New Mexico Child, Youth and Family Secretary Barbara Vigil, who served as a cabinet member last month, plans to hire an outside agency to conduct a thorough review of the procedures intervention by his department following at least three violent child deaths this year.
More recently, Kiria Milton, 30, was charged on Monday with the murder of her one-month-old son, Waylon Padilla, in Valencia County. Although the child was not placed in foster care, the Department of Children, Youth and Families had previously been informed that Milton was hospitalized with mental health issues and her husband had taken custody of the boy and his older brother, according to a court document.
“Every time we have the death of a child, it is a serious incident in CYFD’s eyes,” Vigil said in an interview on Friday.
Under its current protocols, the department conducts a “critical incident review” and internal investigation into the deaths of any children whose families were involved in the CYFD, she said.
She wants to go further.
Vigil said she plans to contract an “outside and independent” organization to conduct a thorough review of the department’s policies and procedures to intervene when a child may be at risk for abuse or neglect, with the aim of determining ” if we need to make improvements. “
She had planned to pursue a third-party analysis of CYFD when she took office, said Vigil, a former state Supreme Court justice. But the death of Valencia County made it “more imperative” to get the job done quickly.
A criminal complaint filed in Valencia County Magistrates’ Court says MPs arrived at Milton’s home on Monday after she called 911 and told a dispatcher there was a dead baby in her room. Her husband was out of town at the time and she was “hysterical” when she made the call, according to the complaint. According to the document, deputies found the child with heavy bruises on his face and head.
State prosecutors’ petition for Milton’s pre-trial detention says she called 911 a week earlier because she was suffering from a nervous breakdown. She told a dispatcher that she “didn’t want to hurt the child” and needed help. Milton was hospitalized, according to the motion. Authorities contacted CYFD and Milton’s husband took custody of their two children – the 1 month old boy and a 4 year old boy.
After Milton was released from the hospital, her husband left town, according to the motion, leaving the baby and older boy in his care.
The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on the case.
“The boy was in the care of a parent / guardian and was not in foster care at the time of his death,” CYFD said in a statement. “The department is investigating, and once this process is complete, the department is authorized by law to provide summary information.”
Waylon’s death is at least the third suspected child abuse death in the state in 2021, CYFD spokesman Charlie Moore-Pabst said.
In September, Shaquille Ferguson Sr. was charged with the drowning death of his 5-year-old son, Shaquille Ferguson Jr.; Police believe the boy died in the Rio Grande in a Truth or Consequences park. A month later, Michael David Garcia of Albuquerque was charged with fatally abusing his 2-year-old daughter, Diana McGrory, according to court records.
Vigil said she did not know when her agency’s external review would begin.
“I think we need it as soon as possible,” she said.
“Now, how long will it take?” I’m not sure, “she added.” We probably have to go through a procurement process to make sure the contract meets all of our state’s requirements and then select a company to do it. . “
Moore-Pabst noted that the report’s findings and recommendations will be made available to the public.
State House Chairman Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, was unavailable Friday to comment on Vigil’s plans for a review of his agency.
State Representative Kelly Fajardo, a Republican from Los Lunas, said an external review of CYFD was “well overdue”.
“My worry is that it’s only lip service from a brand new secretary trying to dress up?” Said Fajardo. “We had very high hopes for [previous CYFD Secretary Brian] Blalock when he walked in, and he was a huge disappointment.
Fajardo said she praised Milton for trying to seek services for his mental health issue. “She had the courage to say, ‘I need help. “
“The CYFD has this ideology that a child should always be with its mother no matter what,” Fajardo added. “And we know that’s not always true.”