ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Youths who would ordinarily have to fend for themselves as “adults,” after aging-out of the state’s foster care system at 18, will be getting a few more years of assistance from the Children, Youth and Families Department.
The Fostering Connections program will allow CYFD to provide such services as housing vouchers, help with job searches, access to food, medical and behavioral health support and assistance with money for college, up until age 21, said CYFD spokesman Charlie Moore-Pabst.
In most cases, young people in the Fostering Connections program will continue to work with the same caseworker they had while in CYFD custody, he said.
The idea, “is to support them through their first few years of being an adult, so technically we’re working with people who have the full rights and responsibilities of an adult, but still kind of fitting them into a foster care support system.”
CYFD Secretary Brian Blalock said in a news release, “We know that these young people’s peers are remaining home and receiving financial and other types of support from their parents well into their 20s. Children who have been in out-of-home placements deserve ongoing supports as they age into adulthood as well.”
Statistically, 40% of youths who exit the foster care system experience homelessness at some point.
“A main focus of Fostering Connections is to keep that homelessness from happening right off the bat,” Moore-Pabst said. “We’re helping to set them up for success in their early years.”
The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Candace Gould, R-Albuquerque, was approved during the 2019 session, with cleanup legislation passed in the 2020 session.
“Some of our most vulnerable children in New Mexico are those that age out of foster care at age 18,” Padilla said in the CYFD news release. “As a former foster child myself, I was proud to sponsor the legislation that provides extended foster care to the age of 21, which will provide critical support to these now young adults.”
Fostering Connections is being implemented on a gradual basis. Youths who turn 18 this year will be the first group eligible for assistance. The program is voluntary, and eligible youths may exit and reenter for services anytime through their eligibility period.