Governor and CYFD Secretary Announce User-Friendly Hotline Number for Public Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect
SANTA FE — Governor Susana Martinez and Children, Youth, and Families (CYFD) Secretary Yolanda Deines today enlisted the public in the state's fight against child abuse and neglect. At a press conference at the University of New Mexico's Children's Campus this morning, they announced #SAFE, a new user-friendly hotline number for public reporting of child abuse and neglect. New Mexicans can also dial 855-333-SAFE from any phone.
Governor Martinez has declared April Child Abuse Awareness Month and encouraged all New Mexicans to be vigilant about reporting child abuse and creating a positive environment for children across the state. "Child Abuse Awareness Month is a time for speaking up, confronting abuse, and standing up for innocent children across New Mexico," said Governor Martinez. "As a prosecutor, I dedicated my career to fighting for the defenseless. Now, I am asking all New Mexico citizens to join this fight. We can do this by joining together as parents, teachers, family members and neighbors to create a safe and positive environment for our children. I encourage everyone to be vigilant about reporting child abuse and neglect by dialing #SAFE from any cell phone or calling 1-855-333-SAFE."
"Children are the most precious resource we have in New Mexico," stated Children, Youth, and Families Department Secretary Yolanda Deines. "We want New Mexicans this month to take a deep breath and really think about child abuse in our society. There are no easy answers. But working together and increasing our awareness strengthens our ability to protect our children. If you know, or even suspect, that a child is in danger, starting now you can dial #SAFE or 1-855-333-SAFE. It's our moral responsibility to watch out for the kids around us."
Calls to the hotline, useable from anywhere in the state, will go to CYFD's State Central Intake unit, housed in Albuquerque. From there, a trained operator fields the call and asks for as much information as possible. The calls are immediately reviewed by a supervisor, assigned a priority code, and rerouted to the county office where the child resides. Some calls are screened out for various reasons, including calls that are not allegations of child abuse. Calls are also cross-reported when appropriate. For example, a call about a parent dealing drugs from the home may or not be a child abuse call, but will always be cross reported to the local law enforcement agency.
There are 561,318 children in New Mexico under the age of 19. In any given year, CYFD receives an average of 33,000 phone calls to their state-wide reporting system. Of those, 18,000 are screened for further investigation, and approximately 4,700 are substantiated for abuse. The vast majority of substantiated cases of child abuse are for physical neglect (72.7%). Twenty-five percent of substantiated claims are for physical abuse, and 1.6% of cases are for sexual abuse.
"Keeping kids safe is a team effort," continued Secretary Dienes. “We need the community to take this responsibility very seriously, because our social workers can't even knock on a door unless we get a call first. #SAFE from your cell phone - it doesn’t get any easier than this."
"We have an obligation to all the children out there, who right now may be living in fear, scared of the adults in their lives who are supposed to love and protect them," said Governor Martinez. "Preventing child abuse and neglect and protecting our kids is up to us."
Deines also discouraged so-called malicious reporting, or people who falsely accuse neighbors or ex-spouses or others. "Every hour we spend sorting out false and malicious allegations is an hour taken from a frightened child who truly needs our help," says Deines, who has personally investigated hundreds of child abuse cases during her career.
"Please find a healthier way to express your anger, and don't take time away from a child who might be in danger."