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NM Nature Kits Connect Foster Children with Court Advocates

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The 800 children living in foster care near Albuquerque are some of the first to receive a new therapeutic kit designed to help them manage change, uncertainty and trauma.

The city has rolled out "EcoCare Kits" as a tool to connect foster children to the healing qualities of nature.

Austin Adderholt, community outreach and recruitment manager for New Mexico Kids Matter, said the agency is always looking for new approaches in the foster-care system to benefit kids for the long term.

"What we're trying to do is make sure that we're introducing our foster kids to mindfulness and connection with nature, to help them cope with the trauma that they've been through," Adderholt explained.

New Mexico has been one of the hardest-hit states for children losing a primary caregiver due to COVID-19, according to a report by the Journal of Pediatrics. The report said along the U.S.-Mexico border, up to 67% of all children who lost a parent or caregiving grandparent identify as Hispanic.

Adderholt pointed out New Mexico Kids Matter is also working to see if the therapeutic nature kits have a positive impact for kids working through the court system.

"We're going to be giving them to our court-appointed special advocates, which are our CASAs, who are the advocates for the foster kids in court," Adderholt noted.

Three hundred kits were initially created. They contain a magnifying glass to study bugs; a bandana that serves as a board game; and an award-winning children's book, "Everybody Needs a Rock," set in the Southwest.

Dave Simon, director of the Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department, wants New Mexico children to discover nature is a lifelong gift.

"The thing about the kit that stands out is that we designed it so it could be used in natural settings," Simon emphasized. "But this kit can also be used in a child's backyard. We know that the immense healing powers of nature can help, no matter where the child is."

Simon plans to take the New Mexico-created kit to national conferences and hopes it will catch on as a national model for working with foster children.


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