Child Advocates Caution against Reinstating Food Tax

February 4, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—Dr. Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, issued the following statement regarding legislation (SB 281) that would reinstate the gross receipts tax on the purchase of food for consumption at home:

“We are deeply concerned that legislation has been introduced that would increase the cost of buying groceries for New Mexico families. While we agree that the state must raise new revenue in order to adequately fund programs and services that are vital for our families, communities and economy, this would be the worst possible way in which to do that.

“It should come as no surprise that New Mexico is in this current budget crunch. For well over a decade we’ve been cutting taxes for the wealthy, out-of-state corporations, and special interest groups. We were told these cuts were necessary in order to create jobs, but those jobs have never materialized. Instead, the cuts simply drained away money that is needed to properly fund services such as education, health care, and public safety—and now those services are being cut. Some of the deepest cuts are to behavioral health care, school-based health centers, and higher education, and Medicaid is being underfunded. To continue these tax breaks in the face of evidence that they don’t work, while the state desperately needs new revenue, is irresponsible. To replace this lost revenue by taxing something that is critical for human life is unconscionable.

“There are several bills before the Legislature that would raise revenue without imperiling the health of New Mexico’s children—legislators could repeal the ineffective income tax deduction for capital gains (HB 220 and HB 79), return some fairness to our tax system by raising the rate on highest income earners (HB 255 and HB 126), freeze the phase-in of the corporate income tax cuts enacted in 2013 (SB 252 and SB 90), and tax all goods purchased through the internet (SB 22). We hope the Legislature chooses one or more of these bills instead of taxing food.

“Last year, New Mexico Voices for Children conducted a health impact assessment on the food tax and found that the tax could harm the health of New Mexico families, many of whom already struggle to put enough food on the table. It would impact those who receive SNAP because the benefits are neither enough, nor intended to meet a family’s entire food needs. Even with SNAP benefits, school meal programs, and food pantries, low-income New Mexicans still must skip about three meals a week. Middle income New Mexicans would also be harder hit by a food tax than would the wealthiest New Mexicans.

“New Mexico has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, the highest unemployment rate, and the third highest child food insecurity rate. We know that poverty is a hindrance to learning, and this was even confirmed by a report on the school grading system that the Legislative Education Study Committee presented just yesterday. Why would we do anything that could make child poverty and hunger worse?”

The Health Impact Assessment of a Food Tax in New Mexico, referenced above, is available online at http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/HIA-report-updated-web.pdf

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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KIDS COUNT Report: NM has Highest Rate of Child Poverty in Nation

January 19, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

State must address disparate outcomes by race/ethnicity

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico has seen some improvement in child well-being—particularly in teen birth rates and on-time high school graduation rates—but not everything is looking up. The state now has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, according to the 2015 New Mexico KIDS COUNT report, which is set for release at a press conference this morning. While child poverty is down slightly—from 31 percent in 2013 to 30 percent in 2014—other states have seen bigger improvements in child poverty, leaving New Mexico dead last in this indicator.

“Child poverty is at the root of all of New Mexico’s poor outcomes for children,” said Amber Wallin, MPA, KIDS COUNT director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which publishes the annual report. “We will not make significant gains in educational outcomes and economic well-being until we make addressing child poverty our top priority.”

The 2015 New Mexico KIDS COUNT data book, which is released every year on the first day of the legislative session, tracks the same 16 indicators of child well-being that are used to rank the 50 states. New Mexico ranks 49th in child well-being, behind Mississippi. The annual state rankings are part of the national KIDS COUNT program, which is run by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“In tracking these 16 indicators, we do show some promise,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices. “In large part, these bright spots mirror national trends, particularly with declining teen birth rates and increasing on-time graduation rates. Still, we can point to some state policies—most notably the switch to comprehensive sex education beginning in the 6th grade and the high school redesign—that likely played big roles. We’ve also seen big gains in health insurance coverage for children, which is due to the federal Affordable Care Act. So while the overall picture isn’t very positive, it’s clear that we can improve things when we have the collective will,” she added.

The areas in which New Mexico did worse include the rates of children living in high-poverty areas and low birth-weight babies. The state has seen a steady increase in the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas—where overall poverty is 30 percent or higher—as well as in the number of babies who are born at a low birth-weight. Babies born weighing 5.5 pounds or less are at greater risk for developmental delays, disabilities, chronic health conditions, and early death. In addition, New Mexico has not seen much positive long-term change in preschool enrollment. “Preschool enrollment for 3- and 4-year-olds took a huge dive in 2010 and we’re just now getting back to pre-recession levels,” Dr. García said.

The data book also looks at the role of race and ethnicity in child outcomes. “Almost without exception, non-Hispanic white children have better outcomes than children of other races and ethnicities in all 16 indicators,” Wallin said. “Addressing these disparities has to be a high priority when three-quarters of the state’s children are racial or ethnic minorities, yet it’s not an issue that appears to gain much traction in Santa Fe.”

The report also recommends that lawmakers take a two-generation approach to child poverty—that is, funding programs that help parents improve their educational and economic lot (such as adult education programs like I-BEST) as well as funding programs that primarily address children’s needs (such as pre-kindergarten).

The 2015 New Mexico KIDS COUNT data book will be released on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 at a press conference as part of Celebrating Children and Youth Day. The press conference, which begins at 10am, will include a State of the Children and Youth address, presented by youths from various organizations.

The 2015 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book is available online at: http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2015-NM-KC-data-book.pdf

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KIDS COUNT is a program of New Mexico Voices for Children and is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Funding in LFC Budget Request for Medicaid, ECE Disappointing

January 8, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico Voices for Children, which advocates on behalf of the state’s low-income children, released the following statement regarding the Legislative Finance Committee’s budget request for fiscal year 2017:

“While we’re pleased with the funding increases in the Legislative Finance Committee’s $6.47 billion budget request, we find that it falls short in the areas of health care and early childhood care and learning. While the budget request increases spending in both areas, these vital services will still fall short of meeting the need.

“The LFC budget recommends $78.8 million in new funding for Medicaid, and while this is more than the Governor requested, it is still nearly $10 million below what the agency requested. What’s more, the agency’s request already accounted for $100 million in cuts to the health care program.

“Medicaid, which is funded in part by the federal government, is an economic engine, and the newly expanded program accounts for the sole bright spot in the state’s current economy. Failing to fully fund it will likely harm the state’s economy, as well as jeopardize the health of New Mexico’s low-income children, seniors and adults.

“The budget requests for early childhood care and learning programs—primarily home visiting, child care, and pre-kindergarten—are also disappointing. While funding is up, we are only now reaching 2010 enrollment levels for services for preschool-aged children. These programs are proven to do everything from prevent child abuse to improve educational outcomes, and full expansion should be a top priority for anyone wanting to improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans.

“New Mexico’s children are the future of this state, and we cannot hope to improve our educational outcomes, child well-being, and economy until we are fully funding the programs that ensure they have the right start in life.”

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Report: Food Tax Could be Detrimental to Health of Low-income NMs

Assessment of food tax shows costs could outweigh benefits

November 24, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—Reinstating a tax on the sale of food for consumption at home could harm the health of New Mexicans who are already food insecure—meaning they don’t always have enough to eat. And while the revenue generated from a tax on food could be used to mitigate some of the damage the tax would do, the report finds that it is unlikely governments would spend the new revenue toward that end.

The child advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children released their report, “A Health Impact Assessment of a Food Tax in New Mexico,” today in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The report looks at three possible outcomes of a food tax: that families would maintain their current food purchasing patterns, leaving less money for other necessities such as medication and health care; that families would spend the same amount of money on food, but be able to purchase less of it (or substitute less-expensive, less-nutritious foods); and that state or local governments would collect more revenue, which could impact their spending patterns.

“When all is said and done, taxing food will hurt those New Mexicans who are already hurting the most,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices. “Almost a third of our state’s children don’t get enough to eat—even with school meals, SNAP benefits and food banks. How can we, in good conscience, expect them to do with even less food?

“While most New Mexicans will be celebrating Thanksgiving with abundant food, we must remember that many, many New Mexicans who don’t get enough to eat, not just during the holidays, but all year long. We hope lawmakers will keep these children and their families in mind if they debate food tax legislation,” she added.

The report is a health impact assessment (HIA), which follows specific protocols. Among them is a review of academic literature, research and data, and interviews with stakeholders. For the stakeholder interviews, NM Voices held three focus groups around the state—in Albuquerque, Vado and Gallup—in which New Mexicans who were low-income, food-insecure, or eligible for SNAP benefits talked about how they thought a tax on food would impact them.

“The focus groups were very informative and really brought the whole tax issue to the level of real people and the problems they already face,” said Amber Wallin, MPA, who was the lead author of the HIA. “People talked about having to decide between buying food and paying the electric bill or buying their prescription meds. Some talked about having to buy cheap, filling—but not very good-for-you—food just to have something to eat. And even though a food tax might cost a family just $25 more a month, one participant talked about how $25 is a small fortune when you don’t have a penny to your name.”

Quotes from the focus group participants and other stakeholders are included in the report, along with demographic information about New Mexico’s food-insecure and low-income residents. The HIA also looks at how tax revenue could be used to improve health outcomes. “Based on current spending patterns, however, it is very unlikely that revenue from a food tax would be spent in such a way that would mitigate the harm done,” Dr. García said.

It is likely that legislators will consider taxing food during the upcoming 2016 legislative session. A food tax has been discussed as a way to allow cities and counties to recoup some of the revenue they are losing since the hold harmless payments from the state were changed in an omnibus tax bill enacted in 2013. A food tax has also been discussed as part of a tax system overhaul that would result in a lower gross receipt tax rate overall.

The HIA was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The full report (http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/HIA-report-full-web.pdf) and executive summary (http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/HIA-report-exec-sum-web.pdf) are available online.

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Five NM Child Advocates to Be Honored at Annual Spirit of Hope Gala

State rep, pediatrician, community college administrator among the honorees

Nov. 10, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—Five New Mexicans who have spent their lives working on behalf of some of the state’s most vulnerable residents will be honored at the Spirit of Hope Awards Gala on November 21, 2015. The annual event is a fundraiser for the child advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. The honorees are:

  • Kathie Winograd, Ed.D., President of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM)
  • Lance Chilton, MD, an Albuquerque pediatrician who taught at University Hospital
  • Representative Luciano “Lucky” Varela, who serves Santa Fe County in the state Legislature
  • Ted Martinez, who has served on the APS school board, Director of the UNM Student Union, and President of TVI (now CNM)
  • Mary Dudley, Ph.D., a long-time early childhood specialist and advocate

Dr. Winograd will receive the Alice King Public Service Award, Dr. Chilton will be honored with the Patty Jennings & Polly Arango Citizen Advocacy Award, Rep. Varela will receive the New Mexico Legislative Advocacy Award, and Mr. Martinez and Dr. Dudley will both be honored with Spirit of Hope Awards.

“Our annual awards celebration is always so inspiring because we honor and talk about the work of such truly dedicated and hard-working individuals,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., Executive Director of NM Voices. “The awards have a dual purpose, in that they also honor three outstanding New Mexicans who dedicated so much of their own lives to making New Mexico a better place to be a child.”

Dr. García is referring, of course, to Alice King, the former First Lady, who is credited with numerous changes to how the state deals with children in trouble and in crisis; Patty Jennings, the late wife of former Senator Tim Jennings, who worked to get laws passed around disability and health insurance issues; and Polly Arango, who advocated for better support systems for families with special needs children, often working alongside Patty.

This year’s celebration is marked by the issuance of a new award—the New Mexico Legislative Advocacy Award. “We’ve honored numerous legislators in past years, but we decided to make legislative advocacy its own award category this year,” said Dr. García. “Our state legislators work tremendously hard for no pay and often little recognition, so we felt that those who are champions for children deserved their own award.”

KOAT TV reporter Nancy Laflin and former state Senator Eric Griego will emcee the event, which will include a poetry reading by Jimmy Santiago Baca and a performance by Mariachi San Jose of Washington Middle School. Social mixer and dinner entertainment will be provided by talented pianist Arnold Bodmer.

The Spirit of Hope Awards Gala is Saturday, November 21, at the Sandia Resort and Casino from 6-10 pm. The evening includes live music, dinner, a silent auction, and the awards presentation. Tickets are $100 and all proceeds benefit NM Voices. Tickets may be reserved online at https://donate.nmvoices.org/2015sohtickets. More information about the Spirit of Hope event is available at http://www.nmvoices.org/spiritofhope. Biographies of the awardees are available by request.

