NM KIDS COUNT Report: State Makes Little Progress on Child Well-Being

State Should Take a Two-Generation Approach to Solving Problems

PRESS RELEASE
January 20, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children
505-244-9505 ext. 110 (p), 505-401-8709 (c), 505-244-9509 (f), skayne@nmvoices.org

ALBUQUERQUE—While New Mexico ranking rose slightly from 50th in 2013 to 49th in 2014 in the national KIDS COUNT rankings of child well-being, state policy makers not have managed to make much progress toward improving how well the state cares for its kids. The KIDS COUNT program measures 16 indicators of child well-being, and New Mexico saw improvement in just five of those. Worse, child poverty—a main factor in poor outcomes—actually increased (from 28 percent to 31 percent) even as it decreased in most of the rest of the nation.

These trends are tracked in the 2014 KIDS COUNT in New Mexico data book, being released today by New Mexico Voices for Children. The annual state KIDS COUNT report, which includes the most recent data on child well-being status, such as teen birth rates, preschool enrollment, and health insurance coverage—along with policy recommendations—makes it clear that state lawmakers should make it a priority to address the needs of all children by supporting a holistic, coordinated and two-generation approach that serves both children and their families.

“The fact that we’ve seen a deterioration in key indicators—child poverty, children living in high-poverty areas, children living in single-parent families, and reading and math proficiency scores, for example—shows us the importance of creating and taking action on a comprehensive plan to make New Mexico a better place for working families and their children,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices, which runs the KIDS COUNT program in New Mexico. “We recognize that the data change over one year does not provide a trend, but it is still concerning that some of our worst child well-being outcomes continue to decline.”

The data book talks about the need to take a two-generation approach to reducing child poverty. Such an approach would mean coordinating services for children—such as health care, food benefits, and early care and education—with services that give their parents tools to improve the family’s economic situation. These would include programs that help parents gain more education and job training that also take child care needs into consideration.

“When children have a strong start in the very early years—from zero to five—they are much more likely to do well throughout school and life, so we need to increase our investments in those years. And since children grow up in families, we also need to ensure that all parents and guardians have the tools they need to be successful. That’s the way to make lasting progress, break the cycle of poverty, have an educated workforce, a strong economy and improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans,” she added.

As it did last year, the data book includes a section that tracks changes in the 16 indicators that are used in the national KIDS COUNT data book, which is released every summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This section also looks at legislation that has recently been enacted that aims to address these problems and presents data at the county level where available.

“In short, we must take bold action to mitigate the impacts of poverty on our children,” said Dr. Garcia. “The future of our state is being decided today and will be balanced on the investments we make—or fail to make—in our children.”

The data book is available online at https://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014-NM-Kids-Count-data-book.pdf

More data on child and family well-being are available at the state, county, school district, and tribal levels at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#NM

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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