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Report: NM Foster Teens Thrive Better With Extended Care

On average, foster children and youths move seven times before age 18. (nmffc.org)  On average, foster children and youths move seven times before age 18. (nmffc.org)
On average, foster children and youths move seven times before age 18. (nmffc.org) On average, foster children and youths move seven times before age 18. (nmffc.org)
November 15, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico's foster children who lose their support systems at age 18 often struggle with long-term success as adults, according to a report out this week.

The report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation shows why older children and teens benefit from extended care.

In New Mexico, 15 percent of foster care children are age 14 and older compared with 25 percent nationwide.

Ezra Spitzer, executive director of New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks, says New Mexico foster youth who age out of the system often have problems with housing, employment and education because circumstances have left them unprepared for adulthood.

"All their connections to community and adults are broken from being pulled into that system and moved from place to place," he explains.

Spitzer says only 64 percent of the state's foster children earn a high school diploma, compared with 76 percent nationwide.

Leslie Gross, director of the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, says children of color in the foster care system are the most vulnerable.

"Young people of color in over half of the states are three times more likely to be in care than their white counterparts,” she points out. “They're more likely to have three or more placements while they're in care and they're more likely to transition out of care without a permanent family."

The primary goal of foster care is reunification of the child with the family, and 70 percent of children in foster care are reunited with their birth families or adopted by relatives.

But Spitzer says many of New Mexico's 2,300 children in foster care can't find a safe place because there aren't enough licensed caretakers.

"You know, the whole system, including foster parent training and support, is designed for younger kids so there's also not good support for foster families that want to take a teen, so I think that really has to get addressed as well," he states.

More than 70 children in New Mexico's foster care system are currently waiting for adoptive families.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM