The biannual Child Trends report shows New Mexico children suffer traumatic events at a higher rate than kids in almost any other state in the nation.
Those events, known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), include abuse and neglect, living with someone who has an untreated mental illness, the death of a parent, and extreme economic insecurity.
Deputy Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, Amber Wallin says the number of kids in the state affected by such events has always been high, but the data now show 52 percent of children have experienced at least one of these traumas.
“We’re even worse as far as children who’ve experienced three or more of these traumas,” she laments. “And 18 percent of New Mexico kids have experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences. That’s the worst rate in the nation.”
The report shows New Mexico and Arizona tied at 18 percent for the highest rates of children who endure from three to eight traumatic experiences. The national average is 11 percent.
“When you look at the list of the different traumas and which states are doing well and which states are not, you see a strong correlation with childhood poverty.”
Wallin is convinced one way to address the problem is to provide high-quality home-visitation programs. She says studies show these programs improve health and education outcomes by offering parents information on child development, tips for dealing with common parenting frustrations, and connecting parents to community support systems.
She says the state’s program currently serves only a fraction of the families who need it, and could easily serve more.
“New Mexico has one very big financial resource,” she notes. “Our state’s land-grant permanent fund is $18 billion that we could use to expand home visiting services to New Mexico kids and families.”
She adds that an accumulation of adverse childhood experiences can result in increased chances for adult alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide, and that children of color face the greatest risk.
“When you look at the list of the different traumas and which states are doing well and which states are not, you see a strong correlation with childhood poverty,” Wallin says. “Childhood poverty is one of the adverse childhood experiences. But we also know it is related to a lot of other issues that many children and families face.”
New Mexico’s child poverty rate is more than 27 percent, the second-highest in the nation, behind Mississippi.
By Roz Brown
Public News Service – NM
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