NM’s children ‘are not flourishing’

by Rick Nathanson, Albuquerque Journal
August 11, 2015

August is Child Support Awareness Month and New Mexico hasn’t been doing such a great job supporting its children, according to a survey conducted by WalletHub, which ranked the state 47th in the nation in its 2015 “Best and Worst States for Underprivileged Children.”

That places New Mexico at just slightly better than Georgia, Arizona, Mississippi and the District of Columbia.

The WalletHub survey was based on a set of 15 key “metrics,” or measurements, in three general categories – early foundations and economic well-being, health, and education.

“It all comes down to government resources at the state level, and if the state is providing children with such things as early education, access to health care, nutritional subsidies for low-income families, and other targeted services,” said Jill Gonzalez, a spokeswoman and analyst for WalletHub, the Washington, D.C., consumer-based personal finance website.

“Not providing some of these will obviously affect how underprivileged children either flourish or not. In the case of New Mexico, children are not flourishing,” she said.

The raw data used by WalletHub comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other highly regarded sources.

This latest WalletHub survey “is not surprising, but it is alarming,” said Veronica Garcia, executive director of New Mexico Voices For Children. “These rankings are more than measures of children’s outcomes, rather they are indicative of how we’ve failed our children” and how the state is “sorely missing a comprehensive plan to address child well-being.”

The state should not implement policies that worsen children’s hunger and food insecurity, and it should commit to “substantial and bold investments in early childhood education,” Garcia said.

Among items ranked:

• percentage of children living in foster care, .41 percent (ranking 14), or in single-parent families, 40.4 percent (ranking 48);
• percentage of children living in below poverty-level households, 30.2 percent (ranking 50);
• percentage of children lacking health insurance, 8.6 percent (ranking 40);
• percentage of “maltreated” children, defined as kids who are undernourished or victims of domestic violence, 1.3 percent (ranking 38); and
• percentage of children living with food insecurity, 28.3 percent (ranked 48).

For the full WalletHub report, go to  http://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-underprivileged-children/5403/

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