AUSTIN, Texas, April 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Hundreds of Child Protection advocates wearing blue and white and donning blue ribbons rallied at the State Capitol on Friday, April 5, 2013 at 12 p.m. advocating for protecting Texas Children. TexProtects and The Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards, in conjunction with 21 other organizations, organized Child Protection Day at the capitol to give a voice to voiceless children through the Child Protection Bills filed and budget requests that will impact Texas children and the CPS system.
"While child protection requires year-round vigilance, Child Abuse Prevention Month gives us an opportunity to focus on these preventable crimes against children and put it in the forefront of the public's attention. I commend TexProtects and the countless other child protection advocates for bringing this matter to the Capitol and making sure that state lawmakers focus on the issue as well," stated Senator Kirk Watson, District 14.
Madeline McClure, Executive Director of TexProtects , led the rally calling on lawmakers to support the legislative priorities and funding requests under consideration by the legislature, as well as restoring the cuts made to several child abuse and juvenile delinquency prevention programs within the Department of Family and Protective Services' (DFPS) Prevention and Early Intervention Division (PEI) that suffered a 30% budget reduction in the 82nd Legislature , including evidence-based child abuse prevention programs.
McClure noted: "Texas ranks dead last in child abuse prevention funding of all 50 states, and Texas ranks number one in child abuse fatalities. Do we think that's a coincidence? While our child population has grown by over one million children in the past 10 years (almost 18%), our prevention funding dropped more than 32% over that same period. We are one of the richest, prosperous states in the Nation: How can we square that fact while also being the poorest state in providing prevention services?"
Key legislators spoke at Friday's rally, including Senator Kirk Watson, Senate District 14; Representative John Zerwas, District 28; Representative Donna Howard, District 48; and Representative Mark Strama, District 50. Other speakers included: Judge Darlene Byrne, 126 Judicial Civil District Court; Vivian Dorsett, Foster Care Alumni of America; and Jessica Sheehey, Foster Youth.
Why are prevention programs critical? In Texas, 176 children are confirmed victims of abuse every day. Four children die from abuse or neglect on average every week. This doesn't include the thousands of cases that don't get reported or investigated. Last year in Texas, 64,366 were confirmed victims, equating to seven children abused or neglected every hour.
According to Representative John Zerwas, House Sponsor of SB 426, the Home Visitation Expansion and Accountability Act, "These statistics are staggering! We have to end these heinous crimes against children face-by- face, identifying high-risk families. We must bring skills and values to those families to make a difference." Zerwas said, "Programs like evidence-based home visiting work. But, do we have the will necessary to invest in them? We must invest in the state's most precious resource—the future generations of Texas children."
The Child Abuse Prevention Priorities of the sponsoring organizations include: Restoring the funding to the Prevention and Early Intervention Division to 2010-2011 biennium levels; Requiring institutions of higher education, schools, charter schools and child care facilities to adopt and implement internal recognition and reporting policies consistent with state mandatory reporting law; Defining school social workers in the Education Code; Enhancing the penalty for failure to report child abuse; and the Home Visitation Expansion and Accountability Act, maintaining current State GR funding for the Nurse-Family Partnership Program, supporting a Home Visiting Consortium and supporting an Early Childhood Comprehensive System that focuses on prenatal to five years of age.
Child Protection Priorities on the Legislative Consensus Agenda follow providing: Educational success for foster children with greater flexibility in order to graduate; Access to CPS records for court appointed evaluators; Greater access to protective orders; Review of dismissal orders in CPS cases; Loan repayment program for qualified caseworkers, Placement stability and permanency for Foster Youth; Task Force on recruitment and retention of CPS caseworkers; and Oversight for Psychotropic Medication Usage for Foster Youth.
"At long last, the Texas Legislature has heard the continuous call of advocates to adequately fund CPS," said McClure. "We applaud the new DFPS Commissioner, Judge Specia and the Texas leadership and urge them to follow the lead of Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Sen. Jane Nelson, Senator Carlos Uresti, Rep. Zerwas, Rep. Dukes and others to likewise increase investment in child abuse prevention programs including evidence-based home visiting. If we don't invest in the front end-we'll never mitigate the number of innocent children, scarred for life, flowing into the expensive CPS system."
ABOUT TEXPROTECTS: TexProtects' mission is to reduce and prevent child abuse by educating and organizing its members to communicate with government officials, public and private funders, and the public at large about the need for increased investments in research-based best practices of child abuse prevention programs, Child Protective Services reforms, and treatment programs for victims of abuse.
ABOUT TEXAS COUNCIL OF CHILD WELFARE BOARDS: Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards' mission is to support a statewide network of volunteers concerned with the welfare of children, especially those suffering from abuse and neglect. Through coordinated training, communication, and advocacy, TCCWB seeks to strengthen the efforts of more than 2000 volunteers appointed by county commissioners' courts to work in cooperation with state agency staff who deliver the Child Protective Services program at the grass-roots level.
Contact: Madeline McClure (214) 770-7624
Executive Director, TexProtects