- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico officials are working to create a more welcoming space for children taken from their homes because of abuse or neglect.

Leaders of the Children, Youth and Families Department want to buy or lease facilities in Bernalillo County to create a Child Wellness Center to house traumatized children during their first 48 hours in state custody, reported The Albuquerque Journal (https://bit.ly/1mzI92g ).

The kids often find themselves in a “spooky” office building without showers, proper bedding or other comforts before moving to a foster home, according to CYFD foster parent coordinator Sarah Palmer.

“The kids are afraid,” she said. “You’ve just lost everything - your parents, your toys, your dog, your next-door neighbors. The building isn’t that friendly. It’s spooky, and you’ve got a stranger saying, ‘It’s going to be OK, honey.’ “

The agency estimates that 900 of the estimated 2,000 children in state custody are in Bernalillo County.

A Child Wellness Center would also allow CYFD to consolidate office sites that are current scattered around the county, said CYFD secretary Monique Jacobson. It could also provide space for other agencies and nonprofits that help kids.

The new center should include beds, showers and a medical triage facility to help children “decompress” after a traumatic experience, said Jacobson. She said it should also have comfortable places where children and their parents can meet in a quiet, confidential setting.

“How do we create space that is warm and is loving?” she said. “How can we feel like we are wrapping them in a warm hug during this horribly traumatic time, rather than having them in an office building?”

CYFD is working with the state General Services Department to get proposals from property owners interested in leasing space for the center but hasn’t rule out the possibility of buying a building, said Jacobson.

CYFD originally planned to pay $10 million for the SunPort Corporate Center in Southeast Albuquerque, but dropped that idea after the Journal reported that the property sold for only $1.5 million last spring.

The administration of Gov. Susana Martinez said it was unaware of the previous sale price.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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