Remember when candidate Susana Martinez ran all those TV ads about Baby Brianna?  A lot of people said those ads helped her win, and they were sure she would be serious about tackling New Mexico’s child abuse crisis.

The holiday death of Omaree Varela, a 9-year old former CYFD foster child, is raising new concerns about how the Martinez administration is handling those cases.

New Mexicans are asking questions, and now we have the answer.

We spent a week pouring through budgets, agency reports, news reports and agency report cards – more than 800 pages of documents – and you won’t believe what we found.

Last night KOB-TV called our report a scathing look at Susana Martinez’s management.  Watch for yourself.



Can’t see the video in your email browser?  You can watch the full thing on YouTube here.

Our three-part report is available on our website at ProgressNowNM.org.  It’s worth a read.

Here’s just some of what we found:

  • Since Martinez took office, nearly 1-in-4 children seeking help waits more than a month for an investigation – that number is rising year after year.
  • More than 230 children needing help remained in abusive homes 6-months after the first report of abuse
  • The workload for the agency has risen 27% since Martinez took office

But how has she responded to this crisis?

  • We found that the agency had 93 vacant child protective worker positions vacant in July of 2013.  CYFD now says that number may be as high as 120.
  • As taxpayers, we already paid for every one of those positions.  That’s what it takes to protect our children and the legislature authorized those positions in the budget.
  • Instead of hiring more workers to protect our children Governor Martinez’s administration held those positions vacant and returned the money budgeted for those salaries to the general fund to justify the state’s huge budget surplus she promoted in her national Republican convention speech
  • In FY14, the Martinez administration took more than $6 million from CYFD programs

Scathing indeed. And a story worth telling.    Read it for yourself at ProgressNowNM.org. 

PS – Governor Martinez is gambling with our children’s livelihoods. Young Omaree Varela already lost, but HUNDREDS more children wake up every day in New Mexico in homes just like Omaree’s and their wait for help is getting longer.

Mad? You should be.  Call Governor Martinez at 505-476-2200 and tell her we won’t put up with her playing politics with our kids safety.  Tell her to put our money back into CYFD.

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5 comments

  1. I thought Arizona had troubles with its children protection program but per capita, NM might be just as bad if this report is true – I always reserve myself on such reporting because there are issues in these research studies or reports that are not gleaned or revealed making the outcome statement skewed or deliberately inflammatory in nature without telling the other side of the coin dynamics. Arizona’s problem goes back to 2009 and has really worsen more than ten fold.
    Lets be fair and allow the governor to put this in perspective and deal with the issues pointed out to make a swift corrective action plan. I am sure she was not aware that the agency was in such dire straights as these agency executives are more political in nature than the governor thinking what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her but in the end she is the one that takes the heat.

    1. I’m afraid she was. As an intern I saw it first hand and spoke to mgmt about it. The issue was pushed upward and I’m certain she knew about it. I had thought about writing her a letter personally to voice my concerns but was told that it was well known anyway. I do regret not sending that letter now reading this. It has been almost a year since I left and I am shocked to see that it wasn’t handled. The pay is not commensurate with what these workers have to do. The work is hard and when a huge caseload is heaved on you as a new person, it’s crushing. In my internship of a mere 8 months, I watched caseworkers leave under the pressure to find better paying jobs. They were working overtime every day to ensure child safety. As people leave, the cases don’t go away and are piled on other workers who are already burdened. It’s a downward spiral. The sad part is, caseworkers for the most part do what they (we) do to help children. It’s the law of diminishing returns and it’s NM children who are suffering. I am now in a neighboring state that pays their caseworkers better, and has a sufficient amount of caseworkers to handle the caseload. I only hope that She will finally support CYFD. Increase pay and hire more caseworkers, that is what needs to happen!

  2. We just had another incident in our Building, Subsidized Housing in Santa Fe. The police took nearly 25 Minutes to respond! This is one of many reports both to the police and Child Protection. Nothing was done, of course the child claimed nothing happened, and the police took a basic report. There have been numerous incidents and complaints, yet there is no follow up. There is no accountability at CYFD, and they seem to lack the observational skills required. These are great kids in a bad situation, yet there is no help. It seems like the whole family needs some kind of help or intervention, yet nothing! I think the whole system needs an overhaul, apparently these people being paid by the State are lacking any accountability, competence, or basic empathy. we live in a System where kids like these will , have a hard time in school and getting on in life, if they survive their Childhood. It is appalling, what is more disturbing is the lack of outrage! Even with these children abused to death, there is no action. Emotional abuse is damaging too, creating another Generation of broken and damaged adults!

  3. CYFD is a mess in all departments. CYFDs HR is corrupt. The new Chief Of Staff is a devil in disguise. Sad that the children suffer.

  4. From a little boy so small, who would have thought i would of gotten this tall, just a little over 4 feet, and everyone says im soo sweet! Please be courageous and strong i know my life wasnt long, but i did like to play football and watch scooby doo all night long, i was a big brother of two, man how ill miss looking after you… I was so lucky to have you. I loved Climbing trees and playing sports, and lots of games of diffrent sorts. My name was Omaree, and dont be sorry my life wasnt long no more suffering the pains all gone, time to be with God and i know ill be loved and missed by all. But first a letter to my second mother, who i loved most of all…
    To my dear sweet Grandma Essie,
    Who knew my life was messy, and of course all of moms stressing, that’s when God sent you in my life a blessing, you came into my life like an angel sent from the light, you let me be a kid, and have fun is just what i did. A second mother and a woman like no other, you were always there to help whatever the need, you have given yourself unselfishly, i was drawn to you from day one, more and more everyday, for the kindness you shared and shown, i just wanted to tell you thank you and let you know i care, a second mom as great as you is so rare… You made me feel like i would never be alone, i needed a momma to show me all things in life and give me a good home, but God sent someone better to give me a good life and didnt think twice, you took me by the hand and held me close to your heart, you reminded me it wasn’t the end, you were my teacher, my auntie, my best friend, you listened when no one was there for me, i promise ill always keep your love safe with me, and tell God what a great second mom you were to me…. I love you from Omaree

    By tanya m l.

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