CYFD: Secretary will not step down amid Omaree case

Posted at: 02/10/2014 1:28 PM
By: Elizabeth Reed,

CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines
CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines
Photo: CYFD

The secretary of New Mexico's Children Youth and Families Department will not resign amid controversy over a child abuse death investigation, a spokesman confirmed Monday.

Several religious organizations gathered on Sunday to sign a petition calling for the resignation of Secretary Yolanda Deines and two Albuquerque police officers involved in the Omaree Varela case. The 9-year-old boy was allegedly kicked to death by his own mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus.

But a CYFD spokesman says justice won't be served through this petition.

"Secretary Deines supports CYFD caseworkers who work on the frontline of one of the toughest jobs anyone could have. That's why she's fighting for pay raises for CYFD caseworkers, working to strengthen the child abuse reporting law, and supporting a preventive program to support families at risk for abuse," CYFD communications director Henry Varela wrote to KOB. "These are the efforts we should be working toward together and it would be more productive if this group puts their energy towards these efforts to help keep our kids safe in New Mexico."

CYFD said they did not have any open cases on Omaree's family at the time of his death, but court records show his mother had a long record of arrests and convictions.

Six months before Omaree's death, officers Gil Vigil and Scott McMurrough were sent to the boy's house in response to a disturbing 911 call, but they never filled out a police report or referred the case to CYFD.

Both officers are now on paid leave pending an internal investigation.

In response to the case, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has announced plans to start a task force focused on preventing child abuse.

State lawmakers have also introduced a bill that requires CYFD to take children who show specific signs of physical abuse into custody.