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Children's Advocates Address State’s Low Child Well-being Ranking

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book, child well-being in New Mexico has fallen to last place. Advocates are looking at what can be done to improve child security in the state.GRAPHIC: Kids Are Counting on Us logo. Courtesy: NM Voices for Children.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book, child well-being in New Mexico has fallen to last place. Advocates are looking at what can be done to improve child security in the state.
GRAPHIC: Kids Are Counting on Us logo. Courtesy: NM Voices for Children.
September 24, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - When it comes to the well-being of children in New Mexico, the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks the Land of Enchantment dead last out of the 50 states. Child advocacy groups, including New Mexico Voices for Children, are focused on solutions to the problems that create that situation. According to executive director Veronica Garcia, concrete actions can be taken to address issues that affect child well-being.

She cited, "for example, children without health insurance. Nine percent of New Mexico's children do not have health insurance. We can restore outreach and enrollment programs for New MexiKids," she said. "Child and teen death rate; we can expand school-based health clinics."

Garcia is just getting started. Monday morning Voices for Children released a policy agenda calling for protection of SNAP funding, increasing LIHEAP funding for home heating assistance and funding for Independent Development Accounts, raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour and indexing it to rise with inflation, offering tuition waivers for foster children, and increasing federal HUD funding, among other things.

Garcia declared that while the problems pointed out by the ranking in the Data Book are real, they are not insurmountable. She said there is no single solution, but that she's seeking high-leverage initiatives, strategies that affect more than one outcome.

Those include, she said, "passing the resolution so that voters can decide whether to access the Land Grant Permanent Fund to fund early learning and care; enrolling more children in pre-K; getting access to health insurance: if I'm healthy it's going to affect a lot of these different outcomes."

Director Ruth Hoffman of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of New Mexico said her group is concerned about hunger, poverty and child well-being. The first thing she wants to do to move the needle on child well-being in New Mexico is increase the minimum wage.

"We need a living wage so people that work 40 hours a week can support their families and live without having to depend on other sources of income or programs," she stated.

Hoffman said opposition to an increase in the minimum wage is sometimes based on the idea that business will be hurt. She said she believes improvements in the living standards of New Mexicans will help the business community by drawing businesses to the state.

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM