Suspect child abuse? What do you do next?

Recently, our community was shocked to learn of injuries inflicted upon a small child by an adult who was supposed to be caring for the child. 100% Otero members were also disturbed because these are the types of events 100% Otero is trying to prevent.

This incident made us realize how important it is for everyone to know what to do if they are aware of a situation where a child is being mistreated. If you think a child is being abused or neglected based on something you’ve witnessed, or a child has told you, it is your responsibility to report it to the appropriate authorities.

You do not need to have proof that abuse or neglect is occurring, only a reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion means that you have witnessed physical or behavioral signs of maltreatment, either in the child or parent/caregiver.

New Mexico law requires that every person who knows or has reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected in New Mexico must report the matter immediately to CYFD's (Children, Youth & Families Department’s) Statewide Central Intake child abuse hotline (1-855-333-SAFE [7233] or #SAFE from a cell phone), or to law enforcement or the appropriate tribal authority.

You may choose to remain anonymous when making a report. Any person reporting will be immune from liability, civil or criminal, as long as they have acted in good faith. However, reporters are encouraged to provide information about who they are, as it assists in the investigative process.

Once a call is placed, a SCI (Statewide Central Intake) referral is generated and a report is made. Based upon the allegations contained in the referral and the amount of information the caller can relate, the incident is screened and a priority level assigned. The investigation then proceeds with CYFD and /or with the appropriate law enforcement agency. In Otero and Lincoln Counties, the District Attorney’s office also receives a copy of all SCI referrals.

If deemed necessary and appropriate, child forensic interviews (commonly referred to as “safehouse” interviews) are conducted. Kid’s Inc. Child Advocacy Center in Alamogordo is one of 11 child advocacy centers in New Mexico that conducts these specialized interviews. These agencies seek to reduce re-traumatization of kids by eliminating repeated interviews and by bringing various services together as opposed to children and families having to go from agency to agency. Child advocacy centers, like Kids Inc., cooperate with law enforcement and other agencies to share information and coordinate appropriate responses.

Cambri Syling, executive cirector of Kids Inc. Child Advocacy Center, said “Pre-COVID, Kids Inc. processed well over 300 cases per year. During the pandemic we processed 200 cases per year or less.

"We do not believe that abuse actually decreased, it was just not being reported with children not attending school and other activities regularly and in person.”

According to Syling, 45% to 55% of referrals seen at Kids Inc. Child Advocacy Center generally involve allegations of sexual abuse. The balance of cases involve allegations of physical or emotional abuse, severe neglect, witnessing violent crime, etc.

Children can also self-report or report for a friend through CYFD’s program “Reach New Mexico” by texting 505-591-9444. Advocates will answer questions through text messages and connect children and teens with the support they need, 24-hours a day. If neglect or abuse is suspected, the worker will complete a report so investigators can respond.

It is important for every person in our community to take child abuse and neglect seriously. Untreated childhood trauma correlates with poor performance and attendance at school, lower graduation rates, failed relationships, time in jail, hopelessness, depression, and suicide attempts. The consequences of untreated childhood trauma, including abuse and neglect, can last long into adulthood.

Early reporting helps children, as well as families, get the interventions they need. With support, children may be able to stay with their family, often the ideal result. Support could include referral to a variety of services available locally such as food banks, behavioral health support, youth mentoring programs, medical/dental care, transportation, housing, and job training.

100% Otero, a part of the 100% New Mexico initiative, is working to eliminate childhood trauma by ensuring that 100% of families and residents have access to 10 vital services for surviving and thriving. 100% Otero consists of 10 teams, each focusing on one of these areas.

100% Otero is sponsored in part by the Anna Age Eight Institute, Con Alma Health Foundation and area partners. For more information about 100% Otero and the 100% New Mexico initiative, go to

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Suspect child abuse? What do you do next?