Read the full settlement agreement here.
The settlement agreement sets forth a unique process that will unite advocates for children and youth with state agencies and nationally-recognized experts. It sets a number of specific and ambitious targets that CYFD and HSD agree to achieve in the coming years. Three experts on child welfare reform (the “Co-Neutrals”) will help reach the targets and will evaluate performance using data and input from the community. Each target will be evaluated until it has been met for at least 24 months.
The Co-Neutrals—Kevin Ryan, Pam Hyde, and Judy Meltzer—were selected by the Kevin S. litigation team and the state agencies for their expertise in the issues raised by the agreement as well as the process of turning around complex systems. The Co-Neutrals and the state agencies will produce public reports on settlement activities and progress toward achieving the targets in the settlement every year.
An implementation team made up of lawyers from Disability Rights New Mexico, Pegasus Legal Services, and Public Counsel will monitor the implementation of the settlement. Along with the Co-Neutrals, the implementation team will receive and analyze data from both state agencies and will seek input from community stakeholders as the implementation proceeds.
The targets are detailed in four appendices. They include:
A Trauma-Responsive System of Care
- Screenings, including a functional trauma assessment, to identify which children need intensive home-based services
- A cross-departmental training and coaching plan that will help staff understand the impacts of trauma and what they can do to support children who have been affected by trauma
- Access to trauma-responsive services, supports, and treatment for every child for whom the services are medically necessary
- Individualized planning meetings for each child—a process informed by Child and Family Teaming (CFT), collaborative decision-making, and High Fidelity Wraparound models
- A Quality Assurance, Improvement, and Evaluation plan to ensure capacity to meet children’s needs
Least Restrictive and Appropriate Placements
- A plan to increase recruitment and retention of culturally reflective, community-based placements, and to support children and caregivers
- A commitment not to place any children in hotels, motels, offices, or out-of-state providers absent extraordinary circumstances and an approval/notification process
- Joint clinical reviews of out-of-state placements and congregate care placements on a monthly basis
- A workforce development plan that will ensure that the system’s staff has the necessary qualifications, expertise, skills, and personnel
- Published guidance to prohibit retaliation against any person, including resource families, who raises concerns related to unmet needs of children in state custody or their caregivers
Indian Child Welfare Act
- A State ICWA law that mirrors and expands upon the federal version and that will be drafted with the Administrative Office of the Courts and with New Mexico Tribes and Pueblos
- Processes and procedures to promote traditional interventions as first-line interventions and services, developed with the input of New Mexico’s Tribes and Pueblos
- Federal funding for traditional and culturally responsive treatments, interventions, and supports, including non-medicalized interventions
- A plan to increase recruitment and retention of Native resource families
- A policy to provide or ensure provision of direct assistance for traditional ceremonies, including arranging for all preparation and providing payment if needed, if Native Children want to participate
Behavioral Health Services
- A Behavioral Health Care Workforce Development Review to expand provider capacity to provide community-based mental and behavioral health services with reasonable promptness throughout the State, and particularly in rural areas
- Regulations governing medication protocols to ensure that children in state custody are not overmedicated, and a clinical review process for all children prescribed psychotropic medication
- Incentives for providers to be trained in evidence-based, well-supported, and promising trauma-responsive services
- A joint process for offering services and supports include screening, assessing, referring, treating and providing transition services to children in state custody, including those who are not removed from their homes
- Notice to caregivers, legal representatives, and legal custodians whenever a service recommended by an Individualized Planning Meeting Team is reduced, modified, delayed, or denied, or if the service or is not approved within 10 days