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Report Ranks New Mexico 49th in U.S. for Child Well-Being

PHOTO: New Mexico ranks 49th among states for the overall well-being of its children, according to new a report that looks at such indicators as health, education and family financial stability. Photo courtesy Fairfax County, VA.
PHOTO: New Mexico ranks 49th among states for the overall well-being of its children, according to new a report that looks at such indicators as health, education and family financial stability. Photo courtesy Fairfax County, VA.
July 23, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The overall well-being of children and financial health of their families in New Mexico ranks second-lowest in the nation, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book rankings from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The research considers a child's economic stability, health and education, as well as family and community. Dr. Veronica Garcia, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said what alarms her most is that nearly two-thirds of young children in the state are not enrolled in preschool.

"We need to make some bold investments in the early years," she said, "where the research shows that it makes the most difference in improving overall child outcomes in general."

Garcia said New Mexico ranks 43rd in the nation for enrollment of 3- and 4-year-old children in preschool programs.

She cited a significant amount of research showing that a quality early education can play a major role in a child's long-term educational and lifetime success, and added that New Mexico's ability to compete in a growing global economy also is dependent upon developing an educated workforce.

"If we want an educated workforce and we want to see a thriving economy, then we need to ensure that children have a strong early start when that brain architecture is being built," Garcia said.

Garcia said increasing funding for preschool and early childhood education should be a top priority for Gov. Susana Martinez and state lawmakers, who often say that creating jobs and growing New Mexico's economy is their top goal.

Only Mississippi ranks lower than New Mexico in the Kids Count report.

The report is online at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM