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Advocates for NM Families See Chance to Improve Kids' Lives

Once again, New Mexico ranks last among states for overall children's well-being, but advocates for children say state lawmakers made some progress this year to help reverse the trend. (savethechildrenactionnetwork.org)
Once again, New Mexico ranks last among states for overall children's well-being, but advocates for children say state lawmakers made some progress this year to help reverse the trend. (savethechildrenactionnetwork.org)
June 17, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico is once again ranked 50th out of the 50 states for child well-being in the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book, compiled by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

But children's advocates see opportunities for improvement.

The rankings are based on four factors – economic well-being, education, health, and family and community – and this is the third time New Mexico has ranked last in the nation.

Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children, says it will take sustained investment to undo the damage from a decade of under-funding of programs that serve families.

"We're seeing big disparities for our children of color,” she states. “And this is really problematic, especially in New Mexico, because 75% of our kids are children of color. But we also think we've made a lot of progress this legislative session in trying to create some opportunities for our kids."

Wallin points to the $450 million that the legislature appropriated for K-through-12 schools. It's a significant increase, but only returns the state to its pre-recession funding level.

Lawmakers also voted to increase the state's Working Families Tax Credit, which benefits more than 200,000 children each year.

Leslie Boissiere, the Casey Foundation’s vice president of external affairs, says states that embrace these types of earned-income tax credits can help lift families economically.

"Last year alone, 6 million people benefited from the credit,” she points out. “It's a proven program that allows families to have more access to the wages that they earn, and that allows them to provide more for their children."

In the report, New Mexico ranked 50th in the areas of education and family and community, 49th in economic security and 48th in health.

There were some bright spots – the child poverty rate has dropped slightly and the teen birth rate is less than half what it was in 2012.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM