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Governor Issues Two Child Welfare Executive Orders

on April 4, 2014 - 9:37am

Gov. Susana Martinez

STATE News:

 

SANTA FE—Gov. Susana Martinez issued two executive orders to take a more proactive and coherent approach to working with families who have faced multiple Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) investigations, and to improve communication between child welfare caseworkers and law enforcement officers.

 

“This new approach allows us to take a more proactive, deeper interest in families where CYFD has been regularly called to intervene, even when investigations of those incidents were unable to substantiate abuse or neglect of the children in the home,” Martinez said. “Something's clearly happening in these homes that periodic interaction with a family support worker and counseling services might be able to address.”

 

Executive orders signed by Governor Martinez today direct CYFD to implement a policy change requiring that any family who has been investigated twice by CYFD will have any subsequent CYFD investigation reviewed by a high-level supervisory team. This team will include the county office manager, supervisor, caseworker, and children’s court attorney.

 

The Governor also has required CYFD caseworkers to seek and review police reports and other law enforcement materials related to the cases they work before rendering a final investigative decision. Her order also directs all law enforcement entities under the State’s control to comply in a timely fashion with any CYFD request for this information. 

 

Martinez also announced the creation of a pilot program in Bernalillo County, establishing a new class of child welfare caseworker known as “family support workers.” To start, a team of roughly 10 family support workers will be hired to regularly interface with families in Bernalillo County who have been the subject of three or more child welfare investigations in the past 10 years, connecting those families to services, visiting their homes, and monitoring the use and effectiveness of interventions.

 

If the program is successful at helping these families avoid further interaction with CYFD and law enforcement, the family support worker model could be extended to other areas of the state.   

 

“This is a critical, necessary change that will ensure greater scrutiny of the activities in homes where there appears to be a pattern of concerning conduct,” CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines said. “We spoke with several caseworkers who felt as though this new policy, in concert with our high-level supervisory reviews, would bring greater consistency and coherence to the investigative decisions relating to cases involving families that interact with CYFD regularly.”

 

The Governor’s executive orders today also direct state law enforcement officials to contact CYFD’s State Central Intake (SCI) system as a source of information for new referrals to obtain all relevant information regarding all prior reports of abuse and neglect maintained by SCI.

 

Martinez says that law enforcement will have access to historical protective service information that includes information on the child, the parents, guardians, and custodians who were the subject of any prior investigations and/or case history that includes the number of prior referrals, the dates of prior referrals, the investigative decisions to substantiate or unsubstantiate prior referrals, and any other case history that may affect important safety decisions.

 

CYFD caseworkers are now also required to make every effort to obtain police reports and investigatory materials prior to rendering an investigation decision.

 

“It’s important for our law enforcement officers and CYFD caseworkers to be on the same page and work collaboratively when making very difficult decisions about the custody of a child,” said Department of Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Greg Fouratt. “Too often, police officers and CYFD caseworkers investigate the same case separately, with little contact and communication with one another after the initial incident has occurred. I’m hopeful that local law enforcement agencies throughout the State will also agree to provide their reports and other materials from their child abuse investigations to CYFD caseworkers.”

 

The Governor recently announced numerous proposals to improve the well-being of New Mexico’s children and the investigation of child abuse incidents. These initiatives and directives are designed to improve communication between CYFD and law enforcement, better work with families who have faced multiple investigations and recruit and retain more CYFD caseworkers.

 

In this same vein, the Governor will continue to fight for legislation that would allow a court to order counseling services and interventions for families who frequently interact with CYFD. The legislation failed to pass in the recently concluded legislative session.

 

  

EXECUTIVE ORDER 2014-002

 

 

DIRECTING THE CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES DEPARTMENT

TO DEVELOP A COLLABORATIVE REVIEW PROCEDURE FOR AT-RISK CHILDREN AND TO FORMULATE AND IMPLEMENT A FAMILY SUPPORT WORKER PILOT PROGRAM IN BERNALILLO COUNTY

 

WHEREAS, the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) is charged with ensuring a coordinated and integrated system of care and services for children, youth and families; and

 

WHEREAS, the Protective Services Division (PSD) of CYFD is the State of New Mexico’s designated child welfare agency; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the mission of PSD is to provide for the care, protection, and wholesome mental and physical development of children and, also, to help families by strengthening the ability of parents, guardians or custodians to provide safe and supportive care for their children, including critical access to services that promote safe and stable homes for children; and

