Governor Susana Martinez: Foster Care System Needs More Native American Foster Families
POJOAQUE — At a tribal forum held earlier today, Governor Susana Martinez said the state foster care system needs more Native American foster families. She met today with Governors and officials from several of New Mexico’s pueblos, the Navajo Nation, and the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and made a public appeal for more foster parents, particularly Native Americans. She asked Native American families and all New Mexicans to consider contacting the Children, Youth, and Families Department to learn more about the state’s foster care system and how they can help.
“We need members of all of our communities to come forward and help us take care of kids in crisis,” said Governor Martinez. “I hope that anyone thinking of playing a role in changing a child’s life will contact CYFD to learn more about what it takes, and then take the next critical step to say, I will do this. I will become a foster parent.”
Today’s meeting took place during CYFD’s Indian Child Welfare Conference at Pojoaque Pueblo’s Buffalo Thunder Resort. This 5th annual conference brings together caseworkers and child welfare professionals to discuss collaboration between the state of New Mexico and the various tribal governments in the state.
Federal law, through the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, requires state child welfare agencies to place Native American children in state custody in Native American foster homes. Governor Martinez and CYFD secretary Yolanda Deines affirmed today that they are fully supportive of the letter and spirit of the federal law. But, they say it’s challenging because of a shortage of Native American foster homes.
CYFD currently has sixty-five Native American children in care in Bernalillo County, but only three Native American foster families. There are fifty-two children in state custody in San Juan County, but only two Native American foster homes. In McKinley County, there are seventy kids in custody and CYFD works with 3 licensed foster homes and another ten homes on the Navajo Reservation.
To learn more about foster parenting, call CYFD’s foster parent recruitment hotline at 1-800-432-2075 or go online to CYFD.org to see when there is an orientation meeting near you.
The Fifth Annual Indian Child Welfare and Protection Conference includes participants from federal, tribal, state and private agencies who are involved in child and family welfare, safety and protection. Some of the 30 conference workshop topics include: Addressing the Needs and Best Interest of Babies in Protective Custody: Sharing the Infant Mental Health Team Model; A Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Response to Children; Tribal Customary Adoption: A State-Tribal Initiative; Culturally Grounded Strategies for Addressing Teen Dating Violence; Supporting Veterans and Families, and a special panel discussion exploring the idea of “sports as prevention” to include Wings Program Director, Dustin Martin and UNM Associate Professor of Exercise Science, Dr. Len Kravitz
A free public screening of the award-winning documentary film “Run to the East” will be held on the evening March 29, 2012 from 6:30pm to 8pm at the Buffalo Thunder Conference Center and the public is invited to attend.