So Thankful We Can Unite to Heal, Help, and Inspire
We’re grateful for the hundreds of New Mexicans engaged in the groundbreaking 100% New Mexico initiative who are strengthening a culture of caring.
Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello
When we started this journey to build a statewide system of care to ensure trauma-free childhoods, we did not know where our journey would take us. We were working underground, literally, in a basement office within child welfare with a data system held together by duct tape and exhausted co-workers with impossible workloads. As we have shared many times in our articles and books, we were stopped in our tracks by the high-profile child fatality in New Mexico which would become the catalyst for us writing the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment.
That was five years ago. We have much to be grateful for today, as Anna, Age Eight became the catalyst for the funding of the Anna, Age Eight Institute, focused on doing what had never been attempted in the nation: working with local champions to build a seamless system of care across each county to make sure children and families have access to ten vital services for surviving and thriving. We heard from skeptics, “That’s impossible, you won’t be able to fix even one service.” We ignored them and looked to visionary New Mexicans who believed anything was possible. In our world of 100%, the inspiring champions far outnumber the passive doom-sayers.
We also looked to Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to work with us as partners to design and evaluate our new 100% New Mexico initiative with the audacious goal of preventing adverse childhood experiences and social adversity in the form of barriers to vital services. We committed to measurable and meaningful work across 33 counties and shared our successes and challenges with every New Mexican. (Note: This blog post is emailed to every state, city, and county lawmaker and every school board member in New Mexico to invite dialogue and nurture partnerships.)
Today, the institute staff and our partners in fifteen counties know the challenges we are up against as old systems still let children fall through the cracks. We also know the opportunities to do groundbreaking work supported by inspiring local and state lawmakers and family-serving agency leadership. We know the challenges our kids and families endure each day. We know that mass media and social media distract and delude us and present a world of entertainment that lulls us into thinking, “everything’s fine” when uncertainty is our status quo.
Amid a society still feeling the pandemic-related disruptions of schools, campuses, healthcare, social services, and workforces, the good news is that the Anna, Age Eight Institute has grown into a movement to make every child a priority and launched an initiative powered by amazing and caring people with strong convictions and guided by social justice, fairness, and altruism. These are the folks putting the 100% Community model into place, following clearly outlined steps through a collective impact process with the shared vision of designing a seamless countywide system of health, education, and empowerment.
Our work is not abstract, and you can visit inspiring local 100% New Mexico initiatives from Taos to Doña Ana and from Curry to Socorro County. If you need signs of hope, you can see this grand social innovative experiment in action along with enlightening evaluation data on what works, what’s challenging, and what the workarounds are when confronting obstructionists holding on to the status quo, all part of an initiative inspired by an eight-year-old’s short life.
Amid our chaotic and divided US society, we see glimmers of hope growing brighter each day in New Mexico. We are mobilizing, innovating, and building new systems of health, education, food security, housing security, transportation, community schools, family center service hubs, job training, and more. County by county we are creating places of possibility where neighbors help neighbors and governments are designed to protect their people, not throw families and our most vulnerable residents onto the street.
As winter descends, connect with the uplifting and courageous work of community-building so that 100% of our children can thrive. We are grateful to be part of an initiative that brings together so many caring New Mexicans.
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The 100% New Mexico initiative is a program of the Anna, Age Eight Institute at New Mexico State University, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit annaageeight.nmsu.edu to learn more.