Recently, New Mexico Voices For Children released a report showing how our state ranked the highest in terms of child poverty. As the 2016 legislative session comes to an end, I still wonder how state leaders plan to resolve this top priority. It seems like investing more in early childhood is a good place to start.
For the past two decades, the state of New Mexico has slowly begun to invest in our children. Home visiting programs that focus on early childhood development are a great way to invest.
I can speak from personal experience about the need for home-visiting support. As an adopted child, I believe that home-visiting would have provided a healthier transition into my new family. My biological mother lived with alcoholism. Her unhealthy choices affected my early development. My adoptive mom told me the doctors informed her I would have learning disabilities. She disagreed with them and prayed for me everyday. Although she made many efforts to provide for my growth, home-visiting services would have helped her learn to properly heal my body from early exposure to substances.
Home visiting programs are one of the solutions for a better future for New Mexicans, myself included. Since its inception in 1997, one such program, the First Born program has provided home visiting for many families. In 2014, they reported outcomes of their programs:
- 99% of families receiving services had NO substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect. The lifetime cost of one victim of child abuse and neglect is $210.012.
- 94% of pregnancies were DRUG-FREE. The total lifetime costs for caring for an infant that survives prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol ranges from $750,00 to $1.4 million.
- 89% of mothers initiated breastfeeding and almost 70% of those babies were breastfed exclusively for at least six months. Breastfeeding prevents childhood obesity and diabetes. Annual healthcare costs are about $6,700 for children treated for obesity covered by Medicaid.
- 100% of children have a foundation of skills that promotes school success and a lifelong joy of learning.
(First Born Program, Annual Report. 2014)
These are the outcomes I wish my biological mother could have had while caring for me. I often wonder if she would still be alive today or if she would have been able to parent me if she had access to home-visiting services. I hope, for the sake of other young children whose parents are struggling, we get serious about investing in home-visiting in our state.[:]