The decisions made in Texas shape the direction of children's lives in countless ways.
From the school a child attends to whether he can see a doctor, from what happens if a child's mistreated to how she's treated if she breaks the law, our policies affect millions of kids.
When our rules and ways of doing things ensure a better start in life, our whole state grows stronger, healthier, and more secure. When laws fail to put kids on the path to success, we all pay the price.
Policy doesn't happen by accident. It comes from people like you, raising voices and being heard. Even simple actions, like calling your elected official and making the case for change, can make an enormous difference. Just consider:
2.7 million kids today get meals they need in Texas, a state once called the nation's most likely place for children to go hungry. That's because people cared enough to create free and reduced price school lunches that give at least one affordable meal a day to millions of low-income children.
Over 3 million Texas kids can see a doctor today because of the Children's Health Insurance Program and Children's Medicaid, which child advocates continue to fight for. We may be the state with the most uninsured children but progress is helping more children grow up healthy.
Millions of kids grow up being able to play safely in their community, which is a crucial part of preventing childhood obesity. Community-sponsored recreation centers, parks, playgrounds, and swimming pools enrich young lives and happen because of supportive public policies.
More children start school ready to learn, thanks to quality preschool programs like the ones advocates for children championed in 2009. That year, Texas, one of the most fiscally cautious states in the country, made the biggest increased investment in preschool of any state in the country.
More children are protected from the trauma of abuse, neglect, or being taken from their families, thanks to proven services that prevent tragedies. Advocates for children even help stop abuse before it happens, championing services like the Nurse Family Partnership, which research shows cuts lifetime child abuse and neglect rates in half.
Kids with mental health problems, once ignored or incarcerated, today are more likely to receive treatment. Child advocates successfully fought for statewide juvenile justice reforms that include a real focus on mental health services. As a result, Texas' population of kids in youth lockups has plummeted, and more children are getting the help they need.
When you join others in advocating for kids, you may never know how many lives you affect. The first step is to simply make a commitment to speak out. Let your elected leaders know children matter to you, write about children's issues, and vote with kids in mind.
When you do, you make a better future for us all.
For more on the role of advocacy, see the Texans Care for Children Advocacy Manual.