SANTA FE — Wednesday, the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) announced that it has issued another round of one-time payments to recognize the early intervention and home visiting professionals who continued serving young children and families throughout the pandemic.
This new round of payments also included stabilization grants to the businesses throughout New Mexico that provide early intervention and home visiting, as well as payments directly to families enrolled in ECECD’s Home Visiting program.
“New Mexico’s early childhood system is much more than childcare; it includes a spectrum of services that are vital to supporting young children with developmental delays and families with young children,” ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said. “Our early intervention and home visiting professionals showed incredible resilience and dedication as they continued serving families throughout the pandemic. These payments are designed to help improve workforce retention in the early childhood sector and stabilize service providers so that New Mexico can continue providing these valuable programs for generations to come.”
The ECECD Family Infant Toddler (FIT) program provides high quality early intervention services for children ages 0-3 who are experiencing or are at risk for developmental delays. The FIT program is ranked 3rd in the nation for identifying children in need of services. Early intervention services are contracted through privately owned and non-profit providers throughout New Mexico who employ a range of professionals including developmental specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and family service coordinators. At the outset of the pandemic, FIT providers pivoted to telehealth, innovating and adapting to help address developmental delays in young children.
ECECD awarded stabilization grants to all 34 FIT providers in the state of New Mexico totaling $1,880,245. ECECD also awarded one-time payments ranging from $1,200 to $1,500 to nearly 800 individual early intervention professionals, totaling $1,047,300. (Total FIT payments $2,927,545)
Families who are concerned that their child age 0-3 may be experiencing developmental delays can watch ECECD’s step-by-step video tutorial to FIT services (available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese) or call the referral helpline at 1.800.691.9067.
ECECD Home Visiting is a free relationship-based program for families who are pregnant or have children under the age of five. Home visitors, who are also contracted through non-profits and private providers, visit families in the convenience of their own homes to provide vital support, skills training, and resources for parents, including tips on safe sleep, breastfeeding and nutrition support, self-care, finding childcare, preparing for school, and more. Research shows that the kinds of supportive relationships that Home Visiting provides is crucial for the development of young children and helps lay the foundation for their lifelong well-being and success. In FY21, ECECD served 6,456 children in 5,697 families statewide and has secured approval to expand Medicaid-funded Home Visiting services from 135 families in FY21 to an estimated 850 families in FY22.
In recognition of their continued service throughout the pandemic, ECECD awarded nearly $1.5 million to Home Visiting staff and the families they serve. This included one-time payments to 343 direct service providers and support staff ranging from $150 – $1,750, totaling $459,505. In addition to payments to staff, ECECD issued support payments totaling $980,745 to 4,071 families enrolled in Home Visiting programs to offset rising living costs and incentivize continued family engagement and retention.
Families interested in receiving Home Visiting services can watch ECECD’s step-by-step video tutorial (available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese) or call the ECECD help line at 1.800.691.9067.
“When a child experiences developmental delays, the earlier they can get access to intervention services the better the outcomes are,” said Paula Seanez, Executive Director for Growing in Beauty, which provides FIT early intervention services to children in the Navajo Nation. “We knew we couldn’t stop providing these critical therapies during the pandemic, so we learned how to serve children via telehealth – which was very challenging for many of the treatments we provide. But by working closely with parents to teach them techniques and provide step-by-step guidance, we were able to ensure that the pandemic didn’t set a generation of Diné kids back in their development.”
“Being a new parent is tough under the best of circumstances,” said Julie Ballard-Soto, Director of Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico (CAASNM), a long-serving Home Visiting provider in Las Cruces. “But the pandemic was a major stress multiplier for the thousands of New Mexicans who were struggling to care for infants and young children these past two years. Home Visitors were a crucial support for parents during this difficult time, equipping them with the tools and skills to not only care for their children, but care for themselves as well.”
This new round of payments supporting the early childhood sector follows the nearly $160 million in stabilization grants – the single largest investment in childcare in state history – issued by ECECD to childcare providers and one-time payments totaling nearly $11.5 million to childcare professionals who continued caring for children throughout the pandemic.