Family Support and Early Intervention Division eNewsletter

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December 10, 2021

Welcome Letter

The Family Support and Early Intervention (FSEI) team is pleased to release our first division newsletter that speaks to our interconnected division programs, acknowledges the strengths and accomplishments of the workforce, elevates bureaus priorities, and provides information on agency events and resources. This newsletter will help you stay informed about the latest division news and its bureaus — Families FIRST, Family Infant Toddler, and Home Visiting.

The creation of the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department brought a one-of-a-kind opportunity that positions our state for the alignment and improvement of early childhood services and programs housed under one roof, where quality, access, and equity have become the driving factors of how we engage with New Mexico families and children. The FSEI division consists of three statewide systems that focus on early childhood development, health, and school readiness outcomes, and oversees early intervention, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C services, home visiting, and perinatal case management services. These systems serve the youngest populations in our state and provide support to families statewide, targeting the prenatal to age five population.

The early intervention, home visiting, and nurse care coordinator workforce make it possible for families and children to grow healthy, achieve key development milestones, build confidence and security, and be part of the ecosystem that prepares our future leaders for their engagement in society. Each moment that you spent with children and families paved the way for new opportunities because you believed, respected, and honored their individualism, cultures, and languages, and provided them with tools to support family dynamics. Thank you for being those change agents that inspire and reveal that anything is possible when one is connected, aware, and is supported.

You have made a profound difference in the lives of many New Mexico families and children, and your work doesn’t stop there. Not only have you been an important partner for children and families in our state, you became a hero as our country dealt with a public health crisis that brought devastating, unperceived changes and challenges to our lives. Thank you for always being a critical, creative, benevolent agent that our communities can count on. In closing, we look forward to providing you with the most relevant division news and creating this communication platform alongside you.


Division Director Family Support and Early Intervention
Mayra Gutierrez

COVID-19 Updates

Provider Q&A

Elizabeth “Beth” Sims has spent nearly 30 years working as a developmental specialist for children from birth to age 3 in New Mexico, including the past 27 years at Abrazos Family Support Services in Sandoval County. Over the years, she’s worked with hundreds of families and children across New Mexico, developing strong relationships, providing guidance, and overcoming challenges.  

Q: What led you to become a developmental specialist? 

I knew I wanted to work as a provider of early intervention services soon after receiving her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education. 

Q: Please tell us about the kind of work you do as developmental specialist. 

A: I help parents and guardians not only identify possible developmental delays and disabilities and then putting together a plan and strategies that best fit the family’s needs and goals, but, just as important, I hope to provide them with the confidence, knowledge, and skills to be the strongest advocates for their children moving forward. 

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced as a developmental specialist during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The first months of the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges for me professionally, especially the concern that I would not be able to continue providing services for families. Even the transition to providing services through an online format brought on a new set of worries, including learning how to use video conferencing tools to facilitate telehealth visits, as well as making sure the quality of the services I provide did not subside in a virtual environment.  

Q: What were some of the triumphs you overcame as a developmental specialist during the pandemic? 

I was so glad that our agency was able to still provide services, and now we are once again able to meet with families in person. On a personal level, learning how to conduct virtual visits has helped me reach out to families in more remote areas of the state.   


Program Message

We would like to express sincere gratitude to our FIT providers, who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to serve families and children. Specifically, we’d like to thank them for their generosity in sharing their perspectives with the FIT state staff – without their insights we would not understand the changing landscapes of early intervention as well as we do. 

We would also like to thank regional coordinators Hyacenth Sedillo and Sabrina Curry for so beautifully supporting our entire state as we work to build our team here at FIT. 


The Family Infant Toddler (FIT) program has been working diligently to improve relationships with families by becoming more aware of certain behaviors that may contribute to inequitable outcomes. The program started this process by inviting two experts on anti-racism to its annual meeting. The program is now continuing this important work by offering a series of sessions on equity through self-reflection.  

The following survey will help FIT better understand the interest and comfort level of providers to participate: 

In addition to equity work, the program is interested in supporting the relationships between FIT providers and their pediatric partners. The survey linked below is also available to gather more insight into the perspectives of FIT providers. A similar survey will be sent out to local pediatricians.  

