“Certainly during the pandemic we saw what a lack of access to child care can do to families and workers and to the workforce and economy,” said Wallin. She said without reliable access to child care programs, many parents — mothers in particular — ended up dropping out of the workforce to care for their kids at home. Child care is “one of the keys to supporting the workforce and economic recovery,” she said.
“A lot of the states can expect to see these improvements fade over time as the federal programs expire, but New Mexico should see lasting improvement from policy changes made over the last few years,” said Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
“The biggest thing we see is the overall rate of poverty for kids under 18 dropped from 9.2 percent [in 2020] to 5.2 percent [in 2021],” she said.
New Mexico voters can also take action by voting Yes on Constitutional Amendment 1 on the ballot in November. Constitutional Amendment 1 would draw down a small portion of the $26 billion permanent school fund to support high-quality early childhood care and education services — such as home visiting and pre-kindergarten — and services for at-risk students.
“We knew over 10 years ago that we needed to change our educational investments to earlier in a child’s life if we were going to change their trajectory,” said senior research and policy analyst Jacob Vigil. “We knew we needed a lot of money to make that happen, more than likely could be raised in taxes.” If passed, the amendment would bring roughly $100 million to K-12 education and $150 million to the state’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which oversees services such as preschool, child care and home visiting programs in the state.
And how about this? New Mexico — ranked as one of the poorest states in the country — has prioritized free child care as an essential need and common good for families, the economy and the state's future. The product of a decadelong grassroots push by groups like New Mexico Voices for Children (NMvoices.org), the program is open to all 0- to 5-year-olds — and it also provides decent pay (starting at $18 an hour) to attract quality caregivers and instructors. The "Land of Enchantment" has become the Land of Can-do.
The federal expanded credit “provided really targeted relief to those families that needed it most,” says Amber Wallin, executive director of the advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. She adds that beyond simple relief, the income support “create[d] long-term opportunities [for children] to thrive,” as research consistently shows cash-assistance programs for families support children’s health, educational outcomes, and general well-being.
“New Mexico is ranked near the bottom for childhood poverty and childhood well-being. That benefit was really a lifeline for families. It’s really important what that money means for families. They’re better able to feed children so they go to school with a full belly. Parents are able to drop a third job, they’re better able to afford housing. They are big-picture impacts, what that money can do for a family,” she said.
“What this data reflects is mostly pre-pandemic conditions,” Wallin told NM Political Report. “It’s reflective of the times before all the big policy changes in New Mexico. This data doesn’t capture all the changes we’ve seen in recent years.”
“[The data] doesn’t necessarily reflect many of the policy changes we’ve seen at a state level,” New Mexico Voices for Children Executive Director Amber Wallin said in an interview Monday. “When the data catches up to the policy, we expect to see continued improvement for New Mexico’s children and families.”