Monday, May 07, 2018

Poverty And Drugs Make For An Evil Dynamic That Strikes Again In Abuse Case Of 7 Year Old; A CYFD Disaster; Plus: Did Rep. Trujillo Survive The Weekend? And Remembering Mayor Larry Abraham 

CYFD Secretary Jacobson
The state of New Mexico continues to fail in its most basic obligation--to protect those least able to protect themselves--and that failure is going to reverberate on the campaign trail.

The astounding news that the state Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) had every opportunity to stop the latest case of sensational abuse, but didn't, sent the state reeling yet again:

Court documents reveal CYFD had more than 21 opportunities to help a 7-year-old girl who was forced into prostitution. Meanwhile, police had at least six times to save her, so why didn't they? "I think there are steps we could've and should've taken to better protect this little girl and her brother," CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson said. Court documents reveal CYFD had been dealing with Teri Sanchez and James Stewart for years. Starting in June 2004, CYFD was called to check on the couple's three children after reports of everything from medical neglect, physical abuse, the kids not going to school, to sexual molestation concerns.

This is only the latest in a growing list of ghastly abuse cases at the hands of supposed loved ones. Those who have been murdered in recent years are familiar as your own family: 9 year old Omaree Varela in 2014, 10 year old Victoria Martens in 2016 and 13 year old Jeremiah Valencia in 2017 all suffered agonizing deaths and, like the seven year old, all were on the radar of the state CYFD or other authorities before they were brutally slain.

Think of it. All that horror in a smallish state of only 2 million, not some giant metropolis. When will New Mexico find the will to reverse what has become a vile trend?

Secretary Jacobson had no choice but to admit her department's incompetence in this latest case. She has had over three years on the job to reform the bureaucracy under her and has not been up to the task.


Sen. Padilla
Gov. Martinez
ABQ Valley State Senators Michael Padilla and Linda Lopez, both familiar with the extreme conditions facing children in their lower income districts, warned of her political appointment to CYFD when Jacobson was named to the post by Gov. Martinez. They said her lack of social work experience would be a detriment. Sadly, they were correct.

In her first appearance before the Legislature as secretary in 2015 Jacobson meekly caved in to the Governor who insisted on cutting the CYFD budget and staff in the middle of a social conditions crisis. How did she expect to be taken seriously after that?

It all doesn't fall on one cabinet secretary's shoulders. The government as a whole--from the Governor's office to the Legislature--doesn't seem to fully understand the evil dynamic that has gripped the state and has been unwilling or unable to respond. Let's spell it out:

New Mexico's chronic poverty, combined with a pernicious and persistent drug epidemic, has created a devilish and depraved environment in an untold number of New Mexican households.

This is not old West Virginia style poverty where kids ran around barefoot and neglected while their parents guzzled moonshine. This is a poverty mixed with meth and fentanyl and that drives parents to do more than drink. They kill. Their own kids.

One proven solution is succinctly stated by reader Stephen Spitz:

Last year only 4,500 infants received home visits. The 2018 Legislature expanded HV by $1.5M so that for FY 19 4,800 will get home visits. This is less than 5% of our infants, the overwhelming percentage of which are born into poverty and would benefit most from the program.

It's pretty simple. If you can spot the abuse you can stop the abuse.

You have to have a CYFD that is not dysfunctional. For example, the foster care system and abuse:

“It’s preventable, and that’s really the heartbreak here,” said Sara Crecca, an ABQ attorney who has worked 17 years as a court-appointed guardian for children in CYFD custody. “Our system needs changing from every aspect, from every angle. The whole entire apple cart needs to be turned over.” But the ultimate responsibility, Crecca said, always falls to CYFD and the state caseworker assigned to ensure the child’s safety, visit the child in the treatment foster home and attend treatment meetings with the foster care company. . .

While the murders and abuse are met with outrage, it has been of the moment, similar to the uproars heard in the aftermath of mass school shootings. The cries for change echo through the nation but then slowly fade and we are back to where we started.

It will be up to the next Governor to sustain a change movement. Will the candidates tell us before they are elected who they will name as CYFD secretary and what reforms they expect? What the CYFD budget will be? Will they commit to a home visiting program that has nearly 100 percent reach in four years? Or are repeated cases of murdered and abused children just part of what passes for the "new normal" around here?


Will he make it through the weekend? That was the question on the lips of the politicos as they eagle-eyed the melodrama of the Dem primary between State Rep. Carlos Trujillo and his Dem challenger Andrea Romero.

One of our analysts said that if Trujillo could make it through the weekend without more women surfacing accusing him of sexual harassment he would likely weather the storm created when Laura Bonar with an animal protection group accused him of sex harassment during the'14 legislative session.

No additional women have emerged to charge Trujillo but ABQ Dem State Rep. Armstrong threw kerosene on the fire when she alleged that other women had confided in her that Trujillo had also harassed them. But Armstrong, the treasurer for the Guv campaign of Michelle Lujan Grisham, gave no names or details. While that story caused a kerfuffle, Trujillo continued to fight back and will not resign.

So Trujillo did make it through the weekend with some cuts and scrapes. Now both candidates will take their cases to the mailboxes. Voters with weak stomachs in the Santa Fe County district may want to stop mail delivery until after June 5.


We were saddened to hear of the passing of Larry Abraham, the longtime mayor of the Village of Los Ranchos in the ABQ metro North Valley. He was first elected  in 2004 and remained popular until his untimely passing on Saturday during a trip with his wife to his second home in St. George Utah. His sister said the cause of death was apparently a massive heart attack.

Abraham is especially known for advocating for the North Fourth Street Revitalization Project which has spruced up the area considerably. He was also a political bridge builder who was an independent. In 2007 he made blog headlines when he hosted a major fund-raiser at his Los Ranchos home for then-Senator Pete Domenici with President George W. Bush as the headliner.

A couple of years ago when we were at a Vintage ABQ event he pulled us aside to meet with then-UNM President Bob Frank to see if we could see eye-to-eye on some issues. He was that kind of leader.

We first became friends with him when we were both at UNM and he was a student senator and we covered him for the Daily Lobo. He went on to become a busy businessman and entrepreneur.

Former ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael who is now chief operating officer  under Mayor Keller worked closely with Abraham over the years:

So sad to hear the news. I worked with the Mayor for many years. He was always supportive and interested in making our community and state a better place. I will miss him very much. Kim and I send our condolences to his family. So sorry. Rest In Peace my friend.

The family plans a memorial service.

Larry Abraham was 64.

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