Like many of you, we at NMCAN have taken the past couple of weeks to reflect on our role in addressing systemic racism and how to best stand with Black communities that are leading change against oppressive policing and violence. NMCAN has been on our own journey toward race equity over the past several years to better support young people impacted by foster care, juvenile justice, and/or homelessness. This is an ongoing process of learning about our individual biases as well as unlearning the white supremacist ideology that our country’s systems and culture were built upon.
As an anti-racist organization, we assert that Black Lives Matter, and further, Black Lives are worthy and valued. We stand in solidarity with you and with this movement for lasting change, acknowledging we still have much to learn. Justice reform is at the heart of this fight, and the only path toward structural change is to completely reimagine the government systems that are meant to keep us safe. We know this because throughlines exist between the violence imposed on Black communities and the challenges that young people face while in and aging out of systems. These young people, most of whom are young people of color, are stigmatized and wrongly viewed as dangerous. In fact, the pathways that lead to increased interactions with the justice system are well-paved and illuminated due to the challenges within the child welfare system itself. These structural issues are connected, and NMCAN remains committed to partnering with young people and community to lead positive and systemic change.
But before we share what NMCAN is doing to achieve racial justice in systems and our community, we first want to speak directly to young people—
To all the Black, Indigenous, and people of color who have experienced violence within these systems: we see you. We are with you in this fight for justice. Please keep leading this movement as we commit to working alongside you. You are the leaders our country needs right now. Our goal to change systems is possible because of your ideas, strength, energy, power, and action.
As an organization that values authentic engagement, we know that a message of solidarity is not enough. We are clarifying our own role in advancing the current movement.
While NMCAN is not an expert in improving public safety, we lead positive change in the field of child welfare by partnering with young people, those who are most affected by systems designed to support them. With this in mind, we call on our local and state partners and leaders to thoughtfully engage with Black, Indigenous, and people of color as they rebuild a better system for public safety and address racial injustice. We ask them to analyze data disaggregated by race and ethnicity, where our taxpayer dollars are being budgeted, and how leaders spend their time. We advocate for investments in community care programs rather than bolstering police departments:
- Allocate funding for healthcare infrastructure, including non-coercive mental healthcare, wellness resources, non-coercive drug and alcohol treatment programming, peer support networks, and training for healthcare professionals. These services must be available for free to low-income people.
- Invest in support for all family structures.
- Ensure free, and more extensive, public transit, especially servicing marginalized and lower-income communities.
- Invest in youth programs that promote learning, safety, and community care.
In return, NMCAN is working on strategies from our 2020-2024 Policy Blueprint that align with community care priorities, shift the narrative of the child welfare system, and better support Black, Indigenous, and young people of color:
- Promote family-based placements for children and youth: Restorative, community-based alternatives that promote normal adolescent experiences should be favored over detention for juvenile justice-involved youth.
- Provide young people impacted by the juvenile justice system or homelessness access to the resources available to their peers in foster care: These young people face the same challenges as those in foster care, often having a history of trauma, neglect, or abuse. New Mexico should access federal funds to provide age-appropriate services to these young people.
- End policies that keep families out of schools: Disciplinary policies and practices that perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline by criminalizing children and stigmatizing parents who are poor or have experienced the justice system need to be eliminated.
- Improve transparency and data sharing between systems: Data must be disaggregated to identify racial, ethnic, and other disparities to inform strategies for eliminating inequities, and data needs to be publicly available and accessible. Comprehensive data collection and analysis should make it easier for families to navigate and obtain resources and not be used against them.
Thank you to the leaders of the current movement who are fighting for racial justice. NMCAN stands with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, and we are committed to the difficult and ceaseless work. We know this fight will be ongoing, and we are committed to approaching this work with humility, honesty, and collaboration.
NMCAN calls upon our valued community to join us. We need you to grow with us and help keep us accountable. We recognize and share your feelings of frustration and discouragement, but we ask that you move with us to a place of action. Together, with young people, we have the power and responsibility to drive positive change to advance this multi-generational movement to end police brutality against people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the many others before them.