What is Substitute Care?

The NM Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD)

is the state agency with the responsibility to administer child welfare services in New Mexico. When a determination has been made that a child’s safety is at risk if the child remains in the home of origin, the child will be placed in substitute care. Substitute care includes foster care, kinship care, group home, residential treatment center, juvenile justice facility, semi-independent living and emergency shelter.

Entering Substitute Care in New Mexico

Contrary to popular belief, CYFD cannot take custody of a child. A child in New Mexico enters and leaves substitute care through the court system. Law enforcement has the authority to place a child in substitute care for 48 hours, during which time CYFD will further assess to determine if the court must be petitioned for the child to remain in substitute care or if the child may be returned to the home of origin.

When CYFD receives a report of child abuse or neglect they will assess for further action by CYFD. At times, a report may be ‘screened out’, meaning no action by CYFD will be taken. This could be due to:

  • The alleged perpetrator is not a parent, guardian or custodian.
  • Not enough information.
  • Information relates to abuse or neglect that happened in the past.

If a report involves a child on tribal land, CYFD will cross-report to tribal law enforcement and tribal social services. CYFD also cross-reports all referrals to local law enforcement.

If CYFD ‘screens in’ a report, meaning the report is accepted for their further action, one of the following response times will be assigned:

  • Emergency: 0-3 hours.
  • Priority 1: 24 hours.
  • Priority 2: 5 days.

CYFD must meet the assigned response time and conduct an investigation. A determination will be made regarding the child’s safety. If the determination is that the child needs substitute care in order to remain safe, CYFD will coordinate further action with local law enforcement and/or petition the court.

For more information on CYFD click here.