In a followup to our last column on the dire need for foster care in New Mexico, in this column we share opportunities to help young people endangered in their own homes in our community.All foster …
In a followup to our last column on the dire need for foster care in New Mexico, in this column we share opportunities to help young people endangered in their own homes in our community.
All foster homes in Taos County are currently full and have been at capacity for awhile, according to Melissa Montoya, local county office manager for New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD). There is a particular need in outlying communities, like Questa and Peñasco, where CYFD wants to keep children in their own hometown, with their familiar schools and other connections. But without enough foster homes this isn't always possible.
Another critical shortage is finding foster parents willing to take in teenagers. Currently, there are 14 teenagers in shelters around the region, not in foster homes. "Teens need good role models and stable homes," said Montoya. "We know the right people are out there, we just need to get them into this program and pair them with teens in need."
The other great need is placement for sibling groups - brothers and sisters who had to be removed from their home to be safe. Montoya said the agency would prefer to place siblings in one home, to keep the family unit intact as much as possible, but space constrictions often preclude that.
Taos County currently has 23 licensed foster or adoptive homes, Montoya said - eight are open to all placements, nine are relatives of their foster children and six others are foster parents open to adopting.
There are three kinds of foster care in New Mexico:
Regular - day-to-day foster care.
Specialized - day-to-day care for children who require extra time and attention due to medical, behavioral or emotional problems.
Respite - short-term care for children placed primarily in another foster home, to give primary foster parents a break.
To begin with, potential foster parents complete a four-to-six month free qualification process to become a state-licensed foster parent. This includes initial 32 hours of training and a home study, with 12 hours of continuing education annually. (There's an additional 20 hours training for "Specialized" foster care.) Candidates must be a New Mexico resident, 18 or older, can be single or married and able to pass a fingerprint federal and state criminal record check. There are financial reimbursements available, so having a limited income shouldn't be a barrier for someone who might make a great foster parent.
They can also be a relative of a foster child. "CYFD works hard to seek out relatives willing to step in and take the responsibility of caring for a family member," said Montoya. "They may also become adoptive parents."
Training sessions are eight hours on each of four Saturdays in August (offered again in October) at the Taos CYFD offices on 1308 Gusdorf Road. There's an informational meeting Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m.
Ezra Bayles, division director for Taos Pueblo Health and Community Services, shared, "Taos Pueblo is working with a coalition of Tribes in the state on a general set of Foster Care Licensing standards that would meet the requirements of the Federal Foster Care (Title IV-E) guidelines. Taos Pueblo will then be able to take these guidelines and tailor them, to some extent, to make them appropriate and suitable to the community. This will allow Taos Pueblo families to become foster care providers in a manner consistent with Taos Pueblo values and customs." Taos Pueblo will share more as this develops.
"Foster care is a very rewarding experience to make a difference in people's lives," Montoya said. "Kids thrive with structure and stability, and a foster home can provide that."
Help youth in our community, visit CYFD.org/Foster-Care or call Taos CYFD at (575) 640-1653.
Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; reeducation BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; shelter; and a community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888 or go to taoscav.org.
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