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Report: New Mexico's 'Kids Count,' But Not as Much as in Other States

July 25, 2007

New Mexico is falling behind the rest of the nation when it comes to children's quality of life, according to this year's "Kids Count" report, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. New Mexico Voices for Children Director Eric Griego says the slight improvement isn't nearly enough.

"We need to make this our top priority. We need to say that our kids are as important as any other kids in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Minnesota. If we're not there for our kids in terms of the funding for state government and programs, then who should we be spending that money on? I think it's a wake up call."

Griego notes the 2007 Legislature dedicated new money to programs for children, and he hopes that will improve our state's ranking, but much more is needed. The ranking is based on indicators including child poverty, high-school graduation rate, health coverage and child death rates. While more New Mexico teens are graduating high school, the child death rate in the state was 40 percent worse than the previous year.

Romaine Serna, spokeswoman for the state Children, Youth and Families Department, says the data comes as no surprise, but the state is making progress.

"We continue to have struggles and challenges, but if you look at this past legislature where there was more money appropriated for childcare, that is definitely a step in the right direction."

Serna adds the state has also added more case workers to respond to child abuse and neglect. The 2007 Legislature also approved a raise in the state minimum wage, more money for health care and a state earned income tax credit, which all benefit low-income families.

The report is at www.kidscount.org/2007databook.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM