Two years after New Mexico agreed to overhaul its foster care system in response to a lawsuit claiming it systematically re-traumatizes children in its care, the state lags on its commitments and is struggling to enact the required reforms. The settlement of the Kevin S. complaint, named for one of the plaintiffs, was lauded as groundbreaking when it was announced in March 2020 for its promise to create a “trauma-responsive” system of care that prioritized placing children in secure family settings. But child welfare advocates say the state’s delays in implementing many of the settlement requirements puts thousands of children in state custody at risk of further harm.
New Mexico’s child protective services department is set to receive a funding boost officials say will be used to improve services for foster youth, including creating more specialized placements for some of the state’s most vulnerable kids. During the 2022 New Mexico Legislature, state lawmakers approved a 9.4% funding increase for the Children, Youth and Families Department. CYFD, which asked for nearly $255 million for its general fund ahead of the legislative session, will receive approximately $230 million for its 2023 general fund operating budget.
New Mexico lawmakers passed a bill that strengthens protections for Native American children in state care. The New Mexico Indian Family Protection Act enshrines in state law key provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which gives preference to Native families and communities when it comes to fostering or adopting Indigenous children.
Child welfare professionals in New Mexico are applauding passage of a bill they say will improve legal representation for youth and families impacted by foster care. Advocates say that the creation of an independent Office of Family Representation and Advocacy will help families connect to higher quality — and better paid — legal aid.
Proposed reforms to New Mexico’s juvenile sentencing rules failed to become law for a second year in a row after the bill’s sponsors pulled it, saying the legislation had been amended “beyond recognition.”
An education policy expert has resigned her post at the New Mexico Legislature following a long-simmering controversy over remarks she made about Native American students in 2019. Legislative Education Study Committee director Rachel Gudgel announced her resignation last week, ending her tenure as a top nonpartisan adviser to lawmakers focused on education policy, where she earned around $130,000 per year.
A first round of pandemic aid payments to young adults transitioning out of foster care is expected to go out this month after New Mexico received $1.8 million from the federal government for the program. Information on the second round of applications—open to New Mexicans aged 21 to 26 who were involved in the state foster care system—will be available on the CYFD.org homepage in early August, according to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.
Child Tax Credit payments are a key part of Democrats' COVID-19 aid bill passed in March, but for policymakers they are more than just an attempt to help families recover from the pandemic. The monthly checks of up to $300 per child for millions of families are part of an ambitious attempt to shrink child poverty and rethink the American social safety net in the process.