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CYFD urged to spend more on preventative care

 Chart taken from LFC report from August 18, 2022 "Evidence-Based Options to
Address Child Maltreatment"
Chart from LFC report from August 18, 2022 "Evidence-Based Options to Address Child Maltreatment"

Analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee has found that if the Children Youth and Families Department spent more on preventative care, it could prevent cases of repeated maltreatment of children.

At a committee hearing held Thursday in Chama, program evaluator Nathan Eckberg said that prevention programs are effective and should be prioritized.

“Much more money is invested in maintaining children in foster care than is invested in prevention or intervention,” he said, adding that a single case of child maltreatment resulting in adoption can cost taxpayers an estimated $134,000 and a single foster care placement costs around $21,000. He said, by contrast, an in-home services intervention costs about $3,700.

Analysis by the LFC found that while spending on prevention increased from $1.1 million in FY18 to $11.1 million in FY22, New Mexico still spends just 6.6% of its total Protective Services budget on prevention programs.

Speakers at the hearing, and the LFC report, noted the child welfare system has suffered from staff shortages and caseloads are higher than the national average.

Secretary of Children Youth and Family Services Barbara Vigil said it was her job to ensure the department was well-resourced so staff could do their jobs well.

“Change, real change, lasting change in a system of care takes time. But it takes determination and tenacity,” she said.

The Legislative Finance Committee noted in a newsletter that the department is working on a staffing plan to improve recruitment and retention.

New Mexico came in 50th in the annual Kids Count survey of child well-being.

This reporting was supported by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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