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New Mexico Addresses Last-Place Status for Child Well-Being

New Mexico ranks last in child well-being, according to the 2013 Kids Count Data Book released today.Economic Well-Being map courtesy: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
New Mexico ranks last in child well-being, according to the 2013 Kids Count Data Book released today.
Economic Well-Being map courtesy: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
June 24, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico is holding down the last-place ranking for overall child well-being in this year's KIDS COUNT Data Book. The Data Book, which is released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has long shown the state in the lower 10, never ranking above 40. But this is the first time New Mexico has replaced Mississippi at the very bottom.

Veronica Garcia, executive director, New Mexico Voices for Children, explained what Mississippi is doing right.

"They have support for pre-K, and also they do better in terms of children not abusing alcohol and drugs," Garcia noted. "All of these issues, we believe, are outcomes of folks not graduating from high school - not starting off on even footing when they go to school. Investments in early learning can make a difference."

Despite the disappointing numbers, Garcia said, New Mexico can address some of its difficulties with future legislation and incentives to employers, and by committing to early as well as high school education.

The omnibus tax bill passed by the 2013 state legislature will be hard on New Mexico families, Garcia warned, because it gives corporations large tax cuts - money that could be spent better elsewhere. Even so, she said, planning now for the 2014 legislature could help alleviate some future stressors for families in the state.

"There's a couple of things we need to think about," she said. "One is to insure that we have completed or continued full funding for pre-K. I believe whatever we can do to stimulate the economy and create jobs is going to be important."

There could be good news for New Mexico's families in the form of the Affordable Care Act, Garcia added. However, she cautioned policymakers not to relax when it comes to health care.

"Even though we will be implementing the Affordable Care Act, I hope we pay attention to make sure there aren't any bureaucratic roadblocks that make it less accessible," she said.

Another factor that could contribute to child well-being in New Mexico is increased accessibility to adult basic education and GED programs, she added, because the educational attainment levels of children are often tied to those of their parents.

The 2013 Kids Count Data Book is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org.

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM