Our Three Pillars

Our work to improve child well-being rests on three primary pillars: family economic security, access to high-quality, cradle-to-career education, and health care and healthy communities. Without all three pillars, families struggle and that means children may not have access to all of the support systems they need in order to thrive. We work to strengthen these pillars by changing public policies.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Most anti-poverty nonprofits help people by either giving them fish or giving them fishing lessons. We take a different approach. We figure out why so many people don’t have the opportunity to learn to fish, why they lack the necessary fishing equipment, and why the fish in their neighborhood lake are so scarce.

In other words, we look at the root causes of poor child and family well-being, which are systemic — meaning they are the result of policies, practices, and public structures that disadvantage some people while advantaging others. Public schools are a good example of this. Because of the way most states fund education (policies), more money is sent (practices) to public schools (structures) in well-off communities than to schools in lower-income communities. With smaller class sizes, newer books, and more resources, the children who go to the schools in the well-off communities are advantaged, while children who attend poorly resourced schools are disadvantaged. There are systemic faults like this throughout our society. What’s more, most policies, practices, and public structures disproportionately advantage white people and disadvantage people of color. And because these inequities have been in place for decades, the disparities they cause become more and more entrenched over time.

Pillar: Family Economic Security

Three things are necessary for families to have economic security: adequate income, work supports, and assets. Adequate income means full-time, year-round jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage. Work supports include health insurance, paid sick leave, and affordable child care. Assets mean access to credit and the ability to build wealth, like a savings account or equity in a home. Assets can protect families from the financial ruin of a job loss, an accident, illness or some other unforeseen event. Assets also allow a family to take risks — such as change jobs, start a business, or send a child to college. Affordable housing and reliable transportation also play a role in family economic security.

The Work We Do to Increase Family Economic Security

Among the policies we advocate for that improve wages are:

  • A higher minimum wage
  • An increase in the Working Families Tax Credit, which helps low-income working families
  • An increase in unemployment insurance benefits and the reinstatement of additional benefits for workers with dependent children

Among the policies we advocate for that improve work supports are:

  • Full funding for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income children, adults, seniors, and the disabled
  • Full funding for the child care assistance program and a higher eligibility level so more low- and moderate-income families can benefit
  • The enactment of earned paid sick and maternity leave for all workers

Among the policies we advocate for that help families build assets are:

  • Interest rates on all loan products capped at 36 percent APR, including fees, in order to end predatory lending
  • Funding for individual savings account (IDAs) programs
  • Funding for affordable housing

Click here for more on our economic security work.

Pillar: Cradle-to-Career Education

Our public school system was created in and for a different century, when our economy was based heavily on agriculture. Children didn’t start school until they were six and they didn’t go beyond the eighth grade. We’ve been through industrial and technological revolutions since then, and while our approaches to pedagogy have changed, we still cleave to some of the outdated assumptions upon which our educational system was built. Primary among these is the idea that we don’t need to invest in the intellectual future of children before they’ve reached the age of five.

Now, of course, we know that the first five years of life are when essential brain development takes place and that this growth of neural pathways forms the foundation upon which all future learning will take place. The stronger the foundation, the better the educational outcomes. We also know that certain hardships — poverty, exposure to violence, incarceration of a parent, for example — have a detrimental impact on this brain development. But our practical response to this information has been slow and unsteady. As a nation, we do very little to ensure that all parents have the tools they need to be successful as their child’s first and most important teacher. And we have yet to ensure that child care is safe and affordable for all working parents, let alone that it supports robust brain development.

The nation has also greatly reduced support for public colleges and universities, even though more and more jobs require post-secondary education. This disinvestment has led to a crisis in student loan debt that will negatively impact families — and our economy — for decades. Investing in an evidence-based, and high-quality prenatal and cradle-to-career system of care and education is the most effective way to ensure that New Mexicans have the best opportunities to succeed in school and throughout life.

The Work We Do to Improve Access to Cradle-to-Career Education

Among the policies we advocate for that improve access to cradle-to-career education are:

  • Full funding for evidence-based parent coaching and home visiting programs, which improve health and educational outcomes and reduce the incidence of child abuse
  • Full funding of the child care assistance program and raising the reimbursement rates to better compensate for higher quality programs
  • A complete roll-out of the pre-kindergarten program, which should have happened by 2012 but was stalled during the recession
  • Full funding for K-12 education and pay increases for teachers and other educational professionals
  • Higher funding levels for state colleges and universities and more access to need-based financial aid for low-income students

Click here for more on our education work.

Pillar: Health Care and Healthy Communities

The state of your health and the longevity of your life should not be determined by your zip code, but they are. People who live in higher-income areas tend to be healthier and live longer than those who live in low-income areas. The difference in life span can be as great as 20 years. Among the factors for this are: the presence/absence of environmental hazards; age/condition of the housing; the condition of water, sewer, and other public health infrastructure; the presence of supermarkets, sidewalks, bike paths, and open spaces; and the crime levels.

Another thing that impacts our overall health and longevity is whether we have health insurance and access to affordable health care. Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), New Mexico had one of the highest rates of people without health insurance in the nation. The ACA and its Medicaid expansion brought our rates of uninsurance down significantly. Unfortunately, both the ACA and Medicaid face threats at the federal level.

The health of the planet we call home is also a big determinant of public health and well-being. As the impacts of global climate change intensify, communities that are low-income and those of color are not only most likely to be harmed, they also have the fewest resources to cope with the devastation of stronger storm systems, flooding, fires, and more.

The Work We Do to Improve Child, Family, and Community Health

Among the policies we advocate for that improve the health of communities are:

  • Common-sense gun safety laws
  • Requirements on natural gas producers to capture the methane that is currently leaked, vented or flared into the atmosphere
  • Funding for affordable housing

Among the policies we advocate for that improve the health of families are:

  • Universal health care for all, such as a Medicaid Buy-in program
  • Full funding for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), the nation’s most successful nutrition program
  • Full funding for Medicaid

Click here for more on our health work.

A Word about Our Fiscal Policy Work

Much of our advocacy work centers on adequate state funding of the programs that strengthen these three pillars of child and family well-being. In order to do this, we must have a comprehensive understanding of how the state raises its revenue (taxes) and how that revenue is spent (budgets). Our state tax and budget decisions are really a reflection of our values as a society. They also form a roadmap of the New Mexico we want to create — is it a place where everyone has access to opportunity or is it a place where only the well-connected can get ahead? Is it a place where we make investments in our future or do we look for more immediate but short-lived payoffs? At NM Voices for Children, we advocate for a New Mexico where everyone has access to opportunity and where we make investments in our future. However, New Mexico has severely cut back many of it investments in future prosperity. What’s more, those New Mexicans who earn the least amount of money pay the largest share of their income in state and local taxes — even though they can least afford it.

The Fiscal Policy Work We Do

Among the policies we advocate for regarding the state’s tax and budget system are:

  • A tax system that brings in adequate revenue to meet our state’s needs and that is fair to hard-working families
  • The requirement that all out-of-state corporations pay income tax on their New Mexico profits
  • An end to the deduction that allows mostly high-income individuals to pay taxes on only half of their capital gains income
  • An increase in the Working Families Tax Credit
  • An end to tax cuts for corporations that have failed to create jobs
  • An increase in the personal income tax rate for those at the very top of the income scale

Click here for more on our fiscal policy work.