The Texas winter freeze and power outages are once-in-a-lifetime events that qualify as collective trauma for all of us. However, for Texans who were already in need or disproportionately affected by COVID-19, these events are compounding record-high levels of stress.
This crisis reminds us there is a clear and urgent need to put children and their families first this legislative session.
We need to ensure the immediate safety and protection of children who are survivors of child abuse and neglect. While events like the winter storm do not define families already under stressful circumstances, nor lead to child abuse, they do draw attention to the fact that thousands of children and families need our help and support more than ever. And we must work with the legislature on smart solutions to invest in upstream programs that prevent child abuse and neglect and mitigate the negative impact of events like these.
We are encouraged to see Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow to bring the state of Texas into compliance with the longstanding lawsuit against the Texas Foster Care system, recognizing that it is fundamental to ensuring the immediate safety and protection of the nearly 50,000 children who are survivors of child abuse and neglect and come through the state’s foster care doors every year needing help and protection. However, we know the foster care system has caused trauma that is on par, if not more significant, than what initially launched them into foster care.
The governor’s vow is a substantial promise and will require from our legislature this session an investment to the tune of $126 million — significant, yet worth every penny to protect the safety of our children. However, compliance with the lawsuit will not bring about transformational change. It is just the foundation and floor we must build upon.
An investment of $126 million to address the many issues in the lawsuit will not erase the trauma children in the foster care system have suffered. It will not support and protect children and families from reaching critical tipping points caused by unaddressed trauma and stress.