Before she took office Jan. 1, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s transition team analyzed the state Children, Youth and Families Department, an agency that has been under fire for much of its history. Among the highlights of the transition team’s review:

• Children are dying preventable deaths that have been “normalized” in the agency.

• Two lawsuits were filed in September in state District Court. One alleges the department is illegally denying child care assistance to families who earn between 150 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level; the other accuses the agency’s foster care system of failing to provide Medicaid care to children.

• The federal government has frozen $3 million in funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act because the agency has made little progress in meeting requirements of Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act signed into law by then-President Barack Obama in 2016.

• The agency is failing to meeting a standard of placing at least 49.9 percent of foster children in permanent homes within 12 months. This could result in a $700,000 penalty. A deadline to meet the benchmark has been extended to March 202o.

• There is an investigation backlog of about 2,100 cases in Bernalillo County.

• Morale is low among workers, and there is a lack of supervisor support and partnerships between workers and with other agencies.

• Staff recruitment efforts are not successful, too many workers are from the criminal justice field and lack empathy for families, and nearly half of the agency’s caseworkers are not licensed.

• A poor data system is causing more work for staff and thousands of dollars in overpayments to providers each month.

• A “punitive culture toward families and scant emphasis on prevention” leaves families without services and rehabilitation efforts, and children are being removed from homes unnecessarily.

• There is a critical need for foster family recruitment.

City Desk editor

Cynthia is a City Desk editor for The Santa Fe New Mexican and was formerly The New Mexican's copy desk chief. She covers a number of topics including child welfare issues.