In response to a fourfold increase in deaths of children in foster care this past fiscal year, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is attempting to redesign the foster care system. Child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris explains that we need to better fund the system, not reinvent it, in an article that ran in the
12.24.13 Lifelong Struggles Facing Texas Foster Kids Who Age Out
Texas Public News Service reached out to Ashley Harris as the year drew to a close to discuss the special circumstances of older youth in the foster care system. Each year, thousands of foster kids leave the system without being adopted, and Ashley reflects on what Texans can do to support youth through this transition.
12.16.13 Reducing the Rank of Uninsured Children in Texas
Clayton Travis, a Hogg Mental Health Policy Fellow at Texans Care, argues that Texas needs to let the health care law work as intended in an Austin American-Statesman
op-ed. Travis explains that refusing to expand Medicaid and imposing excessive restrictions on navigators only prevents families and children from getting covered.
12.9.13 Are We Doing Enough to Keep Children Safe?
An Austin American-Statesman
op-ed, co-written by several Texans Care staff, argues that we are not doing enough to keep all our children safe from harm. Child Protective Services, Child Care Licensing, and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement need to have better guidelines and standards in place to ensure our state can properly safeguard our children.
12.5.2013 Civil Rights Groups Protest Stun Gun Use on Students
Texans Care for Children was one of seven groups to sign on to a letter urging the state Commission on Law Enforcement to end the use of Tasers, stun guns and pepper spray on students at public schools in Texas.
12.2.13 Childhood Trauma Exacts Long, Expensive Toll
The long lasting personal and societal impacts of childhood adversity are explained in an Austin America-Statesman
op-ed, written by mental health policy associate Josette Saxton. By investing in effective prevention efforts we can help combat childhood trauma, an issue at the foundation of many social and health problems Texas faces.
11.25.13 Make Giving to Charity Your New Lifetime Routine
Chris Taylor, board president of Texans Care for Children, co-wrote an Austin American-Statesman
op-ed on the long-lasting benefits of giving to charity with MariBen Ramsey, vice president and general counsel of Austin Community Foundation. They explain the significant impact of giving to charity, which promotes person well-being and betters our communities.
11.18.13 Time to Tax that Liquid Candy?
In an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman
, health and fitness policy associate Lauren Dimitry examines how levying a fee on sugary drinks can results in health benefits, particularly for children. A penny-per-ounce fee on sugary drinks would lead to saved lives and dollars, and a healthier society overall.
11.11.13 Military Families Have Sacrificed, So Let's Do Our Duty, Too
Josette Saxton and Clayton Travis note in an Austin American-Statesman
op-ed that Texas has the largest population of uninsured veterans. Since lawmakers rejected an expansion of Medicaid, about 48,000 veterans and their spouses will have no way of getting covered, a disservice to military families who have done their duty.
11.4.13 Prosperity for Only the Few isn't the Best Texas Can Do
In an Austin American-Statesman
op-ed, our CEO Eileen Garcia points out that Texas may be a state of plenty, but to be a state of true prosperity we have to ensure our less fortunate don't get left behind.
10.28.13 Spike in Texas foster deaths triggers safety plan
In response to an alarming spike in the number of deaths due to foster mistreatment, a new safety plan was released by the DFPS. Our child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris blamed chronic underfunding and unmanageable caseworker loads as some of the current failures in the foster care system.
10.25.13 Keeping Foster Kids Safe from Prostitution
A Huffington Post
article highlighted a Congressional hearing where legislative solutions to the child welfare system and human trafficking were discussed. Ashley Harris testified that Child Protective Services caseworkers in Texas have a caseload that is nearly twice the recommended number. Additionally, she noted that when she was a caseworker she did not have the skills or training to respond appropriately to incidents of sex trafficking.
10.24.13 Congressional Hearing Targets Failures in Foster Care
Child welfare advocates and U.S. House members from both parties called for reforms to better support victims of sex trafficking who are in the child welfare system. The Texas Tribune
interviewed Ashley Harris, our child welfare policy associate and a former CPS caseworker, who testified that Texas' foster care system is plagued by case overload and insufficient training.
10.23.13 Rep. Ted Poe promises steps to protect kids from sex trafficking
The Dallas Morning News
reported on a congressional hearing focused on how to help the child welfare system keep foster kids safe from sex trafficking. Our child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris provided testimony, stating that
agencies need stronger tools to bolster the emotional health of foster children, so they're less vulnerable.
10.21.13 Safety Net Essential to Texas' Economic Future Public initiatives are a vital part of what will
ensure our community's future stability.
In an op-ed for the Austin American-Statesman
, Alice Bufkin writes that public efforts that address issues like early education, adult education, and food insecurity are critical for breaking the cycle of poverty.
10.14.13 Health, Gym Classes Too Vital for School District to Reduce
In reaction to AISD leaders discussing reductions to health-related graduation requirements, Lauren Dimitry co-authored an Austin American-Statesman
op-ed to highlight the importance of health and physical education classes. Lauren noted that students who are well nourished and physically active are better students overall and learning to be active and make healthy choices is a big
part of being successful.
10.8.13 Children and Mental Health
Fox 7's Good Day Austin spoke with our mental health policy expert Josette Saxton about children and mental health disorders for National Mental Illness Awareness Week.
the Children Suffer in Immigration Reform Limbo
As Congress stalls on immigration reform, a lot of Texas children stand to lose out. Roughly 1 in 7 young Texans has a close family member who is an undocumented immigrant. As Josette Saxton points out
in the Austin American-Statesman,
there are consequences for the future of Texas if more isn't done to protect these children from trauma and deprivation.
Move Toward a Healthier Texas on Tuesday
Finding health insurance that meets people's needs and also fits their budget gets easier with the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Our communications director Christine Sinatra and Enroll America's Mimi Garcia weigh in in the Austin American-Statesman
regarding how the Marketplace will work and what it means for kids.
Big Kids as Adults Leads to Big Trouble
states are "raising the age" for their adult criminal justice system to
keep kids younger than 18 out. Lauren Rose poses the question in the in the Austin American-Statesman:
Will Texas, one of the last stragglers,
9.19.13 Foster Care Redesign Won't Fix Years of Underfunding
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is
attempting to address major issues with foster care by overhauling the
foster care system. One such issue is overworked CPS caseworkers. Texans Care for Children was cited in a Burnt Orange Report
article stating CPS caseworkers in Texas have more than double the average caseload that is recommended by national experts.
9.18.13 Protecting Kids
In a San Antonio Express-News
LTE, our child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris wrote that Texas must seriously commit to protecting our state's foster children. It is crucial that CPS caseworkers be given reasonable caseloads so that they can adequately protect children from abuse and neglect.
9.16.13 Texas Children are Collateral Damage in Budget Wars
Some of Texas' hardest hit by budget sequestration are preschoolers, children in special education clases, and military families. In an Austin American Statesman
op-ed, CEO Eileen Garcia calls on congressional leaders to fund education, early learning, and other supports so our nation may more fully realize the potential in our communities.
9.9.13 No Single Pill Cure for Obesity Challenge
Texas has seen a 1.2 percent decline in obesity rates, though nearly two-thirds of the state is still in the unhealthy weight range. To best tackle the problem, partnership is key in improving the health of our communities. Dr. Deanna Hoelscher and health and fitness policy associate Lauren Dimitry note a few examples of successful partnerships in an op-ed published in the Austin American Statesman
9.8.13 Child Protective Services Launches Foster Care Redesign
The state's child welfare agency is launching a new program called Foster Care Redesign that aims to help children in foster care in Texas. In a KUT News
article our child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris expressed her concerns about the program using a single contractor system to help children find a foster home. She explained there is not enough data yet that shows whether or not this method improves outcomes for kids.
9.2.13 Redesign of Foster Care on Its Own Won't Prevent Future Tragedies
A recent tragedy sheds light on the deep cracks in the foundation of our child protection system. Chronic underfunding of services and reliance on private agencies jeopardizes the safety of children in foster care. In an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman
child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris explains the need for serious reform to help our most vulnerable children.
in Children's Physical and Mental Health
For struggling students to succeed at school, they need their most basic needs met.
That includes support for unmet mental health concerns, basic nutrition and opportunities to exercise, and reasonable approaches to discipline and behavior within schools. Mental health policy associate Josette Saxton, health and fitness policy associate Lauren Dimitry and juvenile justice policy associate Lauren Rose co-author an op-ed published in the Austin American Statesman
for back-to-school week.
8.19.13 New Training to Promote Mental Health Intervention
Until recently, talk about mental health policy in Texas was focused on
treating serious mental health disorders rather than on assessing
disorders before they escalate without treatment, Josette Saxton explained to the Texas Tribune
. That changed this legislative session, as noted in the Tribune article for part of its series on ways the session might affect Texans' lives.
8.19.13 Good Health is Good Business
Our board president Chris Taylor explains in an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman
why reducing the uninsured
population in Texas is good for the economy.
8.12.13 Foster Kids Too Often Are Easy Prey for Traffickers
Six in 10 kids recovered from human trafficking were once in
either foster care or a group home, our child welfare policy associate Ashley Harris notes in a column for the Austin American Statesman
8.5.13 Legislation Keeps Families Together
Mental health policy associate Josette Saxton explains the important progress the legislature
made for kids with serious mental illness.
7.29.13 Misleading Trayvon Martin Photos Tell a Lot about the
Photos circulating online, reportedly of Trayvon Martin, show
a society that isn't yet safe for every youth. Our CEO Eileen Garcia explains in a point-of-view piece for the Statesman
7.22.13 Tackling Hunger is Still a Worthy Goal
Ending a battle over food stamps in Congress would help children, families, and local economies, as our health and fitness policy associate Lauren Dimitry explains.
7.15.13 When a Transportation Bill Isn't Just About Transportation
During special sessions of the Texas legislature, the state considered a move that would give highways
a priority over other needs. Our CEO Eileen Garcia explained why this is the wrong move for Texas in our weekly column in the Austin American Statesman.
7.24.13 TJJD Weighs Closing Mental Health Unity, Halfway Houses
Legislature this year requires the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to cut $23 million from its budget, and the agency staff has recommended closing the Corsicana unit, a youth detention facility that houses mentally ill juvenile offenders, and two halfway houses. In a Texas Tribune
article, our juvenile justice expert Lauren Rose explains why she thinks the shuttering of these facilities should be reconsidered.
7.07.13 Teens, even criminal ones, are not the same as adults
State leaders are proposing "life with the possibility of parole"
for 17-year-olds and youth tried as adults. In an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman,
our juvenile justice policy expert Lauren Rose explains judges and juries should be able to weigh different factors in sentencing young offenders, as opposed to a "one-size-fits-all sentencing for every youth who commits a capital crime."
6.24.13 Texas Shouldn't Have to Go it Alone on Pre-K
In an op-ed for the Austin American Statesman
, our early education policy expert Andrea Brauer explains why Congress should plan for a state-federal partnership to extend pre-K to more children. Preschool's proven long-term effect on closing achievement gaps is a key reason to find a solution that brings affordable, quality pre-K to more kids.
6.24.13 Fewer Uninsured Children in Texas, Survey Shows
For several years, the rate of uninsured kids in Texas has been declining. State leaders' work to improve the systems children rely on to enroll in coverage had a lot to do with this, and access to CHIP and Children's Medicaid was of critical importance, given that families with private coverage lost opportunities to cover their kids during these same years. Lauren Dimitry, Texans Care's health policy associate, spoke to the Austin American Statesman.
6.19.13 Aledo teen accused of killing his mom and sister is in capital murder limbo
The special session of the Texas Legislature is considering sentencing for teens found guilty of capital crimes. Juvenile Justice policy associate Lauren Rose examines the complexities of the issue in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
6.18.13 Lawmakers Ponder Sentencing Fix for Teen Murders
Gov. Rick Perry expanded
the agenda of the special session to include legislation establishing a
mandatory sentence of life with parole for 17-year-olds convicted of
capital murder. In a Texas Tribune
article, our Juvenile Justice Policy Associate Lauren Rose weighed in, saying juries and judges should be able to consider whether factors such as age, home
environment, peer pressure or other influences mean that an offender
should receive a lesser sentence than life.
5.28.13 Texas Child Welfare Agency Struggling to Keep Caseworkers
Child Welfare Policy Associate Ashley Harris is also a former Child Protective Services caseworker. She spoke to KUT News
about a new report from the Texas State Auditor about high rates of turnover and job vacancies for CPS caseworkers and how high caseloads that get in the way of helping children is part of the problem.
5.17.13 Health Insurance Needs
In an Austin American-Statesman
letter to the editor, our Hogg Foundation Mental Health Policy Fellow Clayton Travis explained the need for a Texas health care solution. "Our state can still work with federal authorities to develop a "Texas
solution" and accept available dollars so that more than 1 million
uninsured Texans get the care and treatment they need," Travis wrote. "Health coverage
does improve lives, and, as other research has shown, it saves lives,
5.13.13 House Panel OKs Parole After 40 Years for Young MurderersThe Texas Tribune
reports that a House panel Monday unanimously approved a measure that would allow
defendants younger than 18 to receive life sentences and be eligible for
parole after 40 years. Our juvenile justice expert Lauren Rose said that judges making decisions about sentencing "need to take into account all of these different factors. The brain is not fully developed until 25. The trigger mechanism of
'Oh, I shouldn't be doing this' isn't always there."
5.2.13 Garcia: In Case You Haven't Noticed, It's Raining
Our CEO Eileen Garcia writes an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman
urging our political leaders to use the resources we have to "stabilize our economy to put Texas on a better path." Neither budget proposals being considered by the current state Legislature cover the basics for our communities and our children, Garcia states, and our schools and hospitals will remain struggling. By restoring 2011 budget cuts and using the rainy day fund Garcia writes, we can meet our state's needs.
4.25.13 Bill Aims to Limit Testing of Preschoolers, Kindergarteners
Senate Bill 1608 would restrict the bubble-in testing that school districts and the Texas Education Agency could require for pre-K and kindergarten students. KUT News
quoted our early childhood expert Andrea Brauer, who opposed the bill. Texans Care for Children opposes the bill because it could lead to the less frequent usage of important screenings that
help identify developmental delays and disabilities in children, and that, ultimately, isn't good for kids.
4.23.13 Senate Approves Bill Targeting Child Hunger The Texas Tribune
reports that the one in four Texas children who are food insecure could be assured a free meal every school day - breakfast - if a bill approved by the Senate continues to advance. Our health policy expert mentioned another way to provide Texans with access to healthy food. "Support for community gardens and urban agriculture could help more
Texans access fruits and vegetables," Dimitry said.
3.13.13 Travis County Could Get Own Youth Lockup
The Austin American Statesman
reports legislation would allow Travis County and others across Texas to open their own prisons for teenaged lawbreakers for the first time. Our juvenile justice policy expert Lauren Rose tesified that the local lockups
should meet or exceed standards for the state facilities, and that
protections in state law for youthful offenders in state-run lockups
should also cover those in the local ones.
3.4.13 Views on Medicaid Reform Vary
In light of the Texas Medicaid Matters Advocacy Day, Abilene Reporter-News
interviewed our Hogg Academy Mental Health Fellow Clayton Travis about Medicaid expansion. "Medicaid expansion would add 1.3 million Texans to Medicaid," Travis said. Travis noted that those added would gain coverage that would include physical and mental health services.
2.25.13 Perry Ignoring Uncomfortable Pre-K TruthsHouston Chronicle
columnist Lisa Falkenberg, who spoke to our staff member Kara Johnson, expressed concern in her article about early education in Texas. "It's hard to start a
discussion on expanding pre-K or even on strengthening the quality of
programs in Texas these days when we are just fighting to get back what
we lost last session,
" Falkenberg said.
2.13.13 Report: Texas Could Save Money by Addressing Children's NeedsThe San Antonio-Express News
shared findings from Texans Care for Children's 2013 report that found the state could save billions of dollars by putting more children on a path to success through smart policy choices.
2.13.13 Texas Loses Money by Ignoring Children's NeedsThe San Antonio Current
covered the release of a Texans Care for Children report based on a year-long study. Our CEO Eileen Garcia explains, "what this report makes clear is that the decisions today by the
legislature to get more children on the right path -- so children are
prepared for school and can grow up healthy, safe, and thriving --
represent a choice to advance our state's prosperity for years to come."
2.11.13 Advocates Call on State to Step Up Efforts to Fight Hunger
The Texas Tribune
spoke to Texans Care for Children's health policy advocate Lauren Dimitry about the responsible ways Texas can address hunger while providing nutritious food options for children and families.
2.6.2013 Report: Poor Well-Being of Texas Children Costs an Extra $20 Billion
A KUT News
article describes children's policy recommendations made in a newly released Texans Care for Children report. Our CEO Eileen Garcia explains, "we're losing so much potential in our children, and as our report
highlights there are real hard financial costs when we don't give
children the support they need to grow up successful."
1.27.2013 There's Downside to Schoolhouse Cops
A San Antonio Express-News op-ed written by our juvenile justice expert, Lauren Rose, describes the downside to increasing the presence of police officers in schools. Rose explains, "ticketing by police officers, arrests on campus and discipline practices
that remove kids from the classroom instead of keeping them where they
learn happen more often with police officers in schools."
1.26.2013 Kids are a Great Investment in Texas
An Austin American-Statesman
op-ed written by Texans Care
staff explains what Texas can do to provide a brighter future for its
6.6 million children. Investments in health, education, child
protection, juvenile justice, and early opportunities can help ensure
the Texas of tomorrow will be better than the Texas of today.1.18.2013 Strama Bill Would Pay Childcare Centers More for High Marks on State Evaluation
Rep. Mark Strama has filed House Bill 376
, which aims to provide more funding to an early childhood education certification program called Texas Rising Star. The Texas Observer
spoke with Kara Johnson, our early childhood education expert, who said the program is the state's best bet for measuring childcare provider quality.1.11.2013 Agenda Texas: Funding Pre-School Education
The 83rd Texas State Legislature has more than $101 billion dollars to spend in the next session, according to the state Comptroller Susan Combs, and advocates are speaking up about restoring funds to education programs. KUT News
and the Texas Tribune
spoke to our early childhood education expert Kara Johnson about the benefits of investing in early childhood education. When you invest in high quality care, the
key is high quality, you get a 350 percent return on your investment,"