The Spirit of Hope Presenting Sponsor is CHI St. Joseph’s Children; the Gold Sponsor is the Brindle Foundation; Zia Sponsors are: AFT-NM, Marg Elliston & Fred Harris, Robert McNeil, Don & Marsha Simonson, McDonalds/Julian Garza, Sheri Williams, Youth Development, Inc., Diana Valdez, Bernalillo Co. Early Childhood Accountability Partnership & UNM Family Development sponsored by Varela Consulting Group, Walsh, Gallegos, Treviño, Russo & Kyle, P.C., Gail Goldstein, Luis Vargas, LANL Foundation, and Early Educators United, UNM Health Sciences Center; Award Sponsors are: CNM, McDonalds/Julian Garza, Roger Downey, Dr. Javier Aceves, John Arango, Maria Arango, Sheilah Garcia, Marilyn Hill, and Patricia Rodriguez.

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Report: Gila River Diversion is Expensive, Unnecessary Boondoggle

$1 billion for river project would be better spent on education, child care

October 15, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—The state’s current plan to spend up to $1 billion to divert water from the Gila River through a pipeline is ill conceived, particularly since the state has significant problems that would be more effectively addressed with such a significant level of funding. That’s the main conclusion of a report released on October 15 by New Mexico Voices for Children. The report, “The Gila River Diversion: A drain on limited state resources that are better spent elsewhere,” outlines the problems with the proposed Gila River Diversion project and the need for the proposed funds to be invested in programs that help kids and families. The report was released in advance of Friday’s Interstate Stream Commission meeting at which the diversion project will be discussed.

“Water is a precious resource, but there are better, smarter and more cost-effective ways of meeting the state’s water needs. Our children are also a precious resource, but we continue to allow them to rank at the bottom of the nation in well-being. That is unacceptable,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of the child advocacy group. “We now have the highest child poverty rate in the nation. Children in poverty lack access to the opportunities that will help them achieve success in school and in life. Ensuring that they have every opportunity to succeed needs to be the state’s top priority,” she added.

“One billion to divert the Gila? This is an irreversible decision and huge questions remain about what they’re promising and how it will be funded,” said Trish Lopez, an Albuquerque resident with a two-year-old daughter who is among the local mothers standing with NM Voices in this matter. “A far more obvious priority is child wellness in New Mexico. Well-researched, evidence-based programs like home visiting for new parents can make enormous strides for our state at a fraction of this cost.”

“We are asking the Interstate Stream Commission and our government leaders to please consider the needs of New Mexicans and the future of our state. It would be completely irresponsible to pour $1 billion into a plan with only speculative benefits and such high economic and environmental costs,” said first-time mom Jacqueline Miller of Roswell. “Our state is at the bottom of every list when it comes to child welfare. Instead of spending $1 billion to devastate one of our state’s most beautiful natural resources, we ought to be investing in our state’s most valuable resource – our kids,” she added.

Using data available from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Interstate Stream Commission, and testimony to the state Legislature and Congress, NM Voices verified the exorbitant cost of the project and compared those numbers to the funding shortfalls still faced by the state’s schools, early childhood education programs, and other services that are proven to improve outcomes for kids.

“The math is simple. The only way spending $1 billion in our state makes sense is if, in the end, it results in more and better opportunities for our kids. The Gila River Diversion project’s cost and outcomes just don’t add up,” said Dr. García.

The full report is available at http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Gila-River-diversion-web.pdf

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Census Data on Health Insurance Rates Good News for All New Mexicans

September 16, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—Veronica C. García, Ed.D, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, released the following statement regarding the U.S. Census Bureau’s release of data showing that New Mexico had some of the biggest decreases in the nation in the percentage of the population without health insurance:

“This Census data represents great news for all New Mexicans. Ensuring that everyone can see a doctor when they’re sick makes the state’s population healthier and it’s a good prescription for our economy. Clearly the Affordable Care Act is working, as hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured New Mexicans now have health insurance.

“The Medicaid expansion has been especially successful in New Mexico. Although the expansion covers low-income adults, we’ve seen a huge wave of children—more than 30,000—gain coverage when their parents enrolled. That is exactly what we expected would happen and is why we advocated so strongly for the expansion.

“While this news gives us cause to celebrate, we must not become complacent. Next year we will have to begin paying our share of the cost of the Medicaid expansion. The Legislature’s own studies have shown that the expansion will bring in more than enough revenue to cover this cost through at least 2020. We hope that our lawmakers will see the enormous value in Medicaid—for both the health of New Mexico’s people and her economy—and choose to fully fund it.”

