Special Efforts Being Made in New Mexico to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

The Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico awarded grants totaling nearly $80,000 to deserving nonprofits through its Wellness Fund, which supports projects and programs addressing maternal and child well-being in the region. Eight organizations were selected for funding, including the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired “Never Shake a Baby” program. This program was developed to increase awareness and prevent nonaccidental trauma. [Recommendation 7.1]

State Sen. Michael Padilla (D) from Albuquerque introduced S.B. 294 to create a task force on child homicides. The proposal also would give the state Attorney General authority to order an independent investigation into a child abuse death. The team would include medical experts, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, child welfare workers, tribal members and others. It would be tasked with evaluating investigations of a child’s death, as well as examining how agencies and individuals responded to concerns about the child before the fatality. The task force also would make recommendations to the Legislature on needed reforms. [Recommendation 6.3]

CYFD’s Protective Services Division (PSD) and Early Childhood Services (ECS) collaborated to provide free child care to families with children assessed to be at risk of abuse or neglect. This initiative was implemented, in part, as a response to child fatalities perpetrated by partners and other unrelated caregivers. Families referred for At Risk Childcare receive 180 days of free child care. There are no income tests or work/school requirements to receive this service. During this period, ECS provides case management services to assist the family in securing longer-term child care assistance. This program was implemented statewide in July 2016. As of April 2017, 679 children are receiving At Risk Childcare Services. [Recommendation 7.1n]

Local effort in Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties: ECS is currently piloting a program to provide baby boxes for families with newborn children to encourage safe sleep practices. This initiative was developed in response to co-sleeping fatalities. The agency is partnering with the company Many Mothers. The pilot was initiated in March 2017 and will scale statewide in July of 2017. Baby boxes are distributed through ECS home visiting program and hospitals. [Recommendation 7.1c]

New Laws

February 01, 2018- Legislative committee debates penalty for fatal child abuse. Under current state law on child abuse, life sentences can only be given to defendants who intentionally kill a child younger than 12. Someone who abuses and kills a child between 13 and 18 can receive a sentence of up to 18 years.[Recommendation 6.3]