Bid to boost oversight of child welfare cases gains - Albuquerque Journal

Bid to boost oversight of child welfare cases gains

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The creation of a new independent office to oversee legal representation for New Mexico children and families involved in abuse and neglect cases is one step closer, after a bill calling for such a step unanimously passed its first Senate committee Monday.

New Mexico has long ranked among the worst states for child well-being, and backers of the proposal say it could reduce unnecessarily long stays in foster care for some minors.

“This is just going to be a game-changer,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, just before the bill passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee 7-0.

The legislation, Senate Bill 127, would authorize the creation of the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy to oversee representation in child welfare disputes.

The office would be modeled after the Law Offices of the Public Defender, which was established as a stand-alone agency after voters approved a 2012 constitutional amendment.

A task force that was created in 2019 and tasked with improving legal representation in cases involving abuse and neglect of minors came up with the idea for an independent office, leading to this year’s legislation.

However, the creation of such an office would likely require additional state funding in future years, even though current state and federal funds could cover at least some of the cost, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill.

The analysis estimated that more than $7 million in new state funding would ultimately be necessary, and the bill approved Monday would not appropriate any dollars.

But a 13-member commission overseeing the new office would have until the end of 2022 to hire a permanent director. A temporary director could be appointed in the meantime.

Under New Mexico’s current system, more than 100 attorneys provide legally required representation under contract for children and families in abuse and neglect cases, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

That’s led to a system that’s fragmented and often frustrating to navigate, backers of the proposed legislation said.

And several parents and former foster children testified Monday that they met their appointed attorneys only a few minutes before court hearings.

“There’s a lack of consistency, there’s a lack of oversight, and there’s a lack of accountability” in how the lawyers operate, Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Vigil testified.

The legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, now advances to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » Bid to boost oversight of child welfare cases gains


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Jail needs oversight of an authority, not commissioners
From the newspaper
Experts are needed to make decisions ... Experts are needed to make decisions regarding the MDC
2
Solar cooling an option for our increasingly hot summers
From the newspaper
I went to the Solar Fiesta ... I went to the Solar Fiesta held in Albuquerque at the UNM campus June 24. I got to check out a fleet ...
3
Facing victims, not prison, will change you for better
From the newspaper
I am a student at CNM ... I am a student at CNM majoring in substance abuse counseling, and a member of the "Lived Exper ...
4
New Mexico slips to 50th in child well-being
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's ranking in overall child ... New Mexico's ranking in overall child well-being slipped from 49th to 50th, according ...
5
'Courageous conversations' can transform community
Blogs
NMBLC emphasizes cultural vibrancy and positive ... NMBLC emphasizes cultural vibrancy and positive development
6
MLK offramp gone; MVD out of envelopes
ABQnews Seeker
Northbound I-25 MLK exit permanently closed ... Northbound I-25 MLK exit permanently closed starting Monday
7
3 injured in Clovis crash involving state police
From the newspaper
Officer was responding to an active-shooter ... Officer was responding to an active-shooter drill they believed to be real
8
How NM is looking to bring workers back
From the newspaper
Not a one-size-fits-all approach, state leaders ... Not a one-size-fits-all approach, state leaders say
9
Keeping broken, outdated electronics out of landfills conserves resources, ...
From the newspaper
When you think of recycling, you ... When you think of recycling, you likely think of paper, plastic and cans, along with taking glass bo ...