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 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.
The New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD), which oversees child protective services, asked the state Legislature for a $41.5 million increase to its budget for 2023. CYFD requested $254,948,200 for its general fund, which makes up about 70 percent of its overall budget. It was given $213,423,200 for 2022.
When former New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retired from the bench in June, she didn’t know what was next, but one thing was certain: She wanted to pivot from presiding over cases of vulnerable communities to actively advocating for them.
The brutal abuse of a New Mexico toddler, allegedly by her parents, has pitted the state’s child protective services against the girl’s former foster mother, who sought help online after the child and her siblings went missing. The little girl, whose name is being withheld by this magazine, was abandoned at a North Carolina hospital with a fractured skull in October 2020—six months after she and her siblings disappeared following a trial home visit with their biological parents.