Child welfare is a system of public and private services aiding the well-being of children. Institutions such as schools, homes, and community organizations play a vital role in ensuring that local, state, and federal governments give children what they need to thrive.
Legislation is one of the most powerful ways to enact effective change within child welfare. Policies create standards for children, ensuring that their needs are met. Within the state legislature, school districts, schools, and other local institutions can be given guidelines that work to protect and help children. Federal legislation can introduce policies that ensure that state policies are following national standards and regulations. Together, state and federal policies can work together to create healthy and safe living conditions for children.
The school-to-prison pipeline is the implementation of zero-tolerance policies that mandate harsh punishments for minor and major infractions alike. The result is a surge in suspensions and expulsions, leaving students susceptible to criminal activity that can involve them in the justice system at an early age.
Schools have become students’ first point of contact with the criminal justice system, with schools referring students to juvenile court rather than a trip to the principal’s office. Students begin to acquire a juvenile record as early as kindergarten. Furthermore, the severity of their punishments only rises with each additional offense. Once students enter the juvenile justice system, many will struggle to re-enter their previous school system, and the vast majority will never graduate high school. Most students are placed in unaccredited, alternative schools that offer a significantly diminished quality of education.
Child welfare is not an issue that stands alone; rather, it intersects with many of our primary concerns, including food security. Children raised in food-insecure households are at a greater risk of developing mental and chronic illnesses. Inability to access nutritious food increases the likelihood of childhood obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It may also affect a child’s performance in school, hindering their development and negatively impacting their future.
The stress of inadequate child care extends to caregivers, revealing a direct link between food insecurity and mental health diagnoses in adults.
Physical and Chemical Restraints
Research has established a correlation between childhood trauma and the use of restraints, especially for children younger than 10. In Texas, children may be taken into police custody for minor offenses such as causing a disturbance, speaking to an officer incorrectly, and violating school policies such as dress codes. Texas public schools recorded 4,202 instances of restraints on children in the 2007-2008 academic year. The Department of Education issued a report warning that restraining students can, in some cases, lead to fatalities if mistakes occur in the employment of restraint techniques.
One child was hospitalized for a week after being restrained at school for suicidal ideations. And he is not alone in his experience. Countless children have encountered adverse effects ranging from loss of sleep to difficulty trusting authority figures. Extensive published data reports echo the harm of restraints. Children belong on the playground, not in cuffs.
Our Approach To Child Welfare
Snapshot of our work:
- Worked alongside Representative Hull to introduce H.B. 2975, or ‘No Kids in Cuffs,’ a bill that would restrict the use of restraints and chemical irritants on children under the age of 10
- Partnered with child welfare and domestic violence organizations to gather insight and support for legislative initiatives
- Actively advocated for H.B. 766 authored by Representative Harless, H.B. 1005, and H.B. 1007 authored by Representative Leman, all of which address bond conditions in the criminal justice system