Governor wants to put an end to independent CYFD monitoring
House Bill 461 is on the House calendar, raising concern. The Children’s and Families Rights Act builds more layers to CYFD without well-thought-out implementation, without first demonstrating existing resources are maximized and, most critically, cloaking the repeal of what Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she does not want by anyone but her, accountability of CYFD.
Section 13 of HB 461 repeals Article 8 of the Children’s Code. Article 8, known as the Citizen Substitute Care Review Act, was enacted in 1985 with the purpose to “provide a permanent system of independent and objective monitoring of the children in the custody of the department six months or longer.”
In Fiscal 2016, the Legislature revised this act, establishing the Substitute Care Advisory Council to oversee boards which may review cases of the children in custody of CYFD. The nine members are all governor-appointed. In her second term Lujan Grisham has yet to fully appoint the SCAC; her first two public appointees were not made until September 2022.
Through Article 8, CYFD has been provided with informed, solution-focused recommendations via reports for thousands of children and years of annual reports. There is no documentation CYFD made any changes to practice or policy from the recommendations.
The SCAC’s annual reports identified this challenge and Senate Bill 242 introduced in Fiscal 2021 required CYFD to be accountable for the recommendations in individual reports. The CYFD agency bill unanimously passed both chambers. The people spoke, and the governor vetoed.
CYFD and the sponsor of HB 461 say the SCAC has not been effective for years. In reality, the act has been effective since 1985, providing recommendations for system improvement. In reality, CYFD has failed to respond to recommendations and the governor has failed to make appointments.
Article 8 is framed flippantly as simply providing boards of citizens to review cases to meet a federal requirement. In reality, Article 8 exists for the sole purpose of having a permanent system of independent and objective monitoring of the children in CYFD’s custody. In fact, meeting a federal requirement is not mentioned at all.
Legislation is not needed for CYFD to have yet another advisory council, think tank or for an office that already exists or boards to meet a federal requirement. The intention of HB 461 is to repeal Article 8 — so much so that the $1.6 million appropriation was removed to encourage its passing.
On Feb. 16, Lujan Grisham stated her executive order to transform CYFD would not result in CYFD accountability, that holding CYFD accountable is her responsibility and the public and the public’s representatives in the Legislature hold her accountable to do so. This same date HB 461 was introduced, repealing independent monitoring of children in CYFD custody.
The public’s representatives have spoken, passing HB 11 and SB 373 creating an independent Office of Child Advocate, telling the governor CYFD accountability only to her is not enough . ... The public’s representatives must confidently say no to HB 461 and preserve the only enacted legislation for independent monitoring of children in the custody of CYFD.