Stopping Child Abuse Before It Starts

Aug 8, 2018

Horrifying and fatal cases of child abuse and neglect are pervasive in New Mexico. People here are asking the question: How do we stop this? Nationally, evidence is showing that prevention is the key.

Fingers are pointed at police, at social workers, at the state, at social inequity and poverty. But programs that intervene early and aim to help whole families have been shown to reduce the number of child abuse and neglect cases by at least half, while also decreasing child fatalities.

Charles Sallee deputy director of the Legislative Finance Committee, talked to lawmakers on the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee about programs that get in the door before children are hurt rather than after. "Child Protective Services is made up of a lot of well-intentioned people, but by design, the system is highly reactionary," he said. "And sometimes those reactions result in better things for kids, and sometimes not-so-good things for kids and families."

New Mexico is one of the states that spends the least on prevention services in the nation. But Congress included new money for it in the national budget this year, and the feds will match state spending starting next fall. So it will be up to legislators and a new governor to determine how much money New Mexico can commit during the 2019 session.