Investments in child welfare will pay off in the long run for New Mexico
We are all very proud to live in New Mexico, and we can all agree that we want our state to be a place where families choose to raise their children. But we face serious challenges in achieving this goal.
After spending the past three years ranked 50th for child well-being, New Mexico has dropped to 49th in the 2021 Child Count Data Book, recently released by the Annie E Casey Foundation.
This improvement does not yet reflect the smart investments made by our policymakers over the past two years, nor the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. These significant investments in our children and families will likely be reflected in the data in the years to come, but they are not yet sufficient to achieve the level of progress our families and children need.
Gradual improvements show us both that progress is possible and that creating the stimulating environments our children deserve and need to thrive will require bold and sustained action and investment.
In some areas we are doing as well or better than the national average. More New Mexico families are in affordable housing compared to the rest of the country, and our rate of children without health insurance matches the national rate, in large part due to the Affordable Care Act and good policy choices. of our state. We also saw long-term improvements in the rate of people graduating from high school, with more high school students graduating on time and a lower percentage of children in families where the head of household. does not have a high school diploma compared to 2010. The tremendous progress we’ve seen in teenage birth rates, which have declined 55% since 2010.
These successes are clear indications of the progress we can make with sustained, targeted and evidence-based interventions.
Despite improvements, the rankings of several indicators have fallen further or have not changed, reflecting the fact that further progress has been made by other states. Likewise, some of our improved rankings were really the result of losing ground in other states – rather than real gains for the children of New Mexico.
Education is one area where we continue to fail. The state knows this is a serious problem, but improvement will require a comprehensive long-term plan and consistent and adequate funding to ensure that students receive the education they deserve. Over the past three years, New Mexico has started investing in our schools in a way that benefits our children, families, and teachers in very tangible ways, but the plans and funding will have to be significant, supported and informed by New Mexican Communities if we want our children to successfully prepare for college or a career.
During the pandemic, New Mexico leaders moved quickly to provide resources for families and children who needed help, allowing them to survive and possibly setting us up to protect our hard-earned improvement in the Kids Count ranking. . But progress remains slow and we have more ground to catch up than many other states.
We can see that long-term commitment and investment in our children is slowly but surely improving some aspect of child well-being in the state. We can stay the course, but if we are to see dramatic and meaningful improvements, our communities must call on our leaders and decision-makers to take even bolder steps to make New Mexico a safe place for children and families. , prosper and prosper.
Emily Wildau is Research and Policy Analyst and Kids Count Coordinator for New Mexico Voices for Children.