January 20, 2021
They were coming across families that were struggling with domestic violence, drug abuse, substance abuse, homelessness,” Wilcoxson says.
She’s pushing for a new law to require managers to be trained in preventing and spotting child abuse.
It’s one of six bills she’s drafted alongside State Representative Ina Minjarez (D – San Antonio) to improve child welfare in Texas.
"Why is this the right time to do it? 2021, during a pandemic?” Baucum asks.
"We can no longer keep kicking the can down the road,” State Rep. Minjarez answers. "The stress level is high. And undoubtedly there is an increase in neglect and abuse back home."
Another bill they’re working on echoes the tragedy of baby King Jay Davila, found dead in a backpack. It would require people to report serious bodily injury of a child due to abuse and neglect, and stiffen penalties for those who don’t.
"This is going to capture those children that we often see on the news that were killed and somebody knew about it,” Wilcoxson says.
"If a family member outcries and brings attention to what's going on in that home, children's lives will be saved,” State Rep. Minjarez adds.
Four more bills would ensure families being investigated and kids going into foster homes are told their legal rights upfront. Those rights include calling for a review of an investigation’s findings - an extra set of checks and balances for the system.
"It's anticipated that's going to be a game changer,” Wilcoxson says.
Altogether, both advocates say the bills would streamline resources so caseworkers can focus on families with the most needs.
"There are times when a family may just need some wraparound services and then get them out of the system,” State Rep. Minjarez says.
Lawmakers have a lot on their plates this session, especially the pandemic, the budget and redistricting.
State Rep. Minjarez hopes hearings on these bills can take place in March or April. We’ll follow it the whole way for you.