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Sen. Clemente Sanchez wanted to do something about child abuse and its watchdogs in the Children, Youth and Families Department. From his wife, a former social worker, he heard two words: case load. Our underpaid, overextended social workers can’t monitor each kid in a way that might have saved Omaree Varela from the allegedly brutal treatment of his mother.
Five bills in the recently completed legislative session focused on CYFD, but only one passed, an indicator of both complexity and the distance to consensus.
Sanchez wanted a limit of 15 cases, which might require another 22 hires. The Child Welfare League of America recommends 12 to 15 children per social worker; the average in CYFD is 12 to 20.
His fellow Grants Democrat, House Speaker Ken Martinez, introduced “Omaree’s Law,” which would have required CYFD to immediately take custody of a child with injuries consistent with abuse. If abuse was proven, the child would stay in custody until the parent received professional counseling.
CYFD argued that in fiscal 2013 it received more than 21,000 reports alleging physical abuse. The bill would have the unintended consequence of overwhelming not only CYFD, but the courts.
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