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Background of Child Welfare in New Mexico

The history of child welfare in New Mexico springs back to 1636. It began on a voluntary basis oriented on the willingness of different social and interest groups to cater for the special needs of children (Sanders, 2011).  After this, children were placed in the almshouses together with their parents with the aim of raising children in the family-friendly environment and to remedy the challenges associated with the seclusion of children from their parents. This continued until 1935, when the representatives from twenty two countries in North and South America met in Mexico City for the Seventh Pan-American Child Congress. In such a way this marked the beginning of the structural formulation and organization of the child welfare system in New Mexico (Sanders, 2011). 

The period between 1940 and 1950s saw the Mexican government in partnership with women groups and private beneficent associations gradually rise, as centralized welfare systems gained root. The reconstruction of New Mexico to be a welfare-state led to the establishment of the state-supported organizations and institutions to cater for the needs of children (Sanders, 2011). This culminated into the establishment of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. The mandate of this newly created department was to provide various services such as prevention, intervention, rehabilitation and after-care services to New Mexico children and their families. Hence, this was the turning point in the child welfare issues in Mexico as the youth, children and families benefited greatly from this initiative.

The Impact of Child Welfare in New Mexico and Current Statistical Trends of Children on Placement

The establishment of Child, Youth and Families Department saw the child welfare programs grow to cater for the needs of children in New Mexico. For example, the child welfare initiatives led to a decline in the cases of child abuse and neglect. Children who are vulnerable to abuse have been rescued and put on foster care. It is estimated that approximately 2500 children in New Mexico are put on foster care daily (CYFD, 2009). This protects them from abuse, maltreatment and neglect from their families or due to their vulnerable conditions. Children become the greatest victims of domestic violence. The child welfare system in New Mexico has helped to rescue such children from the traumatizing environments by providing the alternative shelter and support services in temporary homes.

The establishment of the Children’s Trust Fund has seen families benefit from the state support to cater for the welfare needs of the children (Pecora, 2009). This has enabled families to meet the needs of the children and reduce their vulnerability to abuse or to delinquent behavior. Youth in conflict with the law have benefited from the probation and after-care services offered by the Juvenile Probation Officers. As a consequence, they are able to reform and serve their penalties without necessarily having to be in institutional juvenile corrections (Sanders, 2011).

The legal provisions for judicial administration of justice in cases where juveniles are involved have since been reviewed. This review has seen children in conflict with the law taken to juvenile correctional facilities and not in adult prisons (Gleeson and Craig, 1994). In these facilities, the children have benefited from education and rehabilitation. It is estimated that children in the correctional facilities in New Mexico were more likely to be successful in their education and were seven times more likely to reform. Of those that come into contact with the juvenile justice system, 65% were likely to reform and become self-reliant and productive members of the society (Sanders, 2011). Further, the institution of tough laws dealing with child abuse and neglect has seen these vice drop from a high of 56% to a low of 27% nationally within the first 5 years of the establishment of child welfare system (CYFD, 2009). Orphans and vulnerable children have also benefited from the child adoption programs that have seen at least 3000 children being adopted in every state bi-annually. Such children have benefited from permanent, loving, stable families, where they can develop as other children.

In the year 2009 in New Mexico, statistics showed that a total of 2009 children were in foster care. This represents a national decline of almost 23 per cent from the year 2000. In the year 2001, 511, 000 children were in foster care placements compared to 424,000 children in the year 2009 (CYFD, 2009). Thus, the United States in general has seen a fluctuation in the number of children in foster care, although in New Mexico, the trends have not been very consistent.

Family Preservation and Child Welfare

Family preservation refers to the comprehensive, short-term, intensive support for families that is delivered by agencies in the homes and designed primarily to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement for children and to promote family reunification.  Sanders (2011) cited that family preservation strengthens the efforts to promote and enhance child welfare in the families and the society at large. Most children become vulnerable to abuse, neglect, maltreatment and other antisocial behaviors such as truancy and delinquency due to the weak family structures and broken families. Family preservation is based on the evidence that when families are properly assisted and supported, they can care for their children well. Stable families are able to meet the needs of their children and in such a way enhance chances of children being with their families even during the difficult times.

Normal development of children is enhanced through the stable families. Family preservation thus enables parents and families to care for their children properly, while simultaneously maintaining the child safety at home. Although it may not fix all the family challenges that threaten child welfare, family preservation helps families to learn skills necessary to create and sustain a safe and caring environment for the functional growth and development of the child (Sanders, 2011). Services such as family counseling, parenting and other trainings empower families to better address the child welfare issues such as family budgeting, health, nutrition, enhanced child development, behavior management and cash assistance to caregivers. These initiatives contribute significantly to the family stability and enhance the promotion of child welfare.

Personal opinion about Child Welfare System in New Mexico

Child welfare system in New Mexico is better when compared to other states. This is because it is focused on addressing the factors that render children vulnerable to abuse and maltreatment. Hence, it adopts a preventive approach to addressing the child welfare issues as opposed to other countries that are more curative in their child welfare programs. Much of the resources that are mobilized for child welfare in New Mexico are used in supporting families to offer supportive environment to the children.

Just a small percentage of the resources are spent in running foster care services and institutional treatment of children in conflict with the law. This leaves a huge amount of resources to invest in family preservation and after-care services. Adoption and foster care is implemented in partnership with the private sector. Thus, the child welfare system in New Mexico differs from other states since all the programs are harmonized and coordinated between the state agencies and the private institutions and organizations. This has enhanced effectiveness and harmony leading to a decline in the number of children in need of care and protection, rehabilitation, adoption and foster care placements.

Conclusion

Though child welfare began clearly with the onset of the state welfare programs, it has gradually evolved. Child welfare in New Mexico has been curved around the preventive rather than curative approach to child protection. This has led to a gradual decline in the number of children being in institutional care placements. However, much more needs to be done in the area of family preservation given its great potential in effectively addressing child welfare issues in New Mexico. 

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