NMCAN has celebrated significant accomplishments in the past year, and we thank you for helping to improve young people’s transition from foster care to adulthood.
From ensuring young people have positive advocates and mentors in their lives to the launch of our education project Back on Track to the passage of the Support for Transferring Students Law, you have been a valued partner in making progress for children and youth impacted by foster care.
Today, as we maintain this momentum, I am pleased to announce a timely journey for NMCAN.
We CAN as NMCAN
First, our organization has launched a new brand, and we are now simply NMCAN. We continue to be visionary champions for our community’s most vulnerable children and youth, and pride ourselves on having a systematic approach to improving the lives of those in foster care. However, our work has expanded beyond advocating for children.
In recent years, NMCAN has developed a significant partnership with young people who are aging out of care (ages 14–25). Projects for young people include mentoring, financial literacy, education and employment supports, and more. Previously known as Building Futures & Foundations (BFF), we learned that the BFF umbrella unintentionally segmented how we described our work. For example, young people play a critical role in the development and implementation of our programming. They also contribute to the technical assistance and training we provide Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs across the state, helping to inform others how to engage young people as true partners and utilize their lived experiences to improve foster care.
Authentic youth engagement is central to our work, and we seek to highlight this beyond our projects for young people. Moving forward, NMCAN continues to be the state organization for local CASA programs, and BFF programming remains the same. However, BFF is fully integrated throughout the organization. Now simply known as NMCAN programming, we aim to share the full depth and value of our approach with our entire network as well as the broader community.
Improving Experiences Across Systems
Second, in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, New Mexico ranks 49th in child well-being. We have remained at the bottom of this list for numerous years, and as an organization that works alongside the child welfare system, NMCAN must do more. We seek to leverage our knowledge from recent policy wins and effective partnerships to identify how to improve this outcome. NMCAN is increasing our efforts to proactively reduce the barriers that negatively impact young people’s lives. We will accomplish this by enhancing support for our Youth Leaders who will now, more than ever, play an active role in our systems change work.
NMCAN Youth Leaders is comprised of young people who have spent time in foster care and/or the juvenile justice system, and they guide our policy work. Our current focus is to advance NMCAN’s policy blueprint which prioritizes normalizing the foster care experience, accessing trauma-informed opportunities for success, and achieving permanence.
These young people are also informing how we can better serve young people who have experienced the juvenile justice system. In the past, NMCAN has consistently worked with those in the juvenile justice system because as many as 1/4 of youth in our projects also have or had active juvenile justice cases. In 2014, juvenile justice partners began approaching us to more deliberately serve these youth—they share similar trauma histories and challenges as those in foster care, and are ill-prepared for the transition to adulthood. We began to support them through Back on Track, and we will continue to collaborate with community partners to ensure all young people have the opportunity to pursue their education, careers, and personal goals.
In recent years, we began to assess how to promote anti-racist policies and practices across systems. We recently formed a working group of board members, young people, community partners, and staff to identify and implement a race equity framework to guide our work. This is relevant to our mission because young people of color are disproportionately represented within New Mexico’s foster care system and experience worse outcomes than their peers. Over time, we will initiate conversations with external partners to begin addressing disproportionality and structural racism within the child welfare system.
Same Staff, New Structure
Finally, in an effort to leverage our staff’s strengths for these strategic changes, NMCAN restructured the organization. Director of Programs Claire Canfield oversees program development and implementation. Director of Evaluation and Training Farra Fong leads our performance management process and evaluates our impact. Director of Policy and Advocacy Arika Sánchez develops and implements our agenda for systems change. Director of Advancement Lorilynn Violanta continues to lead fundraising, communications, and strategic partnerships. I am excited to continue to work with this dynamic team to pursue our new journey.
Please stay tuned for further updates as we share more details about this compelling and critical work. Or if you have any questions, please contact me at 505-217-0220 ext. 1001 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Throughout our history, NMCAN has been committed to providing innovative programming and effective advocacy for our community’s most vulnerable children and youth. NMCAN could not do this work without you, and we will continue to rely on our outstanding community of partners to accomplish our goals. Together, we will work with you to honor our history while also enhancing our mission to partner with young people to build community and lead positive, equitable change.