More than 300 early childhood program professionals and stakeholders gathered in Albuquerque for the first statewide New Mexico Home Visiting Summit. The event’s theme, “Raising Our Children, Elevating Our Profession,” reflected not only the effectiveness of expanding family support systems and bolstering child development through home visiting but also highlighted the need to further share knowledge and build the profile of the home visiting careers and those who are dedicated to these important caregiving roles.
A healthy pregnancy and baby are critical to the immediate well-being of a mother and child and integral to the long-term health and success of families and communities. Culturally responsive, quality home visiting is a proven, effective service-delivery model that involves a qualified professional who visits a child and parents, grandparents, or caregivers in their home to offer parenting support, developmental information, and connection with other programs. Services are offered during the most critical period of development in a child’s relationships, emotions, and brain—prenatally up to age three or five, depending on the individual program. Home visiting has shown to increase self-sufficiency, lower health costs, and improve school readiness in children, with the goal of being available to all.
In 2006, LANL Foundation expanded its education reach to include work in early childhood and home visiting. With funding, support, and at times direct program management, LANL Foundation helped replicate the locally developed First Born program throughout New Mexico to serve 17 counties. Advocacy efforts for home visiting also meant increased funding through the state legislature and support of other programs since then.
In the past, the LANL Foundation hosted a separate First Born home visiting conference, and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) provided a second professional development opportunity for home visiting. The idea to pool resources and partner on a single, more impactful event grew from interest and leadership within both organizations. After two years of planning, the NM Home Visiting Summit came to be.
LANL Foundation’s Early Childhood Program Director Anna Marie Garcia facilitated the collaboration and vision for the event among the hosting organizations: CHI St. Joseph’s Children, CYFD, and LANL Foundation. The planning and execution of the event would not have been possible without key committee members from supporting organizations: Native American Professional Parent Resources Inc. (NAPPR), Tiwa Babies Home Visiting Program of Taos Pueblo, University of New Mexico (UNM) Cradle to Career Policy Institute, and UNM Center for Development and Disability.
“We want our children to be happy, healthy. We want them to have friends. We want them to be grounded. We want them to do well in school,” Garcia said to the audience, opening the summit. “You are the ones who are helping to raise our children, you are raising the bar, and elevating the profession of home visiting.”
Alejandra Rebolledo Real, acting Director for Early Childhood Services at CYFD, echoed the sentiment, “We all have the same vision. We want the best for our children. To do so, it’s important to build a sense of community in this very unique profession.”
The two-day summit was hosted at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North on August 23–24, 2018, with the first day offered only to home visitors and program administrators. More than 200 caring, hard-working individuals were in attendance, ready to be inspired.
The keynote speaker was Frank Lopez, Director of New Mexico Programs for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a Michigan-based organization that works with communities throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Haiti to create positive conditions for vulnerable children to realize their full potential. WKKF provided grant funding for the LANL Foundation’s Early Childhood Pueblo Outreach Project that included support for the conference.
Lopez talked about “Strength in Taking Care of Self While Caring for Others,” an important topic for home visitors who devote countless hours of time and personal commitment to support families with a wide range of needs, a job that can be physically and emotionally exhausting in addition to its rewards. He shared stories from his experiences and encouraged the group.
“What is a miracle to some, is a reality for others. You are making miracles happen for our families. It takes work, and it is hard. How you stay strong when the work is overwhelming is the most important thing that you can do.”
Day two of the summit included an additional audience of 100 early childhood professionals and stakeholders beyond home visiting. In front a crowd of 325 eager learners, keynote speaker Ellen Galinsky, Chief Science Officer at Bezos Family Foundation and Executive Director of Mind in the Making, spoke of her research and work translating the science of children’s learning into action that promotes executive function and the “Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.”
Galinsky offered examples and resources to build cognitive skills and self-regulation that enable focus and self-control in children. She also pointed toward studies and the significance of children taking perspectives that involve empathy and conflict resolution; communicating to be understood and to understand others; making connections for creativity and application of knowledge; thinking critically to guide decisions and actions; taking on challenges to navigate uncertainty; and engaging in self-directed learning. These life skills, based in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, promote the autonomy of children and have the potential to help them succeed socially, emotionally, and intellectually throughout life.
