Empty words make for empty promises

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When children in the custody of the State of Texas are forced to sleep on the floors of Child Protective Services offices, Texans should be embarrassed.

When children in foster care are assaulted, abused or simply lost because child protective services failed to follow up on complaints, Texans should be ashamed.  

The failures at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services have been making headlines for months, and Republican leaders have said the right things along the way, most recently drafting a letter to the new department commissioner to make sure changes are made.

Letters are as good as campaign speeches and carry no weight aside from giving the writer a chance to say they are for change. None of the three who are speaking out – Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick or House Speaker Joe Strauss – have offered any substance in their calls for change and certainly no funding.

As with all government decisions, funding is where we see a lawmaker’s true dedication to change. Until the legislature chooses to actually fund the work that needs to be done to overhaul our deplorable child protective services program, there is no reason we should believe they care about the issue.

None of our legislators are to blame directly for this crisis, but their lack of foresight is a direct cause of just such a problem. When funds are cut to social programs that have a growing need, then the message is clear – this program is not a priority.

After years of cuts, or at best a lack of funding that meets the expanded need, this is what we get, a program strained by a lack of resources, unable to keep up.

The welfare of our children is not a place we should ever decide to try and do more with less. It simply does not work.

The agency recently released information that showed more than 1,000 at-risk children were not visited for more than six months and that more than 1,800 were not seen within 24 hours following reports of alleged abuse

or mistreatment.

We all agree this is unacceptable. But do we all agree it takes funds – staffing and resources – to meet these needs? How else do you take care of these children besides having the staff and infrastructure to cope with the demand?

While the legislature is demanding change, no a single person who spoke up addressed the funding issue. The agency is facing a $40 million budget shortfall and is not adequately staffed with caseworkers.

Standing at a podium, shaking your fist and declaring “this must change” is a poor excuse for standing up for Texas children.

Once again Texas finds itself months away from another legislative session and will have many tough decisions. Will this be the session that making decisions that benefit our children through education and social programs are not part of the hard decisions but instead are the easy ones?

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