According to the new state data.
While CYFD’s performance in its foster care program has exceeded many of its goals, the agency “continues to underperform against the goals of repeat abuse, foster child abuse, and injury. after the involvement of protective services,” said a report from New Mexico Legislative Finance. Committee.
“New Mexico’s rates of repeat abuse are among the worst in the nation,” the LFC reported last week.
In response, CYFD Secretary Barbara Vigil told The Journal on Friday that the agency is “incredibly proud of the continued improvements that are being made to our child protection system…but we recognize that improvements must continue. to be brought”.
A key to reducing rates of child abuse is strengthening CYFD’s workforce, she said, including hiring and retaining employees.
“Our underperformance is a condition of systemic challenges that have manifested over many years,” Vigil said.
The LFC reported that 14% of children confirmed by the CYFD to have been abused experienced another substantiated allegation of abuse within the year.
Repeat abuse in New Mexico was down 17% in fiscal year 2019, but still remains above the US average of about 8%.
The maltreatment victimization rate per 1,000 days in foster care was 10.1, better than the previous year’s 14.7, but above the target of 8.
In the long term, child abuse, which includes abuse and neglect, leads to physical, psychological and behavioral consequences, the LFC reported. “The consequences when children experience repeated abuse are potentially devastating.”
Reducing repeat maltreatment is the primary measure of New Mexico’s child welfare system, according to the LFC report, “and one on which the CYFD continues to perform poorly.”
Another troubling statistic: the turnover rate for protective services workers was 37% in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
This is the highest rate since the 2019 financial year, which recorded a turnover rate of 39.7%, according to the LFC.
On Friday, CYFD officials said they had 67 investigator and investigative supervisor positions vacant in its protective services division, out of a total of 221 positions statewide.
Vigil noted, “There is high turnover in many areas of our company.”
But she added: “Certainly public comments on CYFD that are critical are not helpful in improving the morale of our employees. We need the support not only of the Legislative Assembly, but also of the public, our stakeholder partners, our service providers and the media to help us continue to improve our system of care.
Vigil said the agency was increasing training for child protection workers and reviewing their compensation, she said.
CYFD is also looking for ways to recognize earlier in its intervention with families cases that could escalate into serious injury to children.
Serious injuries include burns, human bites, starvation, wounds, internal injuries or malnutrition, according to a CYFD report in August.
The percentage of children who experienced serious injuries in FY22 within one year of contact with their family by the CYFD varied considerably from trimester to trimester. For example, 10 of these cases occurred in the second trimester. The CYFD report did not provide raw serious injury case counts for other quarters.
But the total of 43% of substantiated serious injury cases exceeded the 26% target set by the CYFD and LFC.
“It’s not that CYFD is causing the escalation (to a case involving serious injury),” CYFD Deputy Secretary Beth Gillia said. “There is no sentinel event to trigger a higher level of response. We provide services and for some reason the family intensifies.
Gillia added: “The reason labor is so critical to this is that the solution to repeated abuse is really effective family engagement. When we’ve really engaged families in a meaningful way and supported them through the traumas they’ve been through, they do better. When we have high turnover rates, we cannot provide the level of support that we know families need.
Sarah Meadows, CYFD’s acting director of data and evaluation, said the vast majority of repeat abuse in New Mexico is neglect.
“And that’s not to say it’s important to intervene in neglect,” Meadows said, “but often the risk factors associated with neglect are issues that take a long time to resolve, things like housing instability, sometimes caretaker mental health issues, substance abuse, things like that.We make efforts to connect our families to services in the community, doing our best not to remove children if we absolutely don’t have to.
In an effort to reduce barriers to faster reductions in repeat abuse, the LFC Bulletin noted that the Legislature in the current fiscal year increased appropriations to CYFD Behavioral Health Services by 21% and 8% for child protection services. Since FY18, CYFD preventive services expenditures have increased tenfold, from $1.1 million to $11.1 million in FY22.
Vigil, a retired state Supreme Court justice who became CYFD secretary nearly a year ago, said the support of the legislature and the public “enhances our ability to serve the audience “.
“We look for tailwinds, not headwinds, in this work.”