By Susan Dunlap, NM Political Report
June 15, 2023

New Mexico continues to rank at the bottom in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids COUNT data book, but the state has seen considerable improvement in many areas over the last 10 years, Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said.

New Mexico placed last in the 2023 annual ranking that comes out every summer from the nonprofit organization Annie E. Casey Foundation. But Wallin said that the state is outpacing the nation in its overall progress and in several individual categories. She said that as the state has improved, so have other states in individual categories and that states such as Vermont or Pennsylvania have “very different challenges than we do.”

Two other problems hamper New Mexico’s rankings. One is that the data comes from 2021, in which COVID-19 pandemic challenges still impacted families and many legislative policies that are likely to improve the rankings had not been put into place yet. In addition, Wallin said that many of the state policies recently implemented will create generational change and New Mexico might not see the real impacts of some recent policy changes until children under the age of five now have kids of their own.

The Kids COUNT data book emphasized child care as a priority that needs to be better addressed nationally in order to improve overall child well being. Wallin said 90 percent of brain growth happens in the first five years.

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