The New Mexico Child Youth and Families Department has received a large increase in phone calls reporting child abuse and neglect, since the implementation of its new user friendly hotline number in April 2011.
In April, CYFD, with aid from Gov. Martinez’s administration, established the new hotline, 1-855-333-SAFE, in conjunction with Child Abuse Awareness Month. The public can call #SAFE (#7233) from a cell phone or 1-855-333-SAFE from a landline.
CYFD spokesman Enrique Knell said phone calls coming into the #SAFE hotline doubled from April until the end of October, in comparison to the number of calls CYFD received this time last year.
“We can’t fight child abuse on our own. We have to rely on the public to be our eyes and ears,” Knell said.
In 2010 CYFD received 70,000 calls through its hotline. Of those only 30,000 were screened in for further investigation, according to Knell. For various reasons, CYFD often receives phone calls that do not relate to child abuse or neglect.
Although the organization has always operated a hotline, the old number was difficult to remember, according to Knell. The new number gave CYFD the ability to really increase awareness and do it with a number that’s much easier to remember and more user friendly, Knell said.
A supervisor on site gives a priority code to each call that is screened in for further investigation. Calls can be given an emergency, priority one, or priority two code.
Emergency calls must be initiated within three hours of a report’s acceptance. Priority one calls must be initiated within twenty-four hours of a report’s acceptance. Priority two calls must be initiated within five calendar days of a report’s acceptance.
Calls received can also be cross-reported to appropriate law enforcement agencies. Knell cited the example of someone calling about a house, where kids live, that has someone dealing drugs.
He described the relationship between CYFD and law enforcement agencies across the state as symbiotic.
Knell said there are three different types of child abuse that CYFD examines. Seventy-five percent of the cases the organization handles are physical neglect cases. These are cases where a parent is not fulfilling their responsibility so much so that it poses a safety hazard to the child. Twenty-four percent of cases handled are physical abuse cases. These cases involve a child being physically injured by a parent. The remaining one percent of cases are sexual abuse cases.
Describing CYFD as a reactive agency, rather than a proactive agency, Knell said the organization relies heavily on phone calls coming through its hotline. One of CYFD’s biggest partners in reporting abuse and neglect is educators.
“We [CYFD] don’t patrol, we don’t go knocking on doors. We don’t have the resources, legal backing or desire to do that. We respond when somebody calls and says they’re concerned about a child. We can not knock on someone’s door until someone calls #SAFE,”Knell said.