By Evelyn Juarez, LANL Foundation Early Childhood Education Coordinator
Across Northern New Mexico and throughout the nation, grandparents and kin are taking on the life-changing responsibility of raising children, whose parents are unable to care for them for varying reasons. A report conducted in 2015 revealed that the number of New Mexican children being raised by grandparents and kin rose from 47,382 in 2005 to 55,259 in 2015. In addition, a report in 2017 revealed that this trend of grandparents and kin raising children has been significantly increasing over the past 30 years in New Mexico. We see the need and acknowledge that in order for New Mexican children to both be school-ready and reach their full potential, we must support those that have taken on the role of raising them.
To help address the needs and challenges of grandparents and kin raising children, the LANL Foundation is collaborating with community organizations such as Las Cumbres Community Services, Barrios Unidos, Family Strengths Network, Fostering Family, Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region, CYFD CARA Program, Growing Up NM, and several others who are already providing services and supports to grandparents/kin raising children in Northern New Mexico. Members from these organizations make up the Grandparents/Kin Raising Children Advisory Council, recently formed by LANL Foundation’s Early Childhood Program. The Advisory Council meets monthly, and its purpose is to improve the lives of grandparents/kin and the children they are raising by identifying, promoting, coordinating, and disseminating information, resources, and services in a culturally respectful manner to ultimately support their families’ individual needs.
In order to gain understanding into the unique needs of grandparents/kin raising children in Northern New Mexico, a needs assessment was conducted, distributed, and collected by the Advisory Council members. Their outreach allowed us to gain insight into both the strengths and needs of 80 Northern New Mexican grandparents/kin raising children households. The common areas of need amongst the surveys are the following: stipends for home repairs, transportation, legal fees, childcare, and basic necessities; respite; therapy/counseling for the grandparents/kin; therapy/counseling for the children in their care; education trainings; access to legal services, mentors and tutors for the children, and peer mentorship opportunities for the grandparents/kin.
In the winter of 2021, the LANL Foundation, through a generous grant from the Brindle Foundation, provided 100 emergency stipends, each for $300, to Northern New Mexican grandparents/kin raising children in need of financial assistance. The LANL Foundation has also been providing virtual education trainings on early childhood development, trauma prevention, and self-care.
The collective work by the Advisory Council will continue to be driven by the insight and needs of the community. The goal is for grandparents and kin raising children to feel seen, heard, understood, and supported by their community; and that through our community’s support, they feel and become prepared to meet the physical, mental health and educational needs of the children in their care, while also maintaining their own financial, physical, mental and emotional well-being.