A bad place to grow up — nothing more disgraceful might be said about a state. Yet for years, New Mexico has been unable to shed that distinction. In 1997, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book ranked us 44th among states for child well-being. In 2010, we fell to 46th, ahead of only Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Last year, only Mississippi trailed us.
So how did some states move up while we spiraled downward? What were our policy makers and politicians doing while the state steadily slid to the bottom of the rankings? And what are the social and economic consequences – now and into the future – of not giving our children the foundation they need to grow into healthy, successful adults?
As its first major project, Searchlight New Mexico will bring to bear the power of collaborative, deeply researched investigative journalism to examine those questions, search for remedies and, through social media and partnerships with media organizations across the state, raise public awareness and calls for action to a level no politician or policy maker can ignore.
Stories and multi-media packages will be timed in a calculated manner to force gubernatorial and legislative candidates in the 2018 primaries and general election to make childhood well-being a central focus of their campaigns, and then to take action with meaningful reforms in the following legislative session in 2019.
Too many New Mexicans have come to accept the state’s dismal rankings as a hopeless, unfixable reality. Our goal is to shift that perception, to arm the public with information and empower it to demand change.