We are once more hearing demands for making drastic changes at the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. For me, these demands carry a sense of déja vu. I have heard them many times throughout my history with children’s protective services since I became a child welfare worker in 1965 in Las Cruces.

My social work career included several other periods working in children’s protective services. I worked off and on in child welfare in Las Vegas, N.M., Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque in a wide range of positions. In 2003, in the Richardson administration, I served very briefly as the director of CYFD’s Protective Services Division. During these past 50-plus years, I have observed, from perspectives both within and outside CYFD, repeated cycles in which high-profile cases ending in tragedy produced calls for reform. These led to efforts at restructuring and improvement — only to be followed a few years later with backsliding.

There have been several class action lawsuits and settlement agreements in which the department committed to positive change. Yet multiple instances of highly publicized scandals involving abuse and even deaths of infants and young children still occur. Now, once again, responding to public outrage, some of my fellow legislators are clamoring for overhauling CYFD. Some are even calling for rethinking its mission.

State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino represents District 12 in Bernalillo County. He is a Democrat.

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