The Census data show that the rate of New Mexicans who lack health insurance dropped from 18.6 percent in 2013 to 14.5 percent in 2014. The rate for children dropped from 9 percent to 7.3 percent. New Mexico is one of eleven states with the highest decreases in the nation—3.5 percent or more—in the share of residents without health insurance.

The Census report can be accessed here: http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/demo/p60-253.pdf?eml=gd&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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KIDS COUNT Report: NM Still Ranked 49th in Nation for Child Well-Being

Some areas see improvement, others see decline

July 21, 2015
For Immediate Release

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico has seen small improvements in some areas of child well-being over the last few years, but those gains are counteracted by declines in other areas. For 2015, the state’s national KIDS COUNT® ranking stays at 49th—unmoved since last year—in the new edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, which was released today.

The national KIDS COUNT Data Book, released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks the 50 states on 16 indicators of child well-being that fall into the categories of Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. As with last year, New Mexico is ranked 49th. The state had dropped to 50th in 2013.

“Child poverty continues to increase in New Mexico, and that does not bode well for the future of our state,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which runs the KIDS COUNT program in New Mexico. “If we want to tackle child poverty then we must see more effort in improving educational and health outcomes. Healthy and educated children will have a fighting chance of moving out of poverty,” she said.

New Mexico’s child poverty rate was 29 percent in last year’s Data Book (using 2012 data). That has risen to 31 percent in the new report that uses 2013 data. Similarly, the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas increased—from 22 percent (2008-12 data) to 24 percent (2009-13 data). The long-term data are even worse. The number of children living in high-poverty areas has increased by 25,000 kids since 2006-10, and 27,000 more children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment than did in 2008.

“Over the last several years we’ve seen 38,000 children fall into poverty in New Mexico. That is simply not acceptable,” said Dr. García. “Poverty has very detrimental effects on children. If we want them to succeed in life—to be the next generation of doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers and leaders—we need to ensure that they have the opportunities that will put them on the right path early in life.”

The bright spots in the data as compared to last year’s release include the percentage of high school students not graduating on time (decreasing from 29 percent to 26 percent), the child and teen death rate (decreasing from 33 per 100,000 to 28 per 100,000) and the teen birth rate (decreasing from 47 per 1,000 to 43 per 1,000). The improvements in child and teen death rates and teen birth rates mirror a nationwide trend where these indicators have continued to improve over a number of years.

“The solutions to our child poverty problem are not rocket science,” said Dr. Garcia. “We know what works—ensuring that children have the high-quality care and learning experiences in the early years to support robust brain development, ensuring they can see a doctor and have enough nutritious food, and providing our schools and educators with the resources they need to do their jobs properly. These are ways to meet some of their basic needs. But we also must ensure that their parents have the opportunities they need to improve their own lot—from support for continuing education, job training, and child care to ensuring decent wages and earned sick leave.”

The Casey Foundation makes similar policy recommendations found in the 2014 report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach.

The 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book and the state profiles are available online at http://www.aecf.org/work/kids-count/. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The New Mexico profile is online here: http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/NM-profile-2015.pdf.

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KIDS COUNT is a program of New Mexico Voices for Children and is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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U.S. Senator, CYFD Secretary, Emmy-Winning Documentarian Among Those to Appear at KIDS COUNT Conference

Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-founder of the Moral Monday movement, to give keynote

MEDIA ADVISORY
June 29, 2015
For Planning Purposes

ALBUQUERQUE—U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, will unveil new legislation that he is sponsoring in Congress, at the 3rd Annual KIDS COUNT Conference presented today by New Mexico Voices for Children. The theme of this year’s conference is Child Well-Being: A 2-Generation Approach. There is a full slate of speakers for the day-long event, which includes the presentation of the 21st annual Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards, a special screening of the documentary on child abuse, Everyone’s Business: Protecting our Children, and a panel on child abuse, which includes CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson and Children’s Court Judge John Romero.

Other speakers include Lisa Hamilton with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Richard Noriega of AVANCE, Marjorie Sims of the Aspen Institute, and Dr. Cathleen Willging of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. A full program of the day’s speakers and events is attached separately as a pdf.

The Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the NAACP of North Carolina and a dynamic speaker, will give the keynote address at lunch right after the presentation of the Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards, which honor young New Mexicans who are working to make a difference in their communities and the world. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas will also address the winners, and KOB TV news anchor Nicole Brady will emcee the awards.

The conference’s afternoon session will include the film screening and panel discussion moderated by the film’s producer, Chris Schueler. Senator Heinrich will close out the event by unveiling his Two-Generation Economic Empowerment legislation.

WHAT: 3rd Annual KIDS COUNT Conference “Child Well-Being: A 2-Generation Approach to Success”
WHEN: Today, Monday, June 29, 7:15am to 3:30pm (breakfast and lunch will be served)
WHERE: Marriott Pyramid, 5151 San Francisco Rd. NE, Albuquerque
WHO: Presented by New Mexico Voices for Children and Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Joseph’s Children
Sponsors: Brindle Foundation, Nusenda Credit, AFT, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, Center for RelationaLearning, CES, Con Alma Health Foundation, Delta Dental, Youth Development, Inc., Bank of Albuquerque, Early Educators United, Don Simonson. Special thanks to: Annie E Casey Foundation, Sandy Gold, McCune Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation.

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Four Youths to be Honored for Advocacy, Community Service Work

21st Annual Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards to be presented at annual conference

June 26, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—The 21st annual Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards will be presented to four remarkable youth on Monday, June 29 as part of the 3rd annual KIDS COUNT Conference. The awards presentation will begin at 11:30am and will be followed by the dynamic speaker Reverend Dr. William Barber. KOB TV anchor Nicole Brady will emcee the awards, and Attorney General Hector Balderas will be on hand to congratulate the winners.

The awards are given to New Mexico youth who are making a difference in their communities through advocacy or community service work. The award is named in honor of Amy Biehl, a graduate of Santa Fe High School who was killed at the age of 26 in a race riot while working in South Africa to end apartheid. Nominees are divided into two age groups: 13-18 and 19-26. A first and second place winner is chosen from each group. The two first place winners each receive a $1,000 cash scholarship and the second place winners each receive $500.

“This is always a very uplifting event that gives us hope for the future,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “These young people do amazing and often very innovative things. It’s an honor to be able to recognize them for their contributions to making the world a better place.”

A total of 12 youths were nominated for this year’s awards. The four winners are:

Rafael Mario Colon (age 17, of Albuquerque, 1st place in the 13-18 age group) serves as a Teen Ambassador for Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico, organizes fundraising events and donation drives for causes such as Los Ojos de la Familia and Alta Mira Family Services, and travels to El Salvador to provide assistance to families living in poverty.

Nicole Baty (age 26, of Albuquerque, 1st place in the 19-26 age group) is active in the National Society of Black Engineers where she has organized Kids Science and Sustainability Days, held STEM workshops, initiated STEM after-school activities, provided hands-on demonstrations for elementary school children, and taken part in a joint initiative with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Nicole also volunteers with KUNM’s Generation Justice and instructs middle and high school students with the Hands-on-Minds-on Technology organization.

Ulysses Yarbrough (age 13, of Ohkay Owingeh, 2nd place in the 13-18 age group) has been a docent at the Albuquerque Natural History Museum, used his musical talent to raise money for scholarships given out by the Sky Velvet Vassar Music Foundation, gave an articulate and effective speech at the Roundhouse in 2014 in support of gun safety legislation.

Susanna Derby (age 26, of Albuquerque, 2nd place in the 19-26 age group) recently organized a successful Earth Day celebration at Santa Domingo Pueblo where she worked with community and school leaders to provide hands-on educational activities focused on earth-friendly practices. She has also worked for Peace First, AmeriCorps and American Indian Health.

The awards presentation will begin at 11:30am, Monday, June 29, 2015 at the Marriott Pyramid, 5151 San Francisco Rd. NE, in Albuquerque, and is part of the 3rd annual KIDS COUNT Conference (conference schedule is attached as a pdf).

Photos of the four winners are available on request.

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The conference is presented by New Mexico Voices for Children and Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Joseph’s Children. The awards are sponsored by the Bank of Albuquerque and Early Educators United. Other event sponsors are Brindle Foundation, Nusenda Credit, AFT, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, Center for RelationaLearning, CES, Con Alma Health Foundation, Delta Dental, Youth Development, Inc., and Don Simonson. Special thanks to: Annie E. Casey Foundation, Sandy Gold, McCune Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation.

New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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