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Improving child welfare in New Mexico means supporting parents and guardians, says advocate


Once again New Mexico is in last place nationwide for child well-being. That’s according to the annual Kids Count Data Book.

The data book tracks child welfare in four areas and slots New Mexico at 50th for education, 49th in family and community, 48th in economic well being, and 44th in health.

Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, Gabrielle Uballez, says since this data was collected in 2022, New Mexico is leading the way in bold progressive policies like in early childhood education.

However, Uballez said we need to expand that energy to issues like housing, health care, and our criminal legal system.

“It’s easy to get behind policies in a nonpartisan way that are exclusively focused on kids, but it also requires us to do harder things like making deep investments in the adults who are raising them,” said Uballez.

Uballez says the report notes that 28% of New Mexico’s families experience high housing costs burdens.

“So curiosity around what policies and also what kind of state budget we can put towards supporting families in finding stable and affordable housing in the upcoming session and over the long term” said Uballez.

Uballez said she and her team are looking at policies that could include supporting workforce development, adult education, and income support programs.

Uballez also noted this is the first time the data book has considered Adverse Childhood experiences or ACEs, which include traumas like economic hardship, parents getting a divorce, a parent in jail or who has died, witnessing domestic violence, or living with an adult with a substance use problem.

Half of kids in New Mexico have experienced ACEs. Uballez said she would like lawmakers to act urgently on these issues because they focus on the environment in which kids are growing up and address the well-being of their parents and guardians.

Uballez said Voices supports the community school model to help improve education rankings.

“We continue to be an advocate for community schools that I think take a more holistic approach to what it means to support kids in school, which includes supporting the families that are charged with their care and also how do we continue to make investments in our teachers so that they have stronger connections and more time to know what’s going on in their students’ lives” Uballez said.

When it comes to poverty, Uballez said the data book only considers income when measuring economic well being. But New Mexico has many income support programs like SNAP, and she said when those supplemental programs are factored in, the state is actually doing much better then recent years.

“So if we care about making a collective investment in our kids through state government and through policies, then we need to look at a broad spectrum of indicators that tell us how we’re doing in taking care of our kids and families” Uballez said.

Data from the 2022 Kids Count Data Book
New Mexico Voices For Children
Data from the 2022 Kids Count Data Book

Support for this coverage comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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