"Mom, have you gotten the kids out of jail yet?" my nine-year-old asked me, with clear anxiety in his voice and a look of strain on his face.
The day before, he had overheard a snippet of conversation about the practice of transferring children in our juvenile justice system to prisons. Not knowing he was listening in, I was surprised to hear him ask, "Kids don't get put in real jails, do they?" A little caught off guard, I responded that yes, sometimes they do, but that part of my job was to help support our staff in bringing together lots of people who together work hard to change that. I told him that through hard work fewer and fewer children were going to jails and that we were working to change the laws that would let it happen at all. He seemed to reflect on that for a bit, and soon we were on to other things – preparations for the next day of school, dinner and Harry Potter at bedtime.
The next day, amid the flurry of racing home from work, dinner and emptying lunchboxes, my son provided his follow up question – "Mom, have you gotten the kids out of jail yet?" – indicating there was, rightly, no resolution yet in his mind. It struck me that the urgency of his question reflected the urgency we should all be feeling. And while I am privileged to work with an exceptional staff team and board of trustees, and a mass network of members, partners and supporters, at that moment I felt a deep personal responsibility and failure in having to tell him, "No, love. We are still working on that."
Big changes rarely happen overnight, but my accountability to my little guys helps reinforce for me that the work we do matters and the needs at hand are acute. I come home at night to the great privilege of loving and holding fast my two little guys, and rising each morning to work on making things better for them and the millions of children across the state who aren't in their homes or are otherwise in need. I sometimes can't help but reflect on my own children when I remember the children with unmet needs I saw through my years in direct service nonprofits and today hear from parents at the end of their means while trying to care for their kids. I care because I know what I want for my own children, I know how interminably I love my sons, and I can't stand to see a Texas that doesn't want the same for its own. I care because Texas children matter and caring is the only way we can even begin to contemplate how to make a difference.
Editor's note: This is part of our Share Why You Care series, where members of our staff and network share why children should be a focus in these critical weeks leading up to the election and the months before the legislative session. To check out earlier contributions, read a post by Ashley, our child welfare expert, and one by Sondra, our membership and development director.