Two months after state lawmakers killed legislation to provide more oversight and transparency to the embattled state Children, Youth and Families Department, the agency’s new interim leader unveiled a new online public dashboard on Tuesday to provide monthly information about foster care, children in state custody, agency turnover, and other key metrics.
Up to now, such information wasn’t widely available or was dated, but acting secretary Teresa Casados said “we want to be as transparent as we can.”
The opening page of the website, togetherwethrivenm.org, carries the headline, “CYFD Transformation Transparency Site.”
The information to be presented every month will include the number of foster beds available, the number of children in treatment foster care in and out of state and the number of children temporarily staying in CYFD offices while agency staff tries to find them a better placement.
It doesn’t include the number of children who have been subjected to repeat maltreatment, a metric often cited as to how well the agency is protecting children, but Casados said at a news briefing that the website developed over the past few months is a “work in progress.”
The dashboard “is what people have been looking for, for transparency in the department,” said Casados, who invited members of the press to suggest other information the public might want or need to know.
“We are working closely with our legal team here … to make sure that if there’s information that the public is interest in seeing that we will provide as much of that as we legally can,” she said.
Casados, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s chief of staff, is heading the agency while a nationwide search for a new cabinet secretary is conducted.
The agency has also created two new top positions, a behavioral health deputy secretary, and a deputy secretary for youth services to add to two other vacant deputy secretary jobs. A position of marketing and communications director has also been created.
“So there has been some movement on the search for staff within the department, and so we’re working on getting those key positions filled. At the same time we are recruiting for a cabinet secretary. I would say at this point in time, the response we’ve had to that position has been limited. So again, we’re looking to change that narrative and invite people to at least inquire about the position … and have a conversation about their skills.”
Casados has been running the agency since the departure of former cabinet secretary Barbara Vigil, who resigned in late April. Vigil retired as a justice on the state Supreme Court in mid-2021, and became the fourth person to be appointed CYFD secretary since 2011.
Some state legislators and child advocates pressed for laws earlier this year to create an “Office of the Child Advocate” in the state Attorney General’s Office and permit CYFD to release more information about a child who has died or nearly died as a result of abuse or neglect.
But those efforts ended after Lujan Grisham in mid-February issued an executive order to create an office of innovation within CYFD and establish a new advisory council. She called the agency “dysfunctional.”