
- HSD is establishing a dedicated managed care organization for children in government care in the latest 2024 Medicaid plan
The governor’s office released this statement:
Since Day 1, Gov. Lujan Grisham has made clear the importance of reforming the broken systems that serve children in New Mexico who have been neglected and underfunded for generations. In answer to your question, no, such systems are not acceptable to the Governor, which is why she has dedicated historical resources and directed systemic changes to CYFD, HSD, PED and other agencies that affect New Mexico families. The governor has also made it 100% clear to Secretary Scrase and Vigil that departments must continue to build on the actions already taken to truly overhaul New Mexico’s child welfare system and make it a system that serves as a national model. The Governor will continue to provide these agencies, as well as every agency that serves the children and families of New Mexico, with all available resources to ensure the safety and prosperity of every child in New Mexico.” I would also like to add by way of background that the report details the ministry’s activities in 2021 and does not include the work of the government agencies in 2022. As the report notes, “The State continues to work on its Kevin S. commitments in 2022 and This progress report through December 31, 2021 does not provide a current or comprehensive picture of all work currently underway in 2022.