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.
A new law ensures that all New Mexico teachers with Native-language certification will be paid on par with other educators. Previously, their pay was decided on a district-by-district basis, with some full-time teachers making less than $20,000 a year. The new law was enacted as part of a Tribal Remedy Framework endorsed by all 23 of New Mexico's tribal nations that seeks to transform education for Native American children in the state.
New federal policies offer some immigrant children protection from deportation and an easier path to legal residency. However, full details on the extent of that protection have yet to be released. And many young immigrants will continue to face the dual challenges of coping with traumatic experiences in their home countries or along their journeys, while planning for their uncertain futures in the U.S.
Homeless youth in New Mexico, especially those under 18, face unique barriers to housing and services. “Even if there are kids just running away, there’s a reason they’re running away,” said Maya Fern, 22, a youth outreach coordinator for the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. Fern lived on the streets from 14 to 18 after fleeing abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend.