How To Get Involved During the Interim

Your Voice – and Action – Matters Between Legislative Sessions

As summarized in our last blog post on the legislative interim, the work toward next session really does begin now.

During the interim, legislators and their staff spend more time in both their district and capitol offices, which means they have more bandwidth and availability to develop relationships and learn more about topics of interest. The voice that matters most to legislators, is the voice of their constituents. So while the work of session can often seem complicated, overwhelming, and better left to the professionals (which it’s not!), the interim is the period in which local providers, stakeholders, parents, teachers, and YOU can use their voice to speak up for Texas kids.

Keep this in mind while bending the ear of a legislator: You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to understand the political system. You don’t have to know all the data inside and out. This is where the support and expertise of TexProtects can come into play – but we need you to tell your story and why it matters.

To speak to your district’s policymakers, you simply have to share your values (and it certainly helps understand theirs!), experiences, knowledge, and the issue/topic to which you’re passionate. Then, let them know that their community is expecting them to deliver in ways that are meaningful. In our case – that is keeping kids safe and empowering our families to thrive.

Maybe you have ideas about what needs to change regarding the issue at hand. Maybe you have some ideas about solutions – even better! Maybe you have personal experiences with children or families that you know will provide a compelling narrative and is the extra push needed to see change happen. If you follow the work TexProtects does, if you are reading this blog, if you engage with us on social media, you definitely have a story and a connection to your community that could deepen and inform the conversation around how to make meaningful change in child welfare.

If you’re ready to get involved, here are few ways you can begin:

  • Find out who represents you and find a way to get to know them and their staff.
    • Go to a campaign event or a town hall.
    • Schedule a visit to talk about topics of interest.
    • Invite them to an event that highlights critical issues and programs to build investment.
  • Attend an event! TexProtects holds community events through the state year-round on child protection related issues. Check our website for any upcoming events.
  • Join local and statewide collaboratives on your areas of interest to amplify your voice and inform your positions. For example, TexProtects provides leadership for the following collaborations: TexProtects Public Policy Committee, Texas Prenatal to Three Collaborative, the Child Protection Roundtable, and the Home Visiting Consortium. Contact if you are interested in more information about those collaboratives.
  • Write a letter of thanks to legislative champions. Everyone appreciates a thank you and unfortunately, our policy makers often hear from their constituents only when they are unhappy. Take time over the interim to thank your legislator for their public service and take the opportunity to point out a child protection bill from last session that they supported. You can use our end of session report to get a list of important bills from last session. Texas Legislature Online will let you search for a bill to see who voted for it, what actions were taken toward it, and the language of the bill. If you need assistance, contact TexProtects would be glad to help you draft the letter or determine which bills might be relevant to mention.
  • Be sure you are signed up for our newsletter and advocacy alerts (sign up in the orange box on our home page and connect with us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to stay up to date on the latest child welfare news  and state and federal policy. We will let you know when there is an important hearing so that you can attend, stream online, or provide written or oral testimony.
  • Have a policy idea related to child protection? We want to hear it!

If you hit a roadblock or need a cheerleader, a contact, or a data point, please don’t hesitate to reach out, we are here to help.

The Work Toward Next Session Starts Now

The 86th Interim Committee Charges and Child Protection

The Texas Legislative Session takes place for 140 days every two years; but it may be a misconception to call it a part-time legislature. The laws passed during the session are the result of work that starts during the interim – the more than one-and-a-half years between the end of one session and the beginning of another.

Although the legislative session gets the majority of the attention, it’s important to understand the significance and opportunities of the interim. During this time, advocates strengthen relationships with legislators and their staff and educate them on issues that will inform their work and the bills they support the following session.

The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor kick off the interim with charges that instruct committees in the House and Senate on what to monitor and examine before the next session. The committees engage in discussions, research and hold public hearings to produce an interim report, inclusive of recommendations forthe next legislature. Charges typically include directions to monitor the implementation of bills passed by the previous legislature as well as directives toward emerging priorities and issues.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released Senate charges on Oct. 30, 2019. Most of the charges that affect child protection went to the Senate Health and Human Services committee chaired by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). Child protection related charges in the Senate include the following:

Rural Health:

  • Examine and determine ways to improve health care delivery in rural and medically underserved areas of the state.
  • Determine whether additional funding provided during the 86th Legislative Session has helped to ensure more accessible and quality health care in rural areas.

Strengthening Families:

  • Examine Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) procedures and grounds for placing a child into the child welfare system and the termination of parental rights.
  • Make recommendations on ways to protect children who are involved with the child welfare system while preserving families under state law.
  • Identify ways faith-based and other community organizations can assist in preserving or reunifying families involved with the child welfare system.


  • The continued implementation of Senate Bill 11 (85th Legislature) and Community-Based Care by DFPS,
  • Child Care Quality and Safety, and
  • Maternal mortality and infant health initiatives, including the women’s health programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).

On the House side, this interim has presented some unique challenges. The first few months of the interim were disrupted by a political scandal involving Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) that resulted in his decision to resign his seat, which he has held since 1997. This also means he is leaving his position as Speaker of the House for the next session. This creates some challenges; there is less clarity about leadership and priorities for next session. But there also is an opportunity for the House Committees to pursue their work during the interim given more autonomy.

Adding to challenges in the House is the absence of Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), a longtime House member and chair of the Appropriations Committee – and a dear champion for child protection issues. He will not be seeking reelection – leaving a vacancy on that committee that only the Speaker of the House can fill. With new leadership, every week counts. The Appropriations Committee typically spends the 18 months between sessions to prepare the budget. This year’s budget exceeded $200 billion and the budget is the only bill that every Legislature is required to pass. The appointment of the Appropriations chair will be critical to the political dynamics and the efficiency of the House during this interim.

Challenges aside, Speaker Bonnen released his full list of more than 200 interim charges on Nov. 25 of 2019.

House Charges related to child protection spread across several committees including Appropriations, Human Services, Public Education, Public Health and others. In addition to monitoring charges related to many of the child protection bills from last session, TexProtects is particularly excited that the House is studying the following topics over this interim.

Early Childhood Brain Health:

  • Examine state investments in the health and brain development of babies and toddlers including Early Childhood Intervention and other early childhood programs for children in the first three years.
  • Evaluate opportunities to boost child outcomes and achieve longer term savings (Appropriations Article II subcommittee).

Family First Prevention Services Act:

  • Review how Texas is preparing for state and federal budgetary changes that impact the state health programs including the Family First Prevention Services Act (joint charge for Appropriations Article II and Human Services Committee).

Community Based Care:

  • Monitor the implementation and expansion of Community Based Care by DFPS (joint charge for Appropriations Article II and the Human Services Committee).


  • Former Foster Youth and Post-Permanency Care (HB53, HB72, HB123, HB1702),
  • Child Care Quality and Safety (SB568, SB569, SB706, HB680),
  • Behavioral Health in Schools (HB18, HB19, HB906),
  • Maternal and Child Health (HB253, SB436, SB748, SB749), and
  • Rural Health (SB633, SB670).

As lawmakers return from the holiday break, the committees will begin posting notices for hearings on these charges. Stay tuned for our next blog in this series which will outline ways that you can get involved and work alongside TexProtects to ensure that every child (and their family) is safe, nurtured, and resilient.