 

 

WHEREAS, reports alleging child abuse or neglect are referred to PSD for investigation in order to determine the safety and best interests of the child; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the PSD investigation evaluates whether the alleged abuse or neglect occurred; determines whether any child in the home is vulnerable to present or impending danger; assesses the parent, guardian, or custodian’s protective capacities; and, determines the need for additional services for the child and the family; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the largest population base of children in the State of New Mexico reside in Bernalillo County; and

 

 

WHEREAS, households that have prior abuse or neglect allegations referred to PSD for investigation, whether substantiated or unsubstantiated, are suggestive of an increased risk of abuse or neglect; and

 

 

WHEREAS, when household history includes multiple prior abuse or neglect investigations, then PSD is better able to achieve the safety and best interests of a child if a collaborative review occurs during any subsequent abuse or neglect investigation; and

 

WHEREAS, an effective collaborative review consists of a high-level supervisory case analysis involving the County Office Manager, Supervisor, Caseworker, and the Children’s Court Attorney; and

 

WHEREAS, when a PSD collaborative review determines that an abuse or neglect investigation is unsubstantiated, the review may determine that a referral for family services then is in the best interests of the child; and 

 

 

WHEREAS, when PSD makes a referral for family services it is of benefit to the child and their family to have additional contact, follow-up, and support from PSD in order to ensure that services are obtained;

  

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Susana Martinez, Governor of the State of New Mexico, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of New Mexico, do hereby direct the following.

  

I DIRECT that CYFD develop policies and procedures consistent with this Executive Order which would provide that in instances where a household has two prior abuse and neglect allegations that were referred to PSD for investigation, whether substantiated or unsubstantiated, shall result in a mandatory case review with the PSD County Office Manager, Supervisor, Caseworker, and Children’s Court Attorney for all subsequent investigations.

 

 

I DIRECT that CYFD develop policies and procedures for the formulation and implementation of a Family Support Worker pilot program in Bernalillo County, relating specifically to those families that have faced three or more CYFD investigations in the last ten years, which shall include, but is not limited to, connecting these at-risk families with services, visiting their family homes, monitoring the use and effectiveness of interventions, and maintaining follow-up contact with those families to ensure that the referred services were obtained.

 

 

I FURTHER DIRECT the CYFD, the Department of Public Safety, and the New Mexico State Police to continue to advocate for legislation in subsequent legislative sessions that would allow a court to order certain at-risk families with children still in their home to take part in counseling services or other interventions.

 

 

THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives to the extent they are in conflict.  It shall take effect immediately and shall remain in effect until such time as the Governor rescinds it.  It is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the State, its agencies, instrumentalities, entities, officers, employees, agents, or any other person.

 

SIGNED AT THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE THIS 3rd DAY OF APRIL, 2014.

 

 

WITNESS MY HAND AND THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO.

 

 

SUSANA MARTINEZ

 

GOVERNOR

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER 20142014-001

  

DECLARING THE AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION

FROM THE STATEWIDE CENTRAL INTAKE

TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND REQUIRING THAT

CASEWORKERS SEEK LAW ENFORCEMENT RECORDS PRIOR TO

RENDERING AN INVESTIGATIVE DECISION 

 

WHEREAS, the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) is charged with providing leadership to other agencies that serve children, youth and families to ensure a coordinated and integrated system of care and services; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the primary purpose of the Children’s Code is to provide for the care, protection, and wholesome mental and physical development of children coming within the provisions of the Children’s Code; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the provisions of the Children’s Code are to be construed and interpreted to effectuate the cooperation of the civil and criminal systems to provide for a coordinated response of all agencies in the investigation and intervention of child abuse and neglect in order to achieve the best interests of a child victim; and

 

WHEREAS, every person who knows or has a reasonable suspicion that a child is abused or neglected has a duty to report the matter immediately to CYFD, a law enforcement agency, and/or a tribal law enforcement or social service agency for any Indian child residing in Indian country; and

 

 

WHEREAS, when a law enforcement agency or CYFD receives a report of child abuse or neglect they have reciprocal duties to transmit the facts of the report and the name, address, and phone number of the reporter to one another within forty-eight hours; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the Protective Services Division (PSD) of CYFD is the State of New Mexico’s designated child welfare agency; and

