New Mexico Child Welfare Advocates Make Last-Minute Push on Education Bills

The New Mexico House of Representatives’ legislative session wraps up over the weekend, and child welfare advocates are trying to push for votes on two bills related to the education of youth in foster care.

‘Time is of the essence to get these bills to a vote on the House Floor before the session ends at noon tomorrow—Saturday, March 16th,” said an e-mail circulated by Jenny Pokempner, Senior Attorney for the Juvenile Law Center. Advocacy on these bills is being led by the New Mexico Child Advocacy Network (NMCAN) and includes numerous youth and young adult advocates.

One bill, Senate Bill 341, would mandate that credits transfer with a foster youth when they switch schools while in the system. The educational stability of youth in care has been a key subject in child welfare advocacy since the 2008 passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Among other things, that law required child welfare agencies to more closely track the academic progress of foster youth, and ensure that they had a chance to remain in their school of origin if that was what they wanted.

The other bill, Senate Bill 251, would remove a college-related barrier to permanency for some youth in the system. Currently, a youth who was permanently placed with a relative caregiver would not be eligible for a college tuition waiver, which creates an unintended incentive for the child to remain in foster care. SB 251 would simply make youth in a finalized guardianship arrangement eligible for the tuition waiver.

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