9 ways to improve CYFD’s foster care system - Albuquerque Journal

9 ways to improve CYFD’s foster care system

As foster and adoptive parents of 13 years, we have had hundreds of children in our home, worked with many social workers, children’s attorneys, advocates and therapists, and mentored numerous biological and foster parents.

We are on the front lines and have seen first-hand the personal triumphs and tragic stories of children placed in the care of the state. Over the last few years the previous CYFD secretary presented a narrative that does not reflect reality.

The change in leadership of CYFD offers an opportunity to make substantive changes for the better. We encourage (former N.M. Supreme Court) Justice (Barbara) Vigil to consider the following changes to benefit the children of New Mexico:

• Promote and establish an environment of respect and integrity that extends to interactions between employees, foster parents and families served by the department. We would appreciate phone calls returned and email replies sent in a timely fashion and with a professional response. Interactions should promote trust and therefore be earnest and forthright. Foster parents are not “babysitters,” and parents served by the department should not be treated with contempt. When workers lie in an official document or to a judge or foster parent, hold them accountable.

• Be forthcoming with information. When a child comes into care, be honest about each child’s situation. Allow potential foster families to assess the fit of the family for the child to minimize the risk of future disruptions in placement. Share the department’s plan for the child so we know if we are preparing them to go home next week or to start a new school year with us.

• Provide timely, vital information so when a baby has an ear infection and is screaming in pain, a prescription can be filled quickly and without incident.

• Provide details about a child’s background, behaviors, needs and treatment when that child is moved to a new placement. The child’s developmental progress must not be interrupted. Allowing communication among care providers is the best way to ensure continuity of care.

• Ensure foster parents have communication with the child’s school and are listed as an emergency contact so when a need arises, the child doesn’t have to wait for a previous worker to pass on the message.

• After six months or more of caring for a child, give foster parents the same consideration and legal standing as “fictive kin” or someone who met the child briefly before coming into care.

• Stop retaliating against foster parents for speaking up for the unmet needs of children. Moving a child from one placement to another because foster parents “ask for too many services” causes additional trauma. Children have a right to expect to remain in one placement until they go home to family, their case is finalized, or it is unsafe; frivolous placement moves should not occur.

• Conduct exit interviews and maintain records of why workers leave the department and why foster parent licenses are non-renewed, revoked or surrendered. Make the appropriate adjustments and improvements to retain and attract quality and experience.

• Most important, provide an independent and external venue for children in care, their families and their foster families to elevate issues that cannot be resolved within the department.


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