New Mexico is failing her children. There is overwhelming evidence that early childhood education and programs that mentor young parents pay enormous dividends in terms of success in school and keeping at-risk children out of the criminal justice system. Yet the funding for these systems is inadequate to those in need.
Quality Prekindergarten (PreK) programs have been shown to improve student achievement. New Mexico has an early childhood program administered through the Public Education Department. The program is available to some families, with children aged 3 and 4 year olds, for half-day or extended day services. In FY 15, just over 8,000 children received PreK services, representing about 30 percent of those eligible.
Home visiting is a voluntary, parental education and mentoring program shown to reduce child abuse and improve the overall health of the child. An example of one such program supported by the Children, Youth and Families Department is the First Born Program. First Born is an evidence-based program in which trained home visitors help new parents develop parenting skills tied to the child’s particular stage in development. Home visitors are also resources to tap for access to other important family services.
FY 2018 estimates indicate that the 3,700 families receiving home visiting services represents only a fraction of those in need – roughly 7,000 eligible families go without these services. Increased funding to these types of programs is needed, strategically implemented to allow communities to develop quality infrastructure to assume this programming. In addition, continued attention to program effectiveness through a standards-based accountability system is important.
Many are frustrated by the statistics that show New Mexico at the bottom of so many lists. When elected to the New Mexico House, I will champion proven and effective initiatives that will turn these unacceptable trends around and improve opportunities for all New Mexico’s children.
Editor’s note: Christine Chandler is the vice chair of the Los Alamos County Council and Democratic candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43. She has been on the Board of the First Born Program of Los Alamos for the past four years. Learn more at www.christine4statehouse.com.