Our View: Near the bottom of another list

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By The Staff

It seems that every time a national report comes out, New Mexico seems to be near the bottom of it.

Well, it has happened again.

According to an annual Kids Count report, our state ranks 48th in the nation for child well-being with poor showings in its teen pregnancy and child death rate, as well as the number of high school dropouts and youths living in poverty.

And once again, the only places worse than us are Louisiana and Mississippi.

New Hampshire ranked No. 1 for child well-being.

Yet our governor likes to do almost anything but deal with these issues and our Legislature is worse. But it is too easy to blame government – as much as we feel they are lacking.

At the end of the day it is the responsibility of the parents to see that their children get an education, get medical care and have decent living conditions.

If parents look, there are programs out there and it is their responsibility – not the government’s – to do what is necessary for their children.

Lisa Adams-Shafer, Kids Count program manager for New Mexico Voices for Children, told the Associated Press that, “Eliminating poverty and having the state move up into the top half is going to take a long-term committed effort.”

We agree. But that effort cannot be laid solely at the feet of government.

The report ranked all 50 states on 10 indicators of child well-being using the latest statistics available. New Mexico ranked 41st nationwide when the Casey Foundation began doing Kids Count reports in 1990. Now, it is 48th.

New Mexico tied with Texas for the worst teen pregnancy rate in the country with 62 births per 1,000, ages 15-19.

New Mexico’s child death rate for 1- to 14-year-olds grew by 55 percent since 2000 with 31 deaths per 100,000 in 2005.

Adams-Shafer said many of the deaths were accidental.

“We need to make sure kids are just using their seat belts and parents are making sure their kids are wearing helmets on their bikes,” she said.

Twelve percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were not attending school and not working, and 26 percent of children live in poverty with annual incomes below $20,444 for a family of two adults and two children in 2006.

We all need to work to turn this around and we need to begin to look at holding parents accountable for how their children live.