Many mental health experts think childhood trauma is one of the most urgent public health challenges in the country. Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico, said a recent lawsuit filed against the state's under-funded Children, Youth and Families Department demonstrates how dire the situation is for many children - and raising awareness is critical. "When we're talking about childhood trauma, we want to identify the ways that trauma affects us as individuals, and also as a society, on a daily basis,” Martinez said.
This year’s conference Childhood Trauma: From Symptoms to Systems Change, will take a hard look at ACEs – what causes them, what can be done to prevent them, and how we can promote resiliency. We will look at the importance of building trauma-informed practices throughout our agencies and organizations.
This is a perilous moment for New Mexico’s children. There’s no getting around it. Yet the future is not predetermined for kids in New Mexico. This state’s leaders can be inspired by this moment to do better by its children. They can choose to collaborate inclusively and act boldly and swiftly. That’s what it will take — both to position the state well for the 2020 census and to give children a better chance to thrive.
Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children, says the 50-state report shows the national average of young parents is 10 percent, but in New Mexico, it's 16 percent. "Those young people are facing the same challenges that all young people are facing, things like finishing high school or maybe going into college, getting their first jobs, learning how to manage money and increase their earning potential," she points out. Her organization, which includes New Mexico Kids Count, maintains one way to improve outcomes for young parent families is to increase home-visiting programs and coaching for first-time parents.
Pediatric society president Brian Etheridge said it’s a resource for voters to hear from candidates on more detailed questions. "What we're trying to do is draw attention to various issues that obviously affect children," Etheridge said.
“Unfortunately, children are not necessarily a topic of conversation when it comes to elections. People talk about jobs and the economy, which are all very important to child well-being, but there are other issues and we wanted to get some of those out there,” said Sharon Kayne, communications director for NM Voices.
It's never easy to admit that our home has a problem. Just look at the latest KIDS COUNT report released by New Mexico Voices for Children. New Mexico ranks dead last in overall child well-being. The factors in the report make kids in our state susceptible to becoming victims of sex trafficking.
Officials with New Mexico Voices for Children, which partners on the survey, point to a decline in state funding as the cause for many of these problems. Deputy Director Amber Wallin said the state has passed 37 tax cuts since 2008; has reduced per-pupil funding for schools and money for higher education; and has cut back on the number of school-based health centers.
Four factors determine the Kids Count rankings: education, health, economic well-being, and family and community. The non-profit organization NM Voices for Children says changes to the state’s health data played a major role in moving New Mexico from 49th to 50th.
"It's time for citizens to really push these candidates on what they're going to do to improve child well-being," he insisted. "There are a lot of solutions out there if we really believe children are our most important asset."