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Report: New Mexico Child Well-Being is Better and Worse

New Mexico legislators are reviewing a new report on the state's dismal well-being of children as they start the 2018 lawmaking session. (wkkf.org)
New Mexico legislators are reviewing a new report on the state's dismal well-being of children as they start the 2018 lawmaking session. (wkkf.org)
January 16, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. – The well-being of New Mexico children lags dramatically behind other states, and a new report says the only thing that will fix the problem is policy changes by state lawmakers.

According to the latest report from Voices for Children, New Mexico has the highest overall childhood poverty level of any state.

The organization's deputy director, Amber Wallin, says New Mexico is one of the very few states that saw child poverty worsen in 2017.

"While we've seen improvements in some areas of child well-being for New Mexico kids, a lot of areas have worsened and those areas have been particularly bad for children of color," she laments. "So while we've made progress in some areas we still have a lot of work to do."

Wallin says New Mexico also has seen a boost in children attending preschool and those covered by health insurance. The databook from Voices for Children is released to coincide with the start of the legislative session and get lawmakers' attention as they vote on bills that affect children and families.

A national report issued last year said more than one-third of New Mexico's children younger than age five are living in poverty - more than any other state. Wallin says the 2018 elections could allow New Mexico a chance to get back on track.

"The opportunities coming up in the next year with the election of a new governor is a chance for us to change our story on child well-being in New Mexico," she says.

Wallin says one bright spot in the report is related to health care.

"So one of the areas where we're doing better - and doing better than the rest of the nation, actually - is the number of young children with health care, and that's largely due to the expansion of the Affordable Care Act in New Mexico," she explains.

The report also shows improvement in reading and math proficiency, on-time graduation rates and the teen birth rate.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM