Administration Initiatives and Interagency Collaboration
Identifying Relative and Culturally Appropriate Placements
Children placed with kin experience fewer placements, more frequent and consistent contact with birth parents and siblings, fewer negative emotions about being in foster care than children in non-relative placements and are less likely to run away. CYFD continuously increased the percentage of foster children placed with relatives from 36.3% in April of 2022 to 37.7% in August of 2023.
In FY20, CYFD and the Second Judicial District also developed the state’s ﬁrst ICWA court. The court has a dedicated hearing ofﬁce, District Court Judge, Children’s Court Attorney, and Permanency Planning Unit. The ICWA unit will start working directly with the Tribal ICWA workers to collaborate on the recruitment and retention of Native resource families.
In 2020, CYFD created a Tribal Affairs division to include the expansion of the role of the Tribal Liaison to a Director of Tribal Affairs and the addition of Tribal Coordinators within the Behavioral Health Services, Juvenile Justice Services, and Protective Services divisions. This new division specializes in addressing needs of tribal families, identifying culturally relevant services, developing intergovernmental agreements, providing technical assistance to Tribes, and providing consultation and training for CYFD staff in their interactions with tribal children, youth, and families, the use of cultural compacts, and cultural considerations. This division is conducting a compliance review of all ICWA cases and developing procedures to ensure preferred placement, while also having out-of-preferred-placement reviews every 30 days until a child is in a preferred placement.
From July 2022 to Present (October 3rd, 2023), the Children Youth & Families Department’s Office of Tribal Affairs independently and in collaboration with other internal CYFD departments to include but not limited to Protective Services, Workforce Development Bureau, the Federal Reporting Bureau, the Office of Children’s Rights and Juvenile Justice Services consistently met with many Nations, Pueblos and Tribes (N/P/Ts). (See NM APSR FY24 at https://www.cyfd.nm.gov/resources/publications-reports for recurring and one-time meetings). The meetings have been with N/P/Ts governing body and leadership, social service departments, Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal social workers, tribal Indian Child Welfare Workers, tribal youth with lived experiences, tribal attorneys, national and locally affiliated child and family welfare programs such as Casey Family Services, New Mexico Tribal State Judicial Consortium, New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium, the NM Administrative Office of the Courts, the Corrine Wolfe Center for Child and Family Services, the Native American Training Advisory Committee with NM Heath and Humans Services Department, the All Indian Pueblo Council of Governors, and NM Early Childhood Education & Care Department to name a few.
The meetings have included both video conferencing and in person gatherings to collaborate, consult, discuss, train, review and develop policy and procedure and training curriculum. The meetings have focused and encompassed individual case consultation, family centered meetings, protective services issues such as compliance with statutory mandates of both the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Indian Family Protection Act (IFPA), training and tribal listening sessions. Some of the topics that were the basis of the collaboration meetings included notice, Qualified Expert Witness, active efforts, cultural compacts, cultural intervention and connectedness, investigations, placement preferences, permanency, recruitment and retention of native resource parents (foster parents), licensing procedures, cultural lifestyles, customary adoptions, implementation of policy and procedure regarding the IFPA, voluntary placement agreements, training, the OTA’s role, Title IV-E foster care, guardianship and adoption assistance agreements, Title IV-E administrative costs, cultural costs reimbursement, tribal technical assistance, Mobile Response Stabilization Services (MRSS), Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Additionally, CYFD through the OTA was also able to pay for a representative of each of the NM twenty-three (23) Nations, Pueblos and Tribes to attend the annual National Indian Child Welfare Conference in Reno, Nevada in April of 2022.
Supporting Transitioning Foster Youth
Youth who age out of foster care are more likely to experience homelessness, criminal behaviors, and mental health disorders than youth in the general population. Improving services to keep youth safe and prevent homelessness is a top CYFD priority. As previously reported, in FY21 CYFD expanded and reorganized its Youth Services Bureau into what is now called Fostering Connections to ensure the State’s ability to effectively implement Extended Foster Care and better support young adults, ages 21 to 26, participating in Aftercare. Youth and young adults impacted by foster care need and deserve a holistic relational-based approach to engagement that provides an effective safety net and a developmentally appropriate/identity affirming support system as they transition into adulthood. At the very end of FY22 and during FY23, Fostering Connections added additional positions in furtherance of our mission and commitment to provide quality services to older youth/young adults and created avenues for staff retention and professional development through promotional opportunities within the organizational structure.
Fostering Connections is committed to the creation and implementation of a child welfare system that meets the needs of youth and young adults by ensuring staff and stakeholder understanding of adolescent development, the impact of trauma, authentic youth-adult partnerships, and by identifying exposure gaps and providing access to opportunities that address these gaps and support young people to thrive into adulthood. Fostering Connections staff believes young people and their families are not simply clients but are powerful catalysts for change in their own lives and are partners in changing the systems that impact their lives. The Fostering Connections program aims to provide identity affirming and developmentally appropriate services to youth/young adults by implementing a practice model that is designed to authentically partner with youth and by operationalizing our values about older youth as outlined below:
- Partner with young people to strengthen their resilience, supporting them in moving beyond surviving to thriving.
- Eliminate racial and ethnic disparities and dismantle structural inequity experienced by young people involved in our systems.
- Belief that family, relatives, and communities’ matter and that young people define their own family.
- Young people know best what support they need and what the system needs.
- Ensure that all interactions with young people are trauma informed and developmentally responsive.
- Engage in authentic partnerships with young people and their families based in trust, humility, and transparency.
- Recruit, retain, and train employees and volunteers whose expertise builds on young people’s strengths and development.
- Belief that young people in care have a right to normative adolescent experiences, including the right to fail safely and try again.
- Highlight young peoples’ personal assets and do not focus on problem reduction.
- Support young people as agents in their own learning and development and as powerful agents of change in their schools, communities, and society.
As of July 1, 2023, CYFD has fully implemented extended foster care. Per New Mexico statute, the program was implemented over the course of three years, beginning July 1, 2020. In addition to those that age out of the foster care system, New Mexico’s EFC program also serves young people between the ages of 18 and 21 whose adoption or guardianship finalized through CYFD after the age of fourteen but the youth and no longer receives financial or emotional support from their parent/guardian. All young adults enrolling in the program are eligible for monthly housing maintenance payments, regardless of their Title IV-E status.
Sex Trafficking Survivors
CYFD also established an initiative to provide safe placements for youth under the age of 18 who are survivors of child sex trafﬁcking. CYFD staff are receiving training on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Identiﬁcation Tool (CSE-IT) to assess for risk or experience of sex trafﬁcking of minors. CYFD is collaborating with Bernalillo County to develop a Safe Home in that community for youth survivors of trafﬁcking.
CYFD BHS requested and was allocated capital outlay funds in the 2020 Legislative Session for a safe home for child survivors of sex trafficking. Additional expansion funds were allocated to CYFD BHS to designate for programming at this facility. The division identified the Casa Noreste facility in Albuquerque as the location of this program. CYFD BHS were also awarded capital outlay funds from Bernalillo County for the purchase of a home for child survivors of child sex trafficking. It previously secured programming funds for this facility. CYFD BHS are collaborating with Bernalillo County to identify a building to purchase for this program. CYFD continues to vet locations and have meetings with possible service providers. These facilities will offer a full array of services and supports to females and males ages 12 to 18 who have a history being trafficked.
Fostering Connections partners with Life Link and the NM Dream Center, New Mexico’s only programs for victims of human trafficking, to offer emergency and permanent safe housing, mental health and substance abuse services, and linkage to additional community resources for victims of human trafficking. Fostering Connections will continue to partner with Life Link to offer prevention and intervention resources to youth and young adults in New Mexico.
CYFD PSD, BHS, JJS and community-based providers have continued to partner to support and serve youth who are at risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. BHS has led the efforts in the implementation of the West Coast Children’s Clinic’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation – Identification Tool (CSE-IT). CYFD secured the training items needed to train direct service PS and JJS staff as well as PHS providers in the use of the CSE-IT in the coming year. In the upcoming state fiscal year, two residential facilities for commercially sexually exploited youth will be established and BHS continues to work with Bernalillo County to set up a Safe Home. The Safe Home will serve adult survivors of trafficking; eligible survivors will be able to remain for 90 days so that they can transition into the appropriate place of residence or service in a trauma informed manner. BHS continues in their efforts to establish a Safe Home for child survivors of sex trafficking who are between the ages of 12 and 18.
Services to Child Survivors and Witnesses of Domestic Violence
CYFD BHS provides funding, program support, oversight, and standards for immediate shelter and supportive services for survivors of domestic and dating violence and their dependents including specialized services for abused parents and their children.
Accounting for approximately 55% of all public and private domestic violence funding in New Mexico, CYFD-funded service providers served 10,800 survivors and their dependents in FY21. Supplementary funding supports the Children’s Capacity Building Project, which is an ongoing effort to enhance the quality and depth of responses to children in domestic violence programs throughout New Mexico. CYFD also provides oversight and funding for DV offender treatment programs, to reduce future incidents of domestic and dating violence and will be developing concentrated coordinated community response efforts in select communities in the coming years. One innovative project is the implementation of the Safe & Together Model in New Mexico, which focuses on culture change withing protective services to focus on the perpetrator pattern of abuse and partnering with protective parents. A pilot project in Doña Ana County dramatically increased communication and collaboration between the domestic violence service provider and CYFD Protective Services and has the overarching goals of reducing removals and increasing safety of children in families experiencing domestic violence.
In 2014, the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NMCADV) partnered with CYFD to increase trauma-informed services to families exposed to domestic violence. The goals of the Children’s Capacity Building Project (CCBP) are to assist and support children exposed to domestic violence in healing from the trauma they have experienced and to repair and rebuild the relationship between the non-abusing/protective parent and the child impacted by the abuse. The number of CCBP Sites providing domestic violence survivor service programs have increased from seven in FY15 to 36 in FY23. For a comprehensive list, visit https://www.cyfd.nm.gov/behavioral-health/new-mexico-domestic-violence-programs/cyfd%E2%80%90funded-domestic-violence-survivor-services-programs/
The services and programs geared towards serving Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are largely administered, monitored and/or supported through the CYFD BHS Domestic Violence Unit. The DV Unit, PSD and the Employee Training Division are, however, continuing to partner to successfully implement the Safe and Together Model within the State of New Mexico. Included in the implementation of the model, DV providers as well as the PSD field staff have participated in and will continue to participate in Safe and Together trainings. CYFD has planned to increase capacity within the entire state of New Mexico by providing scholarships for professionals to attend the North American Conference in May 2020; however, the conference has been postponed due to the COVID-19 related State of Public Health Emergency order issued by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.