Best Practices/Resources

November was National Native American Heritage Month. In the early childhood field, we can take an opportunity to reflect on the effects of colonizing culture and systems that have been sources of oppression for indigenous peoples. Below is a link to an article written by Dr. Joseph H. Suina, former Governor of Cochiti Pueblo, current Cochiti Pueblo Tribal Council member, Professor Emeritus in the College of Education at UNM, and Adjunct Professor at Colgate University in New York:  And Then I Went to School. 

FIT Program Support Team

Kathey Phoenix-Doyle – FIT Bureau Chief  


Leah Davidson – FIT Program Manager


Hyacenth Sedillo – FIT Regional Coordinator (SW/SE Regions)


Sabrina Curry – FIT Regional Coordinator (Metro NE/NW Regions) 



Families FIRST Program Message

Thank you to all Families FIRST staff for your ever-present hard work and continued belief in our program. The increase in caseloads, billing, and obstacles since the beginning of the pandemic has not made our jobs easy. Each day you all come to work with one goal in mind – to support our families and offer the best care and resources available to them. Your abundance of commitment to our work has not gone unnoticed, and it is with great honor and gratitude that we say thank you for all you do, Families FIRST. 

Program Accomplishments

Families FIRST adapted to the needs of New Mexico families by offering hybrid visiting options based on preference, including: in-office visits (subject to current public health order), televisits, visits to public venues with appropriate safety measures taken, and home visits.  

  • Families FIRST is excited to announce the expansion of services to Farmington, Grants, Gallup, and surrounding areas, increasing availability to indigenous families in need throughout New Mexico.  

Families FIRST attempted to contact 4,307 families across New Mexico: 

  • 1,223 familieswere unavailable
  • 541 families refused services 
  • 758 families enrolled in our program 
  • 369 families completed the full program 

Families FIRST completed 626 perinatal assessments in FY21 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021). Of the 194 newborns that were delivered during this time:  

  • 93% were born after 37 weeks 
  • 85% did not spend any time in NICU 
  • 91% did not spend more than three days in the hospital  
  • 90% weighed over 5½ pounds at birth 
  • 81% had no major complications  
  • 79% had a vaginal delivery 
  • 79% left the hospital breast and bottle feeding 
  • 45% left the hospital breast feeding only  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Families FIRST partnered with numerous organizations to support and educate New Mexican families in need:  

  • Safe Sleep to educate and promote safe sleep practices for newborns and infants.  
  • The Early Childhood Resource Task Force to help our families acquire diapers, wipes, sanitizer, and other essentials.  
  • Safer NM to distribute car seats to families in need in the Southwest Region.  
  • Children Are Born into Healthy Homes to help distribute 10 full bags containing items needed by families, including a $50 gift card.  
  • Women, Infant, and Children Program has continued to be one of Families FIRST’s biggest referral sources. We thank them for their continued support.  

Families FIRST nurses assisted the New Mexico Department of Health in reaching out to New Mexico families with more than 2,250 hours in support of the ongoing battle against COVID-19.These nurses helped educate and promote awareness of symptoms, as well as the need for testing and the vaccine. They also helped administer testing. 

  • CONGRATULATIONS to our very own Jessica Altamirano on her recent graduation from her Nurse Practitioner Program! We are very proud of you, Jessica!   
Best Practices/Resources

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year, we would like to share important education information regarding vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Below are the links to the English and Spanish educational flyers as well as the link on additional information from the CDC: 

Did you know perinatal case management improves pregnancy and infancy outcomes in conjunction with FIT and Home Visiting partnerships? Here’s how Families First can help: 

  • Families FIRST Program offers perinatal case management to expecting families and their children 0-3 years of age.   
  • Families FIRST promotes and supports well child checkups to increase children’s health and well-being. We can connect families with healthcare providers across the state.  
Families FIRST Program Support Team

