Amidst the closures and stop gaps in business as usual, our thoughts turn to the state, local, and community institutions grappling with how to keep Texas families safe and healthy. According to the most recently available census data, more than 1.5 million in Texas live in poverty. Another 1.3 million families teeter on the edge of poverty, where an unexpected expense, disruption in child care, or job loss could send them spiraling into economic hardship.
Many of these families rely on, or will soon rely on, public programs and services to ensure their children’s basic needs continue to be met. Below are just a few of the vulnerabilities Texas faces in the wake of this crisis, along with examples of how some organizations and local leaders are stepping up to address them and policy recommendations for Texas legislators, public service providers, and fellow nonprofit organizations.
CHILDCARE & EARLY EDUCATION
1 in 12 Texas children live in a childcare desert and many families cannot afford to pay for emergency childