New Mexico Children’s Advocacy Organization Appoints New Director | Education

New Mexico Voices for Children has named a successor to longtime executive director James Jimenez, who led the statewide children’s advocacy organization since 2016 and recently announced his retirement.

Amber Wallin was named in October to take the reins of the group. She had held the position of Deputy Director since 2017.

In an interview Wednesday, Wallin, 40, acknowledged she’s stepping into the role at a pivotal time. New Mexico is brimming with funds from an oil and gas boom and federal pandemic relief funds and has the opportunity to make gains by addressing long-term issues affecting children.

“Before COVID, we saw really significant policy improvements,” she said. “We were starting to see improved childhood outcomes as a result, and then of course the pandemic hit and created massive challenges for all of our families in the state, for all of the workers in the state.”

New Mexico ranks 49th in child well-being, according to the 2021 Kids Count survey, which measures key indicators affecting children and is compiled by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Data from New Mexico Voices for Children showed more recent declines in key markers through the COVID-19 era.

“What the data shows is that high-income families have actually improved their employment status since before the pandemic,” Wallin said. “But low-income families, especially families of color and mothers with children, still have a long way to go to gain some of that economic power.”

Wallin, who lives in Albuquerque, said she hopes state lawmakers will expand postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers and implement more economic relief for families struggling with the pandemic in the next legislative session. .

Wallin urged the state to “diversify” revenue away from the fluctuating cycle of oil and gas funding.

“It’s different now because there’s also an injection of federal funding,” she said. “But we’ve seen those boom times before and inevitably…we’re entering a cycle of bust and we’re no longer able to adequately support the programs that matter most to children and families.”

Wallin has worked with Voices for Children since 2012 and holds a master’s degree in public administration from New Mexico State University.

Jimenez will retain his position as executive director of the New Mexico Pediatric Society, which he assumed when the two organizations formed a partnership in 2017, according to a press release from the nonprofit. He will also continue to lead Voices for Children’s Action Fund.

Aubrey L. Morgan