Kristi Romero – Families FIRST Bureau Chief  –


Regina Sena – Families FIRST Financial Analyst Manager – 


Rebecca Garcia – Medical Biller – 


Kathy Brown – NW Region Coordinator –  


Jocelyn PerArdua – NW Care Coordinator –  


Anita Lozano- NW Care Coordinator –  


Renee Vukovich –NW Care Coordinator –  


Stephanie Crowder – SW Region Coordinator


Debbie Ulibarri – SW Care Coordinator – 


Nanette Victor – SW Care Coordinator – 


Cynthia Breedlove – SW Clerk –


 Diane Gaston – SW Care Coordinator – 


Marisa Boppudi – SW Clerk –  


Susie Arredondo – SE Region  


Georgina Apodaca – SE Care Coordinator/FF Tribal Liaison – 


Jessica Altamirano – SE Care Coordinator –  


Betty Thompson – SE Care Coordinator –  


Ester Perez – SE Care Coordinator –  


Rebeca Renteria – SE Clerk –  


Home Visiting Program Message

The ECECD Home Visiting team is grateful to the Home Visiting workforce, the UNM Consultation team, and the UNM Data Service team for their ongoing commitment, creativity, leadership, and quality services that support 5,697 families, with 6,456 children served during the pandemic. Your flexibility and creativity in creating a telehealth system has proven to be successful! All your efforts truly make a difference in the lives and families we serve.   

Program Accomplishments

The Ninth Annual Home Visiting Outcomes data report will be completed in January 2022.  Program accomplishments in the data reflect the outcomes of services provided to families during the COVID-19 public health emergency when direct services were provided completely through virtual means. Preliminary data has identified that many measures are at an all-time high in improving health and wellbeing outcomes for families receiving services.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved New Mexico’s waiver request to expand on its fourcounty Centennial Home Visiting (CHV) pilot program, which would offer Medicaid-paid home visiting services to more families across the state. CHV served 135 families in FY21 and is on track to serve 853 families in FY22. 

Home Visiting Program Support Team

Lou Ann Sanchez Lovato – ECECD HV

Bureau Chief – 

(505) 470-5321    

John Acuña – Home Visiting Manager/Monitor – 

(575) 202-7140   

Angelica Vanchaik – Home Visiting Manager/Monitor – 


Josephine “Josie” Salas – Home Visiting Manager/Monitor 



Connie Garcia – Home Visiting Manager/Monitor – – 

(505) 469-2618 

Best Practices/Resources

The shift to telehealth and data findings suggest that New Mexico home visiting has been able to reach families and provide services with fidelity – with clients often able to engage with programs more readily if participation was available virtually. The opportunity to incorporate telehealth has given us a new and creative way to reach families and provide more access. Utilizing the hybrid model to serve families is a resource we anticipate utilizing well beyond the pandemic.   

Upcoming Events

Sign up for Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) training for home visitors and supervisors, sponsored by NM ECECD. FAN training focuses on the concept of attunement through five areas of communication: Calming, Feeling, Thinking, Doing, and Reflecting. The training prepares practitioners to address parents’ concerns by matching their responses to parents’ cues observed in the moment, while the training prepares supervisors to address supervisees’ concerns by matching their responses to cues observed in the moment. 

For Supervisors, upcoming Level 1 training schedule: 

  • 1-4 p.m. on January 12, 19, 26 and February 2, 2022  
  • 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on January 25 and February 1, 2022 

For Practitioners, upcoming Level 1 training schedule: 

  • 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on February 14 and 15 

To register for FAN Training, click here. For more information, contact Mary Nowak at 

Please join us online from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on December 17 for the second in a series of monthly Zoom sessions to provide opportunities for statewide home visitors and managers to develop strategies to support nurturing home learning environments for children birth to 5 years of age. This month’s topic will be “Supporting Developmental Parenting During Mealtime Routines.” Click here to register.  

Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) online is offering enrollment in the Community Health Worker/Home Visiting Certification (CHW/HV) programThis 16-week course is completely online for the Spring 2022 semester. Space is limited! For more information, or to enroll, email Marisol Nevarez at 

Join Home Visiting and SFCC for a live informational session via Zoom at 11:30 a.m. on December 17 to learn more about the CHW/HV ProgramZoom link: