FosterEd has launched a new demonstration site in Lea County, New Mexico. New Mexico joins California, Arizona and Indiana in creating county-based demonstration sites based on a partnership between local agencies and FosterEd. Demonstration site staff implement a model with three evidence-based components: “Education Champions” – parents, relatives or volunteers committed to supporting the youth’s education, education case planning, and education support teams comprised of the adults involved in each student’s education. FosterEd demonstration site staff, called “education liaisons,” build structures of support for foster youth using these three components in varying degrees, in accordance with the unique needs and capacity of each demonstration site.
The new site had its genesis in December 2012, when New Mexico’s Supreme Court established a Joint Education Task Force. The Task Force, co-chaired by Senior Justice Petra Jimenez Maes and Governor Susana Martinez, was charged with recommending inter-agency strategies for addressing the educational needs of children and youth in the State’s custody. In April 2014, the Task Force released a report and one of the primary recommendations was to partner with FosterEd to develop a FosterEd: New Mexico education liaison demonstration site and use it as the basis for a statewide FosterEd program.
In the summer of 2014, FosterEd committed to working in New Mexico and formed a state leadership team comprised of senior staff from New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), Public Education Department (PED), State Supreme Court and Governor’s Office. This leadership team guides and oversees our work in New Mexico. At their request, we investigated Bernalillo, Valencia, Lea and Dona Ana Counties as possible FosterEd: New Mexico demonstration sites. In the spring of this year, our New Mexico leadership team recommended selecting Lea County for a number of reasons, including:
- The population of children in the State’s care in Lea County is representative of the state as a whole;
- The county has a number of large towns as well as rural areas, representative of the state;
- The county has both large and small school districts, also representative of the state;
- Tremendous local excitement at the prospect of partnering with us on this project;
- A history of successful inter-agency collaboration;
- Strong probation, child welfare, education and judicial leadership;
- Republican elected officials likely to champion this program in the state legislature; and
- The County is a strong base of support for the Governor.
At any given time, Lea County is home to approximately 65 school-age foster youth and 65 students under probation supervision. We plan to begin implementing the FosterEd: New Mexico demonstration project in January 2016, with an implementation period of two years. Over that time we anticipate serving approximately 150 foster youth and 150 probation youth in Lea County. Collaborating with the regional CYFD office, school districts, juvenile courts and community agencies, our staff will serve every student in the State’s care in Lea County, ensuring their educational strengths and needs are proactively identified, each has an educational champion with the capacity to support their success in school, and each is supported by an interdisciplinary education team.
FosterEd New Mexico’s Lea County Demonstration site will be led by Amy Dunlap, a Licensed Master Social Worker with many years of experience working in the child welfare and mental health systems.