Those at New Mexico Voices for Children, an advocacy group that runs the state’s KIDS COUNT program, also praised legislation to increase the state’s Working Families Tax Credit, which they said benefits more than 200,000 children every year. It is not surprising that the data from 2017 reflected in this year’s report would be so poor. That was the tail end of an eight-year term by Gov. Martinez filled with budget deficits and constant fights over education reform.
Amber Wallin, deputy director of New Mexico Voices for Children, says it will take sustained investment to undo the damage from a decade of under-funding of programs that serve families."We're seeing big disparities for our children of color,” she states. “And this is really problematic, especially in New Mexico, because 75% of our kids are children of color. But we also think we've made a lot of progress this legislative session in trying to create some opportunities for our kids."
Hosts Chris Ramirez and Nathan O'Neal discussed what's in store for New Mexico's children. From the 2020 census to the bills working through the Roundhouse right now, there are many impacts on the future generations. Featured on the show are James Jimenez and Amber Wallin with New Mexico Voices for Children.
As part of opening day at the 2019 New Mexico Legislature, the state's Voices for Children group will highlight its annual New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book. Deputy Director Amber Wallin said there have been improvements in teen birth rates, increased rates of kids covered by insurance, higher preschool enrollment and reduced child poverty. But the state's dead-last ranking for child well-being reported last summer means lawmakers have more work to do.
A new report on child welfare offers a deeper look at some grim statistics for New Mexico, which fell to last in the nation last year on a key state-by-state assessment of the well-being of children and families. “This is the time to go bold or go home,” says the 2018 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book, scheduled for release Tuesday.
“Although we saw improvement in child poverty, we’re still ranked near the bottom of the nation because other states saw larger improvements,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which produces the annual data book.
Evidence-based programs such as home visiting, domestic violence and teen pregnancy prevention programs, fully staffing child protective services, a higher minimum wage and paid family leave can become “generational interrupters” to end New Mexico’s cycle of poverty. “We’re at a crossroads as a state. We’ve had problems. Now is the time to rewrite that story,” Wallin said.
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.