 

 

WHEREAS, PSD is available, through its Statewide Central Intake (SCI), to receive reports of suspected child abuse or neglect twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; and

 

 

WHEREAS, the SCI unit is responsible for receiving and screening reports of child abuse or neglect and, further, disseminating reports to law enforcement to investigate; and 

 

 

WHEREAS, law enforcement agencies and CYFD shall have access to any of the records pertaining to a report of child abuse or neglect that is maintained by one another; and

 

 

WHEREAS, in any given year, the SCI receives an average of 33,000 phone calls of which approximately 18,000 are screened to PSD and law enforcement for further investigation of child abuse or neglect; and

 

 

WHEREAS, CYFD requested, and was denied, legislative funding during the 2014 session to update their antiquated information technology system to an advanced enterprise web-based system called EPICS which would support all of CYFD and its clients and would allow real-time sharing of information between CYFD and law enforcement and the lack of funding for this critical IT upgrade has a negative impact on child abuse or neglect investigations; and

 

 

WHEREAS, law enforcement agencies that investigate child abuse and neglect are better able to evaluate and properly respond to the needs and welfare of children when the law enforcement agency readily has available historical information related to any and all prior investigations of child abuse or neglect involving the child, household members, and/or the parents, guardians, and custodians who were subject to any prior investigations; and

 

 

WHEREAS, PSD caseworkers are better able to evaluate whether the alleged child abuse or neglect occurred; determine whether any child in the home is vulnerable to present or impending danger; assess the parent or guardian protective capacities; and determine the need for additional services when all of the facts of the law enforcement investigation are known, considered, and properly weighted prior to rendering a final PSD investigative decision;

 

 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Susana Martinez, Governor of the State of New Mexico, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of New Mexico, do hereby declare that SCI should expand its scope beyond being solely a referral line to becoming a source of information that law enforcement can access to obtain historical protective service information that includes information on the child, the parents, guardians, and custodians who were the subject of any prior investigations and/or case history that includes the number of prior referrals, the dates of prior referrals, the investigative decisions to substantiate or unsubstantiate prior referrals, and any other case history that may affect important safety decisions.

 

 

I DIRECT all executive departments and agencies under the Office of the Governor, statewide, which investigate child abuse and neglect to contact SCI as a source of information for new referrals to obtain all relevant information regarding all prior reports of abuse and neglect maintained by SCI.

 

 

I DIRECT that that Department of Public Safety (DPS) (and encourage federal, tribal, county and municipal law enforcement agencies) add to its policies and procedures that their law enforcement officers must promptly complete police reports related to child abuse and neglect investigations and timely provide those reports and investigatory materials (e.g., audio statements, evidence logs, photographs, and transcripts) to CYFD at no cost.

 

I DIRECT that CYFD add to its policies and procedures that the PSD caseworker must make every effort to obtain police reports and investigatory materials prior to rendering an investigation decision. Upon receiving the law enforcement report and investigatory materials, the caseworker shall review the report and investigatory materials for any additional information prior to making the investigation decision to substantiate or unsubstantiate the abuse or neglect allegation.

 

 

I DIRECT that the Department of Information Technology (DOIT) review and analyze the information technology system including, specifically, the case management and reporting system for CYFD and determine what, if any, updates could be provided to the current system in order to allow for it to interface with the DPS.

 

 

I FURTHER DIRECT that DOIT consider in its review of the CYFD information technology system the interface application of EPICS.

 

 

I RECOMMEND that all county and municipal agencies, statewide, which investigate child abuse or neglect contact SCI as a source of information for new referrals to obtain all relevant information regarding prior reports of abuse and neglect maintained by SCI.

 

 

I RECOMMEND that federal and tribal agencies, statewide, which investigate child abuse or neglect in Indian country contact SCI as a source of information for new referrals to obtain all relevant information regarding prior reports of abuse and neglect maintained by SCI.

  

THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives to the extent they are in conflict.  It shall take effect immediately and shall remain in effect until such time as the Governor rescinds it.  It is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the State, its agencies, instrumentalities, entities, officers, employees, agents, or any other person.

 

SIGNED AT THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE THIS 3rd DAY OF APRIL, 2014.

 

 

 

WITNESS MY HAND AND THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO.

 

 

 

SUSANA MARTINEZ

 

GOVERNOR


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