“Moving forward, we think New Mexico needs to continue investing in the programs that create opportunities for our families,” she said, adding that meeting basic needs such as food assistance, health care, child care and housing will be crucial.
Nevertheless, New Mexico continues to improve in many of the indictors that measure child well-being, and Wallin credits the commitment of policy makers and “investments in programs to benefit kids and families.”
“The skeptics and the challengers are loud. But we have the facts and the families on our side,” Lujan Grisham said, calling for a renewed commitment to investing in “a system that continues its focus on children and families” during the 2021 legislative session.
"That investment is the only way to begin to equalize-- making sure that every child, in every family, in every place in the state of New Mexico has an equal opportunity to succeed, and the truth is we should not stop fighting," the governor said.
“It’s a reflection of the fact that despite what people say, that kids are our most precious asset, it’s not true in the way we invest our money in state and local government,” Jimenez said.
The good news is New Mexico is starting to see improvements in a number of areas as well as “big investments in programs that matter most to kids,” such as in education, early childhood education and child care programs, said Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children.
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the last-place ranking is disappointing, but the overall improvement in 10 of the 16 indicators is encouraging. "So that's a positive thing - not as much as we'd like, and maybe some other states are improving more than we are, but at the same time, at least 10 of those indicators moved in the right direction," Jimenez said.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham outlined her legislative priorities last week. Among those top concerns are creating early childhood trust funds, increasing penalties for the use of firearms in non-capital felonies and legalizing recreational marijuana.
“Kids Count is right to point out the enormous challenges facing our state’s early childhood services system,” Groginsky said. “We know that high-quality health and educational programs for children deliver an astonishing return on investment,” she added, “including significant gains in nearly every area we care about: education, health, employment, and social and emotional behavior.”
“We’re clearly not adequately providing (opportunities) for children of color, who make up the largest segment of our child population,” New Mexico Voices for Children executive director James Jimenez said. “When we’re OK with the fact that so many of our children lack the opportunities they need to be successful, we really paint a dire picture for the future.”