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

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

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

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Talk of the Town: Credit unions, pandemic response, Navajo ...
From the newspaper
OPINION: New Mexico credit union member-owners' ... OPINION: New Mexico credit union member-owners' funds are safe.
'All the World Is Sleeping' sheds light on the ...
ABQnews Seeker
"All the World is Sleeping" had ... "All the World is Sleeping" had a New Mexico premiere at the Santa Fe International Film Festival in October 2021.
'Better Call Saul' actor to be honored at the ...
ABQnews Seeker
Patrick Fabian will be on hand ... Patrick Fabian will be on hand to accept the award in Las Cruces at the 2023 LCIFF awards ceremony at the Rio Grande Theatre ...
Bob Odenkirk returns to comedy roots with AMC's 'Lucky ...
Bob Odenkirk stars as Hank Devereaux, ... Bob Odenkirk stars as Hank Devereaux, a college English professor who is department chair at an underfunded college, going through an identity crisis.
PBS documentary looks back on protesting and its impact ...
ABQnews Seeker
American Experience's "The Movement and the ... American Experience's "The Movement and the 'Madman'" will premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1.
New Mexico United to face NMSU-rooted team in Open ...
Featured Sports
The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open ... The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will have a little extra New Mexico flavor.Not only ...
Something new for Holly Holm: Fight against a former ...
Even if Holly Holm and Yana ... Even if Holly Holm and Yana Santos were BFFs, not just former teammates and training partners with a ...
Meet your Swiss-born Lobo, a tight end who has ...
It's not an industry secret: having ... It's not an industry secret: having good players makes you a better coach. Joe Scelfo gets that. ...
Here come the bulls and riders: Ty Murray Invitational ...
Featured Sports
Some 50 days before its finals, ... Some 50 days before its finals, the 2023 PBR tour comes to the Pit this weekend.It's a ...