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City Rolls Out Therapeutic Nature Kits for Youth

EcoCare Kits aim to connect foster children to the healing qualities of nature

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Sept. 28, 2021

Today, Mayor Tim Keller, Director Dave Simon of the Parks and Recreation Department and Chief Harold Medina announced a new initiative spearheaded by the City’s Open Space Division to connect children in the foster system to nature. The Parks and Recreation Division will be working with New Mexico Kids Matter to distribute an initial amount of 300  EcoCare Kits to children who work with their Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).

“We know it can be difficult for children in foster care as they manage change, uncertainty, and often, intergenerational trauma,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “These kits are just one small tool to help with a transition, but they are wonderful ways for children and advocates to connect and to learn about the healing qualities of nature. That’s a lifelong gift that we know well as New Mexicans.”

“Every child deserves positive experiences with nature, which can have powerful educational and emotional benefits,” said Dave Simon, Director of Parks and Recreation. “We are excited about our partnership with NM Kids Matter to bring these benefits to some of the kids who need our support the most.”

NM Kids Matter’s CASAs are trained and supervised to gather information to make recommendations that help judges decide the best outcome for children in foster care. In Bernalillo County, there are approximately 2,000 children in foster care, and NM Kids Matter currently serves [INSERT NUMBER] of these children by connecting them to a CASA.

These new EcoCare Kits contain activities, coloring pages, worksheets, pamphlets, and a book among other items. These kits can be used in a public park, school yard or even a backyard, and serve as a tool for the child to connect to nature and engage more deeply with their CASA.

“The love that has been put into these EcoCare Kits is amazing,” said Veronica Montano-Pilch, Executive Director of NM Kids Matter. “The community has come together to add items to these kits that will provide positive life experiences for children. We hope many more community members will get involved, and even become CASA volunteers.”

The Parks and Recreation Department also announced it is working on creating stuffed toy Roadrunners that will serve as a mascot for the division, and will be distributed to the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque Fire Rescue, for children their responders encounter in traumatic situations.

“Children are our among our most vulnerable members of the community and as they go through the foster care system they are likely dealing with a great deal of trauma,” said Chief Harold Medina. “We want our youth to know our officers are there to help and through this effort, we can be the first step in the healing process.”  NM Kids Matter is always accepting volunteers to serve as CASAs.