Books, materials, activities, tools, and tips for parents and children to turn ordinary moments into collaborative, brain-building activities are offered on the Mind in the Making website (mindinthemaking.org), a free program of the Bezos Family Foundation (bezosfamilyfoundation.org). This nonprofit, founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos with support from their son, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, supports rigorous learning from birth through high school to enable youth to put education into action.
Galinsky stressed the role of collaborative partnerships and educating and empowering parents. Wanting the best for children often means that parents must examine their own behaviors. Setting goals may not be enough without a clear understanding of how to achieve their aspirations. A strategy offered by Galinsky is called WOOP, Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan (woopmylife.org), to increase success in fulfilling desired outcomes, anticipating challenges, and changing habits.
“We take an asset-based approach. Everyone has what it takes to spark brain-building moments,” she said. “We can’t fix things for parents, but if we really want to break through trauma, we have to focus on training adults to bring about real change. We can give children the tools and increase capacity for social, emotional and cognitive learning.”
Perhaps the most informative and inspiring work during the summit occurred during breakout sessions on both days. Local speakers led presentations and collaborative discussions surrounding groundbreaking work within home visiting, with the goal to deepen understanding of opportunities and challenges and better serve New Mexico’s families. Topic areas included trauma-informed practice related to substance use and historical trauma, culturally responsive services through the lens of diversity and privilege, an overview of home visiting programs throughout the state, family engagement, home visitor support, working with healthcare providers to increase referrals, empowering communities to achieve greater health, and recognizing and responding to child abuse and neglect.
“It was such a rich, dynamic, enthusiastic event, improved by the collaboration as a joint venture between CYFD and LANL Foundation, instead of two separate conferences, as it was in the past,” said Ruth Juarez, Research Scientist at the UNM Cradle to Career Policy Institute.
“It’s rare to go to a conference and want to keep going to sessions. This was a wonderful learning opportunity,” expressed another participant, feeling invigorated. “We can do so more work to seek out families and offer support.”
Early Childhood Program Associate RJ Martinez oversaw overall summit planning efforts, which ranged from leading meetings and coordinating details with the hotel to managing the budget and detailed event logistics.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work on this event with the planning committee and LANL Foundation staff. Not only did we have 325 people attend, more than expected, we also had representation from many of the Pueblos, thanks in part to the efforts of Jovanna Archuleta, our Early Childhood Pueblo Outreach Coordinator. I look forward to future events and building further collaboration and trust among home visiting programs throughout New Mexico,” said Martinez.
A large number of the breakout session speakers were coordinated by Rebecca Riley, Tribal Home Visiting Program Director at NAPPR and summit planning committee member. She was also a presenter on the topic of privilege. Her reflection set the stage for next year’s summit.
“We have a vision of what the profession of Home Visiting could be. With all of the research done, there’s still not a defined field of study for Home Visiting,” Riley said. “It’s about supporting the people doing the work but also validating that the work is working.”
Planning for the 2019 New Mexico Home Visiting has already begun with Dr. Bruce Perry, Founder and Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy, being discussed as a possible the keynote speaker. Details will be announced as decisions are made in the coming months. For additional information, contact RJ Martinez (email@example.com), 505-753-8890 ext. 144.
Rebecca Riley, Native American Professional Parent Resources, Inc. (NAPPR)
Rhonda Montoya, New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD)
Jamie O'Malley, New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD)
LouAnn Sanchez Lovato, New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD)
Dana Bell, UNM Cradle to Career Policy Institute
Ruth Antonia Ramirez, UNM Cradle to Career Policy Institute
Rachel Mitchell, UNM Center for Development and Disability (CDD)
Dianne Wagemann, CHI St. Joseph’s Children
Sophie Bertrand, UNM Center for Development and Disability (CDD)
Jody Mirabal-Coffman, Department of Health & Community Services, Taos Pueblo
Anna Marie Garcia, LANL Foundation
RJ Martinez, LANL Foundation
Andrea Multari, LANL Foundation