Six Mother’s Days have passed since I’ve been with TexProtects, the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. But this one is special — it’s my first as a mother.
In our efforts to prevent trauma from abuse and neglect, TexProtects promotes and builds effective policies and programs helping new mothers and families deal with the life-changing stresses that come with newborns and young children.
I thought I was prepared for motherhood. But these first few weeks of my son’s life made me realize how fortunate I am to have a support structure of my husband, family, church, steady income and paid leave, as well as good health.
I don’t take this for granted, because I know many new mothers across Texas are in very different circumstances.
Some are very young. Many are alone — maybe kicked out of their homes or fleeing from an abusive situation. Some are struggling with postpartum depression or mental illness, or fighting their way out of addiction. They may lack confidence, parenting knowledge, or reliable relationships to help, especially if they were abused or neglected themselves.
Abuse and neglect is cyclical. These mothers’ situations don’t predetermine that their children will be maltreated, but they dramatically raise the odds. Helping these mothers is key to breaking that cycle.
One of the best ways to do this is through evidence-based home visiting programs. These nonprofit programs allow a family with newborns or young children to invite a nurse, social worker or other trained professional into the home to provide support and make referrals when needed.
Home visiting has proven benefits: fewer pregnancy complications; reduced incidences of domestic violence, child maltreatment, and interaction with the judicial system; better educational and health outcomes (both for the parent and child); and a greater likelihood that the parent(s) will become or remain employed. In other words — stronger, more resilient, self-sufficient families.
The programs have another beneficiary: taxpayers. Helping these families stay out of the Child Protective Services and foster care systems relieves pressure on the emergency services, judicial, health, and education systems.
In the current Texas Legislative session, which ends May 27, the competing House and Senate versions of the fiscal years 2020-21 budget both have very modest increases in home visiting investments, but not nearly enough to substantially increase the number of families served.
Of 423,000 Texas families we estimate could benefit from home visiting, having young children with multiple risk factors, Texas currently can serve only about 15,000.
With the $30.5 million legislative investment increase requested by TexProtects, we could help another 3,600. Home visiting programs have demonstrated returns ranging from $1.26 to $8.08 per dollar invested — failure to reach those families means lives lost and tax savings missed.
Please urge lawmakers negotiating the final budget bill to substantially increase home visiting investments. Mother’s Day shouldn’t be a reminder of traumatic childhoods or maternal inadequacies. Help us cement Mother’s Day as a celebration of strong families.