SANTA FE – Today Senator Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte), Senator David Gallegos (R-Eunice), and Senator Gregg Schmedes (R-Tijeras) held a press conference to highlight legislation aimed at addressing some of the issues plaguing the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). The proposals center on proper oversight of the department and prioritizing the best interests and safety of children.
Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Senator Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte) mandates that when a child has been placed in the custody of CYFD or if the department has petitioned for custody, a hearing must be held within three days. The goal is to ensure that children in danger are justly removed as soon as possible.
“Among the bureaucratic chaos of our child welfare system are innocent lives who need protection," said Senator Diamond. “Forty-one states have these hearings within our proposed timeline or shorter. There is no valid excuse from this administration, the courts, or the department on why we cannot get this done. This is a matter of life and death.”
Senate Bill 107 passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on a vote of 9-0. The bill is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 207, sponsored by Senator Gregg Schmedes (R-Tijeras), creates the Child Abuse Best Interest Standard in law. The bill enumerates standards by which a court must consider the child’s best interest above all else. As it stands, there is only an informal "best interest standard" which CYFD purports to abide by.
“We have a system that has prioritized bureaucracy over our most vulnerable children,” said Senator Schmedes. “It is abundantly clear that this department and this administration are deeply flawed in the way they approach issues of abused children. Until we make it clear in law that the best interest of the child is always the top priority, children will continue to be returned to abusive and traumatic households.”
Senate Bill 207 has been referred to the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 373, introduced by Senator David Gallegos (R-Eunice) creates an independent CYFD accountability office housed outside the administrative umbrella of CYFD. The bill creates the Office of the Child Advocate and creates a new position called the Chief Child Advocate. The role of the Chief Child Advocate and their office would be to serve as a steady, independent office to investigate grievance claims against the department.
“CYFD has been unwilling and unable to hold themselves accountable for the children lost on their watch,” said Senator Gallegos. “Our Legislative Finance Committee offered a number of leads on possible solutions to their issues, but they have failed to bring us bills to get it done. We need independent oversight to ensure our vulnerable children have someone fighting for them.”
In 2022, a similar measure passed the house on a 68-0 vote. Senate Bill 373 has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee.
To see today's press conference, click here.