NM Struggles in Child Well-Being Report but Celebrates Positive Trends
Monday, August 8, 2022
Since 2020, New Mexico has been working to create a more cohesive, equitable and effective early-childhood system. But it could be a while before it climbs out of 50th place in child well-being.
The 2022 Kids Count Data Book shows New Mexico placed last in a 50-state report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, analyzing how children and families are faring.
The state launched its Early Childhood Education and Care Department two years ago, and Emily Wildau - Kids Count coordinator with New Mexico Voices for Children - said she believes it's making a difference.
"They've done a ton of work to make sure that more kids are in school, to make sure that more families can access child-care assistance to pay for it," said Wildau. "And we get a lot of states looking to New Mexico to see what we're doing in early-childhood education."
A recent study by WalletHub placed New Mexico in the top 10 best states for early-childhood education programs based on access, quality and the availability of resources and economic support.
The Casey report tracks a total of 16 indicators of child well-being, including issues such as child poverty, high school graduation rates and teen birth rates.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs with the Casey Foundation, said the increased financial support to families under the American Rescue Plan Act was significant.
"The expansion of the Child Tax Credit lifted millions of children out of poverty," said Boissiere. "When policymakers enact policies that we know lift families out of poverty, then children do well."
Wildau noted that New Mexico saw notable reductions in the rate of uninsured children and has seen a significant long-term decline in teen births in the past decade.
"Ten years it went from 53 births per 1,000 to 22," said Wildau, "so that's a really big drop in teen births."
New Mexico has one of the largest Land Grant funds in the country, and this November voters will decide whether more of it should be allocated to early childhood education.
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