During the upcoming 2019 Legislative Session in Santa Fe a report as House Memorial 94, will be presented to state legislators, compiled by the Taskforce on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG). The Task Force has been in existence since 2015, and in 2018 a Senate Memorial (SM 94) renewed the Task Force and its important work. Las Cumbres Community Services continues to partner currently with New Mexico Voices for Children, Pegasus Legal Services for Children, Outcomes, Inc., the State's Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), MCH Family Outreach, New Mexico KIDS, Parents Reaching Out (PRO), SHARE New Mexico, the NM Public Education Department, Health and Human Services, and the Attorney General's Office as well as members of the community who are social workers and/or grandparents raising grandchildren to address the needs of grandparents in their "devoted efforts".
Last year's SM 94 Taskforce was called upon to "study and recommend concrete policy changes that could be implemented to expand the availability of resources and assistance to grandparents raising grandchildren, including financial resources; legal services; food and housing assistance; and programs relating to medical care, child care, transportation, and education. The report includes recommendations as follows in select areas. Check back soon for a link to the Report in its entirety here.
1) Resources and assistance is provided through numerous different systems and (system) agency staff is not trained to serve them.
Recommendations: appropriate funds in the amount of $200,000 to encourage community-based statewide organizations develop supportive services; ensure that Income Support Division (ISD) case workers are trained on the elegibility of GRG and the grandchildren themselves for public benefits; that each ISD offfice have an identified expert on the elegibility of GRG, and the grandchildren themselves for public benefits.
2) GRG face income and other barriers to accessing subsidized childcare.
Recommendation: Amend the NM Adminstrative Code to make grandparents and other kinship caregivers eligible for child care subsidy regardless of income or their status as legal guardians.
3) There is often no opportunity to plan in advance for the addition of children to the household; grandparents need immediate help to navigate the multiple systems.
Recommendations: Make Medicaid case management services available to GRG; ensure that when grandparents take grandchildren into their homes they are not threatened with eviction from public housing authorities.
4) When GRG attempt to enroll their grandchildren in school they are sometimes turned away, even though Federal Law guarantees these children the right to enroll immediately.
Recommendations: Insert the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act into state law; appropriate state funds to supplement funds received through federal McKinney-Vento Act to ensure comprehensive training annually of school personnel with specific focus on rights of children being raised by grandparents and unaccompanied youth; appropriate state funds to create a fully staffed office at the Public Education Department to promote and support access to education for children and youth who qualify as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act.
5) GRG identify legal services as a top priority, but current resources are not adequate to meet the need.
Recommendation: Ensure GRG have access to legal services by increasing the current appropriation to the Department of Aging and Long Term Services by an additional $100,000.
6) The long-term success of grandparent headed households depends on access to quality behavioral health services, but the State's behavioral health system is in disarray, especially in rural areas.
Recommendation: The Taskforce realizes that to address the problems and inadequacies of NM's behavioral health system is beyond thier scope of work; still they express deep concern and lend support to other efforts currently underway such as the John Paul Taylor Taskforce.
Further concerns are outlined in the Report addressing the role of CYFD in supporting GRG during abuse and neglect investigtions when a biological parent places their child(ren) in the care of grandparents; gaps in requirements between Kinship Guardianship Act and CYFD requirements when a child is a risk for abuse and neglect; and the placement of little value on the relationship of GRG to their relationships to children leading to complete loss of contact between family members and children in CYFD custody. Recommendations include creation of a workgroup composed of CYFD personnel, grandparents, and legal and community advocates.
More about select members of the task force can be found with the following links: Pegasus Legal Services, the Parents Reaching Out, and Outcomes, Inc. Resources under scrutiny include programs include encouragement around involvement with housing authorities to assure grandparents of equal and available housing options and enforcement of McKinney Vento.
Las Cumbres' Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program was launched in January 2012 and continues to serve families in Northern New Mexico with agency groups currently meeting in three counties, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, and Taos.