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NM Outpaces Nation in Child Placement

PHOTO: When it comes to placing children in foster care or with relatives instead of a group home or institution, New Mexico is doing better than the national average, according to a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report.
PHOTO: When it comes to placing children in foster care or with relatives instead of a group home or institution, New Mexico is doing better than the national average, according to a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report.
May 20, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico ranks above the national average for its efforts to place foster children in family settings rather than group homes or institutions.

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found in one recent year, 92 percent of the 2,100 children in the state's care were in a family placement, compared with a national rate of 84 percent. Amber Wallen, Kids Count director with New Mexico Voices for Children, says for many New Mexicans, family comes first.

"We attribute that to a very strong family-centric culture," says Wallen. "We think those ties are really strong and that family support system is really strong in New Mexico and that's at least part of the reason why we tend to fare better in this particular metric."

Wallen says having more foster families in the system and increased staff at the Children, Youth and Families Department could allow them to help even more kids. The Casey Foundation report calls on policymakers, child welfare agencies and family court judges to support decision-making that ensures the least restrictive placement for children.

Wallen adds group placements can cost 10 times the amount it takes to place a child with a relative or foster family. She says children in group homes and institutions also are more likely to be abused or arrested.

"So, it can be a disjointed experience for kids who are already facing harsh circumstances, and that could be part of the reason why they face those other challenges at higher rates," Wallen says.

The report found that in 2013, 84 percent of young people in the U.S. ages 20 and younger in foster care were in family placement. Fourteen percent were in non-family placement situations, such as group homes or institutions.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM