State, City and Non-Profits Sign Child Abuse Multi-Disciplinary Team Agreement in Bernalillo County
Albuquerque, NM — Governor Susana Martinez, Mayor Richard J. Berry, CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines, DOH Secretary Catherine Torres, local law enforcement leaders and non-profit providers presented a united front today in the battle against child maltreatment. The group signed an interagency agreement that outlines a multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse investigations in Bernalillo County.
"As a prosecutor, I dedicated my career to fighting for the defenseless," said Governor Susana Martinez. "Bernalillo County is an example for other counties to follow when it comes to learning how community members can work together with state, local, and county governments to help victims of child abuse or neglect. These efforts are extremely important as we all work toward the common goal of protecting New Mexico’s children from abuse, violence, and neglect."
The interagency agreement points to a child abuse protocol established in Bernalillo County by different agencies involved in the child welfare system. The agreement and the protocol are designed to make sure different entities are communicating and working together when responding to allegations of child maltreatment. The agreement was first signed in Bernalillo County in 1990. Only one of the original signees still plays a role in the child welfare system. Until today, it has never been signed by the Governor or Mayor at the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center.
"Working with our partners at the state and in the nonprofits have been key to the success our detectives have had at fighting child abuse in Albuquerque," Mayor Berry said. "The Family Advocacy Center has been a been a perfect example of how agencies can work together to combat child abuse."
The primary goal of the agreement is for local agencies to work together to provide the best support and investigative process to the victim. A part of the agreement includes reducing the number of interviews required of an alleged child victim to minimize the negative impact of the investigation on the child. Secretary Deines says it’s not uncommon in child welfare throughout the country for the state child welfare agency to interview a child, only to have law enforcement and prosecutors repeat an interview later on. The agreement in Bernalillo County helps coordinate interviews at a Safe House, run by All Faiths Receiving Home, that can be shared across all interested parties.
"It seems logical that everybody would communicate in a child abuse investigation,' Secretary Deines said. "While it’s not hard, it takes coordination and teamwork. Our partners in Bernalillo County have long worked together for the benefit of our smallest victims, and today’s signing reaffirms our multi-disciplinary team approach."
Each of the agencies represented in the agreement acknowledges specific responsibilities with regard to the investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse cases, as well as the services offered regarding assessment, victim advocacy, medical treatment, and therapy. All signers agree to abide by a child abuse protocol that was developed by the Bernalillo County Multidisciplinary Team.
"We have a responsibility to provide for the health and well-being of New Mexico’s youngest citizens," said Dr. Catherine Torres, Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health. “The Department of Health is dedicated to supporting the Governor and the collaborative efforts of the other government agencies and community partners working to address child abuse throughout our state."
The group today also joined to enlist the public in the state's efforts to identify child abuse and neglect, and help children in the wake of abuse. Deines says the implementation of the #SAFE hotline last year helped CYFD identify 17 percent more victims of child abuse in 2011 than they did in 2010, and encouraged New Mexicans to help CYFD continue to identify victims of child abuse.
Together, the Governor, the Mayor and the group of public safety officials asked the public to help fight child abuse by reporting it to the state’s new user-friendly hotline number for public reporting of suspicion of child abuse and neglect, #SAFE (#7233) or 1-855-333-SAFE.