On Aug. 30, 2017, my family’s life was destroyed by a false child abuse allegation. Sadly, it was perfectly legal in New Mexico — and not unusual.
According to the Children, Youth and Families Department, 72 percent of calls it investigates are unsubstantiated. This means innocent families can face a traumatic investigation for every one case of actual abuse.
Paul Williams, head of CYFD’s Statewide Central Intake Office, knows of this and said, “We don’t want our agency to be used as a mean guard dog.” He added, “But I see it all day long.” Williams added, “I think part of the low substantiation rate is that not everything coming through is a legitimate concern about child abuse, but they [accusers] say the right things on the phone so we can’t call them a liar from the intake.”
New Mexico is one of a minority of states that protects those who knowingly make a false child abuse allegation.
Please join me in demanding the state Legislature pass Abby’s Law in the next legislative session and save innocent families like mine. Abby’s Law would change New Mexico statute 32A-4-3(F) and make it illegal to knowingly make a false child abuse allegation.
The statute reads, “Any person who violates the provisions of this section pertaining to the duty to report is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced pursuant to NM 31-19-1.” You can go to jail for not reporting a suspicion, but not for a false claim?
Abby’s Law would read, “Any person who violates the provisions of this section pertaining to the duty to report or knowingly makes a false report is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced pursuant to NM 31-19-1.”
I am asking you to stand with me in changing the law because my daughter’s kindergarten teacher at Calvary Christian Academy knowingly made three false child abuse allegations against my 7-year-old son, my wife and me. Her first lie sparked widespread misconduct by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office that tore my family apart, destroyed my Air Force career and financially crippled my family.
Detractors will suggest that Abby’s Law discourages legitimate reports of child abuse. Such an assertion justifies victimizing innocent families. I challenge anyone to tell my daughter that her trauma is justified because allegations will be right one out of every four times. Tell my son his fear is acceptable.
Since taking office, CYFD Cabinet Secretary Brian Blalock has taken active steps to fix a department that Gov. Susana Martinez and Monique Jacobsen left in shambles. I believe Blalock’s efforts are genuine.
Passing Abby’s Law is a first step and will create a disincentive for using CYFD for retaliation — something we can all support — and focus more resources on actual child abuse. It will also give the victims of false allegations the opportunity to hold criminals accountable.
Adam Lowther is an expert in nuclear arsenals.