Black Children at Risk-Racial Equity Advocacy Day

Community leaders and legislators with established records of fighting systemic racism put forth their vision for policies that would bring Texas a step closer to creating a fair and equitable society that benefits all Texans to be brought forth during the 87th Texas Legislative Session. – Photo courtesy of Children at Risk

 

By SELENA SEABROOKS

The Dallas Examiner

 

A summit for Racial Equity Advocacy Day, which focused on the inequities of Black children in the state of Texas was presented by Children at Risk, March 18. The organization is a statewide nonprofit research and advocacy organization that drives change for children in education, health care, parenting and human trafficking.

The summit was led and facilitated by Bob Sanborn, the president and CEO of Children at Risk. After introducing himself and welcoming viewers, he stated that in preparation for the summit, various data on Black children was gathered and analyzed.

“We live in an unequal society when it comes to children and families,” he said, explaining that the data showed inequities in the areas of quality of education, the workforce, subsidies, school funding and access to top-notch schools.

The data also showed inequities in health care, infant mortality, maternal health, access to medical homes and vaccines; as well as the foster system and child welfare for Black and Latino children in the state of Texas. Sanborn stated that the information gathered from that data “is a piece of Texas history that many do not want to acknowledge.”  He encouraged Texans to act to change the system and to focus on the outcome of all of the children of Texas.

Sanborn touched on his personal story, growing up in Puerto Rico as a child of a teenage mother and the first member of his family to attend college. He acknowledged that his success was aided by the color of his skin, which he stated should not be a qualifying factor of success. Sanborn stated that when Texan children do not have the chance to be successful, “we only hurt ourselves.”

“If we don’t change the inequity of a racial bias system, it hurts the future for all of us,” he further stated.

He encouraged legislators and community leaders to lead the discussion, use their passion, be change agents and fight for opportunities and system changes for children and families.

Sanborn introduced Sen. Eddie Lucio of Senate District 27, who continued discussion on the racial inequities faced in Texan communities.

Lucio made specific reference to the effects of the coronavirus, which he stated were worse in communities of color. He added that Black and Brown children were more likely to attend schools that had not returned to in-person learning. He moved to discuss Senate Bill 399, which would direct the commission to assess state agencies’ efforts to reduce racial disparities. The bill would ensure state agencies received support, instructions and guidance on efforts to reduce racial disparities, according to Lucio.

Rep. Shawn Thierry of District 146 joined the discussion and talked about additional pieces of legislation that were currently on the docket. The legislation included Health Care Reform 28, which address Black maternal health; House Bill 197, which address medical school being a part of the solution of inequities in health care; and HB 1113, which address school districts and racial inequities.

Sen. Royce West of Senate District 23 continued and discussed additional upcoming legislation. West spent some time discussing SB 108, which would work with children-at-risk and create a racial disparity lens on childhood bills to combat “bad policymaking.” The bill would allow the lieutenant governor or speaker to request an analysis of the impact of any pending bill on racial disparities among children. It was designed to utilize existing resources at the Texas Legislative Budget Board to complete childhood racial disparity impact statements, which would assist in forecasting the impact of bills.

Rep. James Talarico of District 52 then talked about HB 62 which would address the use of school disciplinary alternatives and the creation of a restorative justice coordinating council.

Rep. Jarvis Johnson of District 139 added to the discussion and addressed HB 3638 which would seek to establish an African American study advisory board by the State Board of Education.

Following this, Rep. Jasmine Crockett of District 100 took part in the conversation and discussed minimizing the negative impacts of the criminal justice system on Black children.

Rep. James White of District 19 followed, discussing proposed legislation on child protective services. He addressed HB 1237, which relates to the adverse disproportionalities within the child protective service system. He also talked about HB 1664, which would address the reinstatement of eligibility for medical assistance for certain children placed in juvenile facilities.

Sanborn introduced community leaders who are currently working to address issues with the racial inequities of children and working to ensure that children and families are ready “to go in an equal society.” He introduced community leader Jerry Hawkins, the executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, who discussed the importance of focusing on racial equity.

The CEO of the YWCA in El Paso, Dr. Sylvia Acosta, joined the discussion.  She talked about the YWCA’s continued efforts to challenge racism and sexism in the state of Texas and empowering women.

Following Acosta, President and CEO of the United Way of Tarrant County Leah King joined the discussion.  King encouraged legislators to pass racial inequality legislation to level the playing field for all Texans. She mentioned HB710/SB 108, which would require an agency to prepare a racial impact report on any proposed legislation affecting the agency. King stated that all Texans and children deserved equity. She urged all legislatures to stand up for all Texans.

Health Policy Associate Bryan Mares from Texas CASA joined the conversation. He mentioned HB 829, HB 63, and SB 1059 which the Texas CASA is actively working on. The bills would prevent working young adults, who have aged out of the child welfare system, from losing insurance coverage.  The bills would also streamline the annual insurance renewal process to help these young adults maintain coverage. Mares stated that this process would ensure sustained the long-term medical health care needs of those young adults who have aged out of the child welfare system.

Dr. Camille Gibson, the Interim Dean of the School of Justice and Psychology at Prairie View A&M University, continued the discussion. Gibson talked about taking preventative actions, to prevent making more definitive decisions in the future that would affect Texas children. She talked about the importance of providing children the best possible path by providing nourishing food, access to health care and mental health care, and a safe and nourishing environment; as well as, the importance of providing mothers with proper pre-and post-natal care.

Sanborn introduced the final speaker of the day, Dr. Brain Reed of Doctors for Change. Reed discussed the desire to change the unacceptable realities of health and health care, improving access to health care, addressing the mental health of the community, providing equitable care to the LGBTQ community, the importance of developing safe spaces for immigrants, and educating the community on healthy eating.

Sanborn returned and provided closing remarks. Sanborn stated, “We need to do better in our state,” and that we must do so through legislative changes. He encouraged everyone, “We need to change, … we need to make outcomes better for our children.” In closing, he stated that Texas’ future is Texan children.

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