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KIDS COUNT: Few Gains for New Mexico’s Children

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July 26, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - As the Land of Enchantment continues its struggle to recover from economic losses during the recession, a new report says that struggle is affecting the state's children.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that 30,000 more children in the state have slipped into poverty during the past seven years - a number greater than the populations of Deming, Taos and Truth or Consequences combined.

Christine Hollis, New Mexico KIDS COUNT program director, cites at least one bright spot in the report.

"We've managed to keep the low-birth-weight baby rate pretty much the same, and we have improved in terms of child and teen deaths. Those seem to have gone down."

Hollis says these positive signs are not enough. She would like to see more state support for financially stressed families and the continuation of programs and services that help them.

Health indicators represent the only positive news in the report for New Mexico, she says.

Hollis says the state is losing ground in education. Seventy-five-percent of the state's eighth graders are not proficient in math, she says, and the numbers are even more discouraging when it comes to reading.

"We are dead last in New Mexico among the states. Almost 80 percent of our kids cannot read as they should by fourth grade."

The national Data Book also found evidence that children who live in a nurturing and caring environment from birth to age 5 will do better socially and emotionally, with improved language and learning skills.

Hollis says the information in the report will be made available to policymakers, including the governor and members of Congress. She hopes the election year will help spur people in power to action.

"This is the time for people to be asking those running, 'what are their thoughts, what are their ideas and potential solutions?' "

The KIDS COUNT Data Book is online at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM