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Protesters: CYFD needs to do more to protect kids

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Josh Perez addresses a group of about 40 protesters Friday in front of the Albuquerque office of the state Children, Youth and Families Department. The group was protesting what it said was CYFD’s failure to intervene and stop recent incidents involving child abuse and death. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Carrying signs reading “Protect our Babies,” “The Children Count on You” and “CYFD Do Your Job,” about 40 people gathered outside the Albuquerque offices of the state Children, Youth and Families Department on Friday to protest what they said seems like never-ending incidents involving children who get abused or killed.

“We’re here today because too many kids have been abused or passed away, even kids who had been reported to CYFD two, three or four times,” said Josh Perez, 27, who organized the protest through his newly formed group, Let Our Voices Be Heard.

“We just feel CYFD hasn’t done their job and we’re here to let them know, because if we don’t stand up now, nothing is ever going to get done in this city,” he said. “We’re asking CYFD to make changes.”

Protester Damion Cruzz, 36, wants something beyond change.

“I think CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson should resign,” he said. “I don’t think CYFD has the proper leadership. Somebody with experience in child welfare needs to take over.”

Cruzz also had harsh words for New Mexico legislators, who he said have also failed to do their jobs: “They have the power to change laws to make it easier to get kids who are in danger removed by CYFD.”

As a parent with a teenage son, Barbara Gallegos, 37, said, “CYFD should be paying more attention and see what’s really going on.”

Children, she said, represent the future and we need to create a society “that is safe and offers something for them to look forward to.”

When children are stuck in a situation with abusive parents and an agency that does not protect them, Gallegos said, “they feel like they can’t turn to anybody who will listen to them – and then we’re stuck burying our kids.”

In response to the protest, Jacobson said in an email to the Journal: “We are all outraged by the acts of violence against children and I’m encouraged to see the community’s passion to fight against child abuse. I hope everyone who came out today will volunteer and help us in our work to improve the lives of children across New Mexico. I urge all New Mexicans to be vigilant and to report child abuse and neglect.”

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