LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Susana Martinez, along with the Children Youth and Families Department and local supporters opened a new Child Advocacy Center Friday. It puts police, CYFD and support groups under one roof, to better work abuse and neglect cases.
The idea for the center was sparked after a few high-profile child abuse cases, some of which were cases where officers and the state came under fire. Officials hosted the grand opening Friday in Los Lunas, for a center the state hopes reduces child abuse and helps victims.
“We bring in five municipalities, six police departments, two different school districts to work together, with a daunting task,” said state Representative, Kelly Fajardo.
In April, Governor Susana Martinez signed an executive order establishing the Child Advocacy Center. It was sparked by a number of child abuse cases, including the death of Omaree Varela, the boy who was allegedly kicked to death by his mother. Albuquerque Police, and CYFD had made contact with his family multiple times. But, there was a communication breakdown.
The new center in Los Lunas will serve as a safe house for victims, and officials say it will help fix communication problems. With this system, a child’s interview is on video record, that way victims don’t have to repeat their traumatic experience over and over again to different agencies. The new facility has different rooms for counseling services and interviews. Lawmakers said it’s important for police and social workers to be on the same page.
“A center like this which locates law enforcement and treatment professionals and service providers all in one building, is something that minimizes the trauma that that child feels, and that is a goal worth pursuing,” said Greg Fouratt, DPS Secretary.
Local volunteers and churches donated toys and books for the family rooms, to help make sure visitors feel welcome and comfortable.
Families who visit the center will also be connected with counseling services if they need it.
Organizers said they hope this is just the beginning, and hope to add more of these centers around the state.
The state decided to open the center in Valencia County because it is one of the highest-need areas for child welfare services in New Mexico.
Albuquerque has something similar, a Family Advocacy Center. CYFD recently added staff there.