April 1, 2018
The early childhood years are a crucial period in young children's development — one that lays the foundation for future success in both school and life. Experiences in the earliest years of life form the basis for language and literacy, the ability to form positive relationships, and health and well-being. Early childhood experiences have consequences not only for individual children andtheir families, but for New Mexico: Children whose early experiences and relationships support healthy development are more likely to become successful students, adults, parents, employees, and citizens. Supporting parents to foster their children's healthy development and learning, and ensuring access to high-quality early childhood education, care, health and familysupports is far more cost-effective than waiting to address problems when children are older.Yet too many young children in New Mexico do not have the types of early childhood experiences that build a strong foundation for future success. New Mexico has the nation's highest child poverty rate: More than one-in-three children under age six lives in poverty. Poverty rates within New Mexico's diverse racial and ethnic subgroups can be even more acute over 57 percent of Native American children under age five live in poverty. Further, children in the state experience three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACES) — a strong risk factor for future educational, health, and mental health problems — at nearly twice thenational average rate. Fortunately, many New Mexico parents, voters, and policymakers already recognize the crucial importance of early childhood development. Over the past decade, state policymakers more than doubled investments in early childhood programs. But there is more to do — fragmentation and gaps in service persist. Enabling all New Mexico's young children to realize their potential requires strengthening the systems that support New Mexico families and children's early learning and development. Realizing the potential of New Mexico's children requires shifting from the state's current program-based approach to a systemic approach that places the needs of families and children at the center and builds capacity of local providers and communities to match service offerings to local and family needs. Such an approach will better meet the needs of families, improve the efficiency and results of existing early childhood investments, and ensure that future increases in funding are used wisely to maximize benefits for the state and its children.