Bills increase child abuse jail time, close foster care background check loophole
SANTA FE — The Children, Youth and Families Department’s (CYFD) Secretary is joining with legislators today for a last-minute push on critical CYFD legislation. Secretary Yolanda Deines says the clock is ticking for two important bills.
“There are two pieces of legislation that are so close to becoming law,” says Deines. “We don’t want these important bills to fall through the cracks. Both offer tools to help us keep kids safe and support healthy families. Members of my staff will work with legislators to get these bills across the finish line before the clock runs out.”
The first bill, SB 147, provides for immediate background checks when children in emergency state custody are placed in relative foster homes. The legislation closes a loophole that could place children at risk. The bill passed the Senate late Tuesday night, but must now be heard in the House Judiciary committee before a final vote in the House.
The second bill, HB 183, changes New Mexico’s Criminal Code to help better protect New Mexico children from child abuse and predators. The bill beefs up prison time for child abusers, increases penalties for drunk drivers who kill kids, and defines new crimes where certain behavior towards children is predatory. That bill passed the House late last night but faces committee assignments and a Senate floor vote before heading to the Governor’s desk for signature.
“I want to sign both of these bills and take these steps to protect New Mexico children,” said Governor Martinez, who supports both bills and has said she will sign them when they reach her desk. “People need to know that if you hurt a child, you will serve serious jail time. We will not tolerate anyone who intentionally hurts the most vulnerable among us. We also need to close the background check loophole and keep kids safe. There is no reason that CYFD shouldn’t be allowed to use the NCIC database to ensure the safe placement of children. I urge both chambers to act on these bills before time runs out.”
“My legislation was well-received in the Senate, and now we’re doing the final push through the House,” said Sen. Sander Rue, who sponsored the NCIC background check. “This bill is supported by CYFD and the Department of Public Safety. It makes sense and we need to get it done.”
Rep. Al Park joined Senator Gay Kernan to call on the Senate to act on their child abuse enhanced penalties bill.
“New Mexicans are sickened by those who abuse their own kids. It’s not okay to hurt a child, and now we’re beefing up the punishment for those who do,” say Park and Kernan. “The bill passed unanimously in the House last night. Now we need to get it through the Senate, and we call upon our colleagues to support this legislation and protect the most vulnerable among us.”
“Our professional caseworkers deal everyday with some of the most heartbreaking stories our society has to offer,” says Deines. “They come face-to-face with kids and families devastated by somebody who hurts a child. The time is right to increase penalties for people who hurt kids, and to close a dangerous loophole for foster kids. We appreciate Governor Martinez’s support, as well as the support we’ve received from Senators Rue and Kernan, and Representative Al Park, in getting these bills this far. We’re almost there.”