By Gabrielle Uballez, Santa Fe New Mexican
May 11, 2024

My wish this Mother’s Day is that 20 years from now, if my daughters step into motherhood themselves, we will proudly recount how we made New Mexico the best place to be a kid because, in 2025, we made it the best place to be a mom.

The year 2025 will be my first legislative session as the leader of New Mexico Voices for Children, and you bet we will continue to fight for and win more family-focused investments and policy improvements like the many we’ve already achieved.

Before you point to our state rankings, hear me out. In New Mexico, our income support programs offer families the second-largest benefits package in the country when adjusted for cost of living. That is why New Mexico’s supplemental poverty measure, which takes into account cost of living and available benefits, is less than 1% off the national average. These commonsense guarantees have helped reduce the official rate of childhood poverty from 31% to 24% over the past decade — and this measure doesn’t even reflect the real-world impact of New Mexico’s safety net programs, like SNAP, tax credits, Medicaid, child care assistance, universal school meals, just to name a few. More important than the numbers, these policies and programs offer peace of mind to mothers by guaranteeing we will collectively meet the needs of children in New Mexico.

Still, childhood poverty in our state remains persistent. That is because, while these support programs are a baseline for survival, survival-level support alone will not raise families out of poverty. Put another way, ending childhood poverty is just a milepost on the path to dignity.

Thanks to systems-level policy change, we are off to a great start. A statewide child tax credit and an expanded working families tax credit puts more money in the pockets of families. Paid sick leave allows us to take care of ourselves and keep others healthy. The Opportunity Scholarship for tuition-free college education puts higher education into reach for more families than ever before. And free child care for families living at or below 400% of the federal poverty level allows the majority of caregivers to stay in or enter the workforce without worrying about the high cost of child care.

To build the community that we deserve, ending poverty is a necessary, but insufficient, goal. As a mother of three with the ambitious dream of making New Mexico the best place for kids, I dream of dignity.

I want every mom, and every family, to be able to build wealth and invest in their future, and the futures of their children. This means ensuring families have the opportunity to save for their children’s future; in policy, this looks like establishing baby bonds, increasing the child tax credit for families with young children and improving our benefits programs to soften cliffs so families are supported as they seek greater economic security. That families can access higher education for better-paying jobs; in policy, this looks like workforce development programs that guarantee income. That families are supported in taking time off work for life’s most meaningful moments — like the birth of a child or the illness of a loved one, and having savings for emergencies — in policy this looks like New Mexico joining the ranks of only 13 other states that have enacted paid family and medical leave.

Our families deserve more than financial survival. We deserve to thrive. Next year, 2025, will be a powerful chapter of our story, 20 years in the future, in which we tell the story of how we made New Mexico the best place to be a kid. We did it by supporting the people who love them most: moms.

Gabrielle Uballez is executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.