Today, Governor Susana Martinez marked Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month at a state-wide Multidisciplinary Team Summit by calling on every single county in New Mexico to establish a teamwork approach to child abuse investigations and response.
Governor Martinez has pushed for this approach since she took office, and directed the Children, Youth, and Families Department to work with local governments to establish Multi-Disciplinary Teams in every county in the state. More than 23 counties were represented at today's summit, where participants will learn how to set up MDTs in their own communities.
Multidisciplinary teams are agreements between various agencies that each play a different role in investigating child abuse and providing services to children and families where abuse has taken place.
"As a former prosecutor, I know how critical it is for District Attorneys, District Judges, law enforcement, and child protective services to work together to keep kids safe," said Governor Martinez. "Having MDT's in every New Mexico County is a great way to ensure that child abuse cases are handled efficiently and timely which is in the best interest of the child. I'm very encouraged by today's response."
MDT's are composed of various types of professionals such as law enforcement, child protection workers, prosecutors, medical professionals and forensic investigators. The teamwork approach encourages more communication between the different people involved in child abuse investigation.
The Multidisciplinary Summit provided an opportunity for members of current and potential MDTs to come together to discuss the benefits of MDTs in responding to child welfare cases and to learn how to run successful MDT's in their own counties.
The Summit was specifically intended to appeal to representatives of counties and other jurisdictions in various stages of MDT establishment. Members of active, potential, and struggling MDTs will come together to discuss the benefits of MDTs in responding to child welfare cases in New Mexico.
Creating multidisciplinary teams is a collaborative effort that is usually started by county CYFD Offices, Children Advocacy Centers, and or local District Attorney's offices that represent those counties. To date, there are eleven New Mexico counties which have fully functional MDTs and there are many other counties which are in the process or who are gathering information to start an MDT in their county. To start an MDT the organizer must recruit the county's District Attorney, law enforcement, and protective service workers from the county to be a part of the team. A member from a local child advocacy center would also be involved if available in that county.
The benefits of MDT's are that in cases of child abuse, the MDT's are able to collaborate on cases occurring in their county. For example, most MDT's will hold regular meetings to discuss current cases and inform each other on information related to the case. This helps reduce duplication in efforts, which generally leads to the case being handled in a time efficient manner and generally leads to better case outcomes. The other important factor is that the children being interviewed do not have to be interviewed multiple times, minimizing the trauma to the child from re-telling details of their abuse.
While the MDT's primary purpose is to help team members resolve difficult cases, the MDT also fulfills a variety of additional functions. A MDT promotes coordination between agencies; provides a "checks and balances" mechanism to ensure that the interests and rights of all concerned parties are addressed; and identifies service gaps and breakdowns in coordination or communication between agencies or individuals.
"Today's summit was a great opportunity for members of current and prospective multidisciplinary teams to come together to share ideas, listen to experts and explore ways to expand throughout our state" said CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines. "Governor Martinez and I have worked together for many years and have always used the teamwork approach in our child abuse work. Through her leadership, we will take this to every corner of the state and create better outcomes for our kids."
Governor Martinez also encouraged the public to use CYFD's #SAFE hotline to report child abuse in our communities. New Mexicans who believe a child is being abused can call #SAFE (7233) from a cellphone, or 1888-555-SAFE (7233) from a land-line.
More than 100 participants from 23 counties, including District Attorneys, District Judges, CYFD representatives, law enforcement, and the Safe House/Children's Advocacy Center Network attended today's Summit.
Today's Summit was hosted by the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), Administrative Office of the District Attorneys (AODA) and the Children's Advocacy Centers of New Mexico.