New Push For TX Lege to Support Babies, Toddlers, and Their Parents

For Immediate Release

Austin – Today three Texas nonprofit organizations announced a new effort to work with the Texas Legislature and other state leaders to increase the number of infants and toddlers who are healthy, supported, and arrive at school ready to learn. While Texas is home to 1 in 10 of our nation’s children, our current policies are not doing enough to support them, as Texas ranks in the bottom 10 for child well-being in the country. Despite the overwhelming evidence that a child’s first three years are critical for brain development and set the foundation for a child’s future, Texas does not invest enough to ensure infants, toddlers, and their families can access the health, education, care, developmental, and other services they need to set them on a path to success.

The new project, called the Texas Prenatal to Three (PN-3) Collaborative, is developing policy solutions to address these challenges. Three of the state’s leading children’s policy advocacy organizations — TexProtects, Texans Care for Children, and Children at Risk — are spearheading the new project. The Collaborative has the backing of over 110 partner organizations across the state. The Pritzker Children’s Initiative has awarded a generous $2.5 million three-year grant to the Texas PN-3 Collaborative in support of the Initiative’s work to increase access to critical education, health, social, developmental, and economic services for low-income infants and toddlers and their families.

COVID-19 has presented immense challenges to Texas families, from job loss or depressed wages to social isolation from support networks of families and friends. Now, more than ever, it is critical to support our youngest Texans and their families and connect them to the resources they need to be safe, stay healthy, and get ready for school.

The Texas PN-3 Collaborative will pursue a strategic agenda, known as The Texas Plan, to increase access to high-quality services for at least 300,000 low-income infants and toddlers and their families by 2026. The Texas Plan builds on and aligns with existing policy efforts and initiatives in the state. The Texas Plan focuses on the following three key areas:

  • Increasing the quality of and access to prenatal and postpartum health services for low-income mothers and health services for low-income infants and toddlers.
  • Increasing the number of low-income infants and toddlers and their families who are screened and successfully connected to necessary services, such as intensive home visiting or Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) for children under three with disabilities and developmental delays.
  • Increasing access to high-quality child care programs serving low-income infants and toddlers.

“Experiences during the first few years of childhood provide the foundation for the rest of our lives,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, which is leading the Collaborative’s work on access to health services. “To make sure babies and toddlers get off to a strong start in life, one of the key steps the Legislature needs to take is reducing the uninsured rate for children and mothers.”

“Texas is home to 1.2 million infants and toddlers below the age of three, nearly half of whom are low income,” said Mandi Kimball, Vice President of Children at Risk and Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs. “This grant provides an incredible opportunity to better coordinate and align our early childhood systems to support families and give infants and toddlers the strong foundation they need to thrive later in life.”

“We are truly at the cusp of a PN-3 moment in our state,” explained Sophie Phillips, CEO of TexProtects. “Between the state’s Early Learning Strategic Plan, strong supporters of early childhood in the Texas Capitol, the Texas Early Learning Council, the considerable leadership in community early childhood coalitions, and the Texas PN-3 Collaborative, which acts as an umbrella organization for communities, advocates, and direct service providers, we are confident that we can make a positive impact on the systems and services that support our youngest, and make Texas the best place to be born.”

Texas is one of eleven states selected for funding by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, as part of a competitive grant process.

About the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI)

The Pritzker Children’s Initiative is a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Foundation focused on increasing the number of young children who arrive in school ready to learn and succeed. More information about PCI can be found here.

# # #

For interviews, please contact:
Andrea Payne
Prenatal to Five Advocacy Manager
TexProtects | Champions for Safe Children and Texas Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America
Cell (214) 534-4064

Statement on New Texas DFPS Commissioner

TexProtects has eagerly awaited the appointment of the next DFPS Commissioner and looks forward to welcoming Ms. Masters to Texas as we continue to work together to identify solutions that prevent abuse and promote the protection and healing of children in the child welfare system. We are enthusiastic about the unique expertise Ms. Masters will bring from a mental health and public health lens to the issue of child welfare in this state and look forward to opportunities to apply practical and proven strategies from the Midwest, which has frequently demonstrated stronger outcomes for children and families than Texas.

Read the rest of the press release.

37 Texas Groups Call for Humane Treatment of Children & Families at Border

For Immediate Release
Contact: Lee Nichols, TexProtects
512-796-9877 or

Austin – Today, 37 organizations dedicated to supporting Texas children and families wrote to state leaders and the state’s congressional delegation to express “deep concern over the reported treatment of parents and children held in immigration detention facilities on Texas soil.”

The letter follows numerous accounts of children and adults held for prolonged periods of time in overcrowded Texas-based immigration facilities with inadequate care as well as continued accounts of young children separated from their parents or other family members by U.S. immigration officials.

The letter urges the Texas officials to “support additional measures to ensure that all children and parents who are now in the care of the federal government, no matter their country of origin, receive compassionate, humane, and fair treatment.”

The organizations highlighted their concern about the long-term impact of the trauma experienced by children in immigration facilities, including those separated from their parents, noting, “Furthermore, early childhood trauma undermines a child’s healthy brain development and ability to form healthy attachments, resulting in lifelong, negative consequences, such as chronic physical and/or mental illness and less likelihood of succeeding in school or becoming productive workers.”

“We are very concerned that the inhumane treatment of migrant children, stays in detention facilities, and separation from their families or other nurturing caregivers may all have lasting, harmful effects on the health and development of these children,” said Sophie Phillips, CEO of TexProtects. “We should be protecting these children, not subjecting them to further traumatic events that can have dire, lifelong consequences.”

“Each and every child in our state, no matter where she was born or how she got here, should be treated with the kind of care and compassion that children deserve,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children and one of the nonprofit leaders who signed the letter. “We urge our elected officials from across the political spectrum to work together improve the way these children and families are being treated.”

The 37 Texas organizations sent the letter to Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, the 36 members of the Texas delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the 181 members of the Texas Legislature.

The full letter, including the list of all the signing organizations, is available at

TexProtects supports life sentence for Wesley Mathews

June 26, 2019
Contact: Lee Nichols

Dallas, Texas – Earlier today, Wesley Mathews of Richardson was sentenced by a jury to life in prison for his role in death of his daughter, Sherin Mathews.

TexProtects, the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, has watched this case closely. TexProtects CEO Sophie Phillips issues the following statement in response to the sentence:

“As the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, we are grateful to the jury and law enforcement officials that Wesley Mathews has been held accountable for ending the life of his adopted daughter Sherin. No innocent child should suffer at the hands of the very people that she trusts to protect her. If any good comes of this tragedy, we hope it will be that elected officials and community leaders realize the vital importance of child maltreatment prevention programs. We must reach more families before they reach a crisis situation.”

TexProtects, Champions for Safe Children, was created to tackle issues of Child Protective Services (CPS) reform, prevention and public awareness to bring a collective, organized voice representing the needs of children at risk of abuse and survivors of child abuse and neglect. TexProtects is the Texas Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. TexProtects is autonomous, nonpartisan and nonpolitical, designed to educate decision makers, private funders and the public at large. To date, it is the only Texas organization that has a dedicated focus on the main issues of protection, prevention, and healing of abused and neglected children. For more information, please visit

TexProtects applauds passage of SB 355 (re Family First Prevention Services Act)

May 22, 2019
Contact: Lee Nichols

Austin, Texas — Earlier today, the Texas House passed Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Royce West (sponsored in the House by Rep. Stephanie Klick). This bill directs the Department of Family and Protective Services to develop a strategic plan for the coordinated implementation of community-based care and foster care prevention services that meet the requirements of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.

TexProtects (the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America) applauds the passage of this bill by both chambers, resulting in SB 355 being sent to Governor Greg Abbott to be signed into law. Statement from TexProtects Vice President of Public Affairs Pamela McPeters:

We applaud the House for swiftly passing this key piece of legislation and sending it to the governor. The Family First Prevention Services Act marked a major shift in federal spending priorities, allowing money that previously was reserved solely for foster care to now be invested in crucial prevention programs that keep children from ever being removed from their families in the first place – safely protected in their homes. Senate Bill 355 will allow the state to develop a Texas strategy to leverage and maximize these funds for services that empower families to be resilient and self-reliant. FFPSA is a landmark recognition that we must support families before tragedy can occur, not just after it happens.

TexProtects report, lawmakers call for statewide strategy on Adverse Childhood Experiences

January 16, 2019
Contact: Lee Nichols

Photos of the press conference available upon request. See video of the press conference here.

Science Meets Policy

ACEs Uncovered: Powerful preventative strategies to promote resilience and brain health for a better Texas tomorrow

Austin, Texas — Adverse experiences early in life, known as Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs, can result in trauma that potentially affects the brain architecture of developing children. In 2016, an estimated 3.4 million Texas children had one or more ACE. Child maltreatment in its many forms makes up half of the recognized ACEs. Advocacy group TexProtects, Champions for Safe Children, estimates child maltreatment cost Texas over $55 billion in 2017.

A coordinated, statewide strategy across the healthcare, child welfare, early childhood education and justice systems can prevent and mitigate the impact of trauma, and equip children, families and communities with the resilience to have healthy futures.

That’s the conclusion of ACEs Uncovered: Powerful preventative strategies to promote resilience and brain health for a better Texas tomorrow, a new report by TexProtects, unveiled Wednesday at the Texas State Capitol. Flanked by Texas lawmakers, TexProtects CEO Sophie Phillips said that building a statewide collaboration will take the support of the 86th Texas Legislature.

“Chronic health problems, criminal or risky behaviors, and poor academic and workforce performance can all result from ACEs – but with the right support structures and prevention strategies, it doesn’t have to be that way,” Phillips said. “With the help of our lawmakers, Texas can build a cross-systems, preventative approach that leads to self-sufficient families, healthier children and taxpayer savings.

“TexProtects will push for this coordinated system throughout the legislative session, especially on February 12, when we will bring child protection advocates, including 125 seventh-grade students from Dallas, from across the state to the Capitol for a day of action,” Phillips added.

Katherine Snyder, Child Abuse Pediatrician for the CARE Team at Dell Children’s Hospital, provided some expert perspective on ACEs: “Stress is a normal part of life, but exposure to chronic stress has important consequences on the short and long term physical and psychological health of the child and the adult they become. Intervening as early as possible to create safe environments, healthy and protective relationships and empower healthier coping mechanisms for the child and caregiver is paramount to the overall health of the community and society.”

Phillips and key lawmakers laid out three priorities for the session, which began on January 8:
• Develop and implement a statewide strategic plan to address causes and symptoms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
• Strengthen investments in community-based, primary child abuse prevention programs like home visiting.
• Improve coordination and effectiveness of services for children at risk of entering foster care.

Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, said that the emerging science of Adverse Childhood Experiences must be thoroughly ingrained into Texas’ care of children who have been abused and neglected. On Tuesday, he introduced House Bill 4183 which will facilitate coordination of agencies in developing a statewide strategic plan.

“In the past, when children or adults have engaged in high-risk or socially unacceptable behaviors, our reaction was to ask, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Today, we realize the better question is, ‘What happened to you?’ If the adults in their life helping them on that journey don’t understand what they’ve endured and how it still affects them, then those children have higher odds of falling short in education, in health – including mental health – and in personal relationships,” Parker said.

State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond and a physician who served as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee in the 85th Legislature, spoke of the value of making prevention programs available to families:

“Evidence-based, voluntary prevention programs such as home visiting produce stronger, more self-sufficient families, and save taxpayers money. But Texas is reaching only 5% of the 423,000 families with children under 6 who can benefit from prevention services. We can do better! Investments in proven programs, such as Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) and Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) prevent negative outcomes and avert costs in the criminal justice, health care and educational systems,” Zerwas said.

In its legislative appropriations request, the Department of Family and Protective Services is asking for $5.5 million to help NFP reach an additional 550 families in each year of 2020 and 2021, in turn saving Texas taxpayers over $31 million by preventing negative outcomes. DFPS is also requesting to expand the community-driven HOPES program by $9.4 million to reach an additional 1,200 families.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas and a TexProtects Advisory Board member, emphasized the need for the Legislature to leverage new federal funds made available by the Family First Prevention Services Act. Tuesday, he introduced Senate Bill 355 to enable this.

“Family First provides flexibility for states to use money previously reserved only for foster care and channel it toward programs that prevent children from ever being removed from their homes. But the Legislature will need to strengthen the infrastructure and effectiveness of programs eligible for Family First funds,” West said.

“Last session, the Legislature and Governor identified child abuse and neglect as a key issue and took historic steps in changing how our state deals with it. But it is critically important that state leaders and the public realize: The efforts in 2017 did not mark an end point in Texas’ fight against child abuse and neglect – it marked a beginning,” Phillips said.

Advocates wishing to RSVP for TexProtects’ Child Abuse Prevention Day at the Texas Capitol on February 12 (including a free, round-trip bus ride between Dallas and Austin) may do so at

ACEs Uncovered: Powerful preventative strategies to promote resilience and brain health for a better Texas tomorrow may be accessed any time at


TexProtects, Champions for Safe Children, was created to tackle issues of Child Protective Services (CPS) reform, prevention and public awareness to bring a collective, organized voice representing the needs of children at risk of abuse and survivors of child abuse and neglect. TexProtects is the Texas Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. TexProtects is autonomous, nonpartisan and nonpolitical, designed to educate decision makers, private funders and the public at large. To date, it is the only Texas organization that has a dedicated focus on the main issues of protection, prevention, and healing of abused and neglected children. For more information, please visit