Meeting marked by hotline complaints

By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
shansen@qcsunonline.com
A presentation Wednesday by state child-abuse hotline leaders turned into a discussion between members of the Quay County Child Wellness Team and the hotline officials.

Sandra Gallegos, county office manager for the Statewide Central Intake hotline, SCI or “Sky,” fielded many questions from school and law enforcement personnel about the hotline and said Wednesday’s session was designed to collect complaints and comments about SCI to help it operate better.

QCS Photo: Steve Hansen Sandra Gallegos, county office manager for the Statewide Central Intake (SCI) facility that fields child abuse calls for the state of New Mexico, answers a question from Tucumcari School Superintendent Aaron McKinney, right, at Wednesday’s session between SCI officials and the Quay County Child Wellness Team.

QCS Photo: Steve Hansen
Sandra Gallegos, county office manager for the Statewide Central Intake (SCI) facility that fields child abuse calls for the state of New Mexico, answers a question from Tucumcari School Superintendent Aaron McKinney, right, at Wednesday’s session between SCI officials and the Quay County Child Wellness Team.

The most persistent questioning came from Tucumcari Municipal Schools representatives.

Tucumcari Schools Superintendent Aaron McKinney and Tucumcari Elementary School Principal Tonya Hodges had quite a few questions about how calls from school officials are handled by SCI.

Sometimes, McKinney said, teachers and administrators call and are disappointed that no action followed their calls.

At other times, Hodges said, teachers felt that they were being “interrogated” and were kept on the phone for more time than the teacher had for the call, only to be told that if they didn’t complete the call, their complaint would not be registered.

Gallegos said SCI operators must be thorough and ask a number of questions because reporting requirements are rigid and detailed, and they can seem to be prying.

Priorities are set for different situations.  An emergency will receive a response within three hours, she said.  A “priority one” case, urgent but not an emergency, will be acted upon within 24 hours; a “priority two” case will require five days.

“A call about someone being raped five years ago by a babysitter in another state will not get priority treatment,” she said, “but a child who claims to be raped by a friend will.”

Hodges said that in one case, she was calling twice a week to the SCI on a case without hearing of any action on it.

Gallegos said that particular case had taken over a year to settle.

Hodges and Matthew Montoya, an investigator for Tenth Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose, said the SCI responses had improved over the past year, however.

Hank Baskett, a forensic interviewer for the Oasis Children’s Advocacy Center in Clovis, said his agency has called SCI on occasion “and been kept on the phone for two hours” on a child abuse situation, only to learn later that law enforcement had dropped the case because in law enforcement’s view, no crime had been committed.

Montoya said the Child Wellness Team in Quay County has improved law enforcement response to child abuse situations.

SCI, she said, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  There are special numbers that law enforcement, CYFD and school officials can use to speed-dial the hotline.

In the past year, she said, SCI has handled 11,422 calls, 1,573 of which wer law enforcement matters. Another 587 calls were on Juvenile Probation Office matters.

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