by Christie Renick, The Chronicle of Social Change
April 5, 2018

After a report last summer ranked New Mexico 49th in the nation on child well-being, advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children released a policy agenda that it hopes will guide incoming policymakers.

The agenda, “Kids at the Crossroads: A Children’s Agenda for Making Kids Count with Candidates,” includes 30 policy recommendations in three categories: economic well-being, education and health.

“Despite children being the biggest priority for every New Mexico parent, policies to improve their well-being are rarely ever mentioned in candidate forums,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, in a press release. “That’s particularly unconscionable when we’ve ranked 49th in the nation in child well-being as long as we have.”

Among the economic well-being recommendations are increasing tax credits for families, increasing the minimum wage, simplifying the benefits enrollment process for programs like Medicaid and SNAP, and implementing a ceiling on interest rates for payday and other small loans.

“Policymakers should ensure equitable access to an affordable and high-quality cradle-to-career system of care and education for all of New Mexico’s kids,” the report says.

Education-related reforms include more funding for early learning programs, increased use of evidence-based strategies for closing the achievement gap, better compensation for teachers and support staff, and greater access to adult education programs.

Finally, under its health recommendations, the report calls for school-based health centers to be reopened and expanded, and that the state’s behavioral health system be rebuilt with an emphasis on access to substance abuse treatment programs. It also suggests the state should find a way to end its Medicaid waiting list for those with developmental disabilities, and increase funding for child and teen suicide prevention, tobacco-use prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, and alcohol and drug prevention programs.

“Children do best when their families and communities are strong,” said Amber Wallin, deputy director for New Mexico Voices for Children in a press release. “That we rank so low in child well-being is really a symptom of a larger problem. When children aren’t doing well it means their families and communities aren’t doing well either. Many of these policy recommendations would improve the state’s economy and the quality of life for all residents.”

The annual Kids Count Data Book, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks states based on 16 indicators of child well-being, such as child poverty rate, reading proficiency and teen birth rates, all under the domains of economic well-being, education, heath, family and community.

The only state to place behind New Mexico was Mississippi. New Hampshire was the number one state by the Kids Count metrics.

Find the full policy agenda here.

Copyright 2018, The Chronicle of Social Change (