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Child Welfare


Child welfare is a fairly young concept in the U.S. with the first organization focused solely on child maltreatment being formed in 1875. (You may be surprised to learn that the ASPCA was founded nearly 10 years earlier.)


Since that time, child welfare has come to mean both the formal government systems that investigate and intervene when children are maltreated by their caretakers and also the concept of healthy, thriving children.


The child welfare system in the U.S. consists of federal funding to state government agencies to collect reports of suspected child abuse or neglect, to investigate those reports, and to intervene to protect children if necessary. Interventions range from coordinating services for families to the removal of children into protective state custody: foster care.


In modern times, child welfare best practice has shifted between two competing focuses: reunifying children with their parents or seeking adoptive homes for foster children.


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Adverse Childhood Experiences

Beginning in 1995, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente began a longitudinal study of 17,000 U.S. adults living in Southern California (mostly white, mostly with at least some college education).  The participants received physical exams and answered a confidential questionnaire about the experiences that they had had in their childhoods, both positive and negative.


What researchers found was striking. High counts of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which include being physically or emotionally abused or neglected, were closely linked with a wide range of challenges in adulthood, including increased likelihood of perpetrating violence, abusing substances, suffering mental illnesses and physical diseases, lower educational achievement, and less earning power.


This study more than any other demonstrated the profound effect that child maltreatment can have on adults and the economy at large. Researchers continue to collect data with study participants, building a larger and larger body of evidence.


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Quick Facts
New Mexico

  • The government measures child abuse by the number of unique substantiated child victims per 1,000 children.

  • This figure does not reflect child victims of abuse that go unreported, un-investigated, or unsubstantiated. The "real" rate of child abuse is much higher.

  • The rate of child abuse/neglect in New Mexico is nearly twice the national average.

  • New Mexico is 49th out of 50 states in terms of child wellbeing indicators, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

  • Taos County serves roughly 70 foster children a year.


  • About a third of all children and over half of young children ages 0-4 in Taos County live in poverty.

  • More than 80% of 4th graders from low-income families cannot read proficiently.


  • 4th grade reading proficiency is a critical milestone, because this is when students no longer learn to read, but instead read to learn.

  • Not reading proficiently by the 4th grade means students are far more likely to dropout of school and not pursue a HSE (high school equivalency).

  • Colfax County has the second highest rate of child abuse/neglect in the state and over triple the state average.

  • Due to the small population and limited economy, there is a shortage of foster homes.

  • Most foster kids are removed from their parents due to drug-related neglect.

  • Methamphetamines is prominent in foster care cases - many children in foster care are actually babies who are born meth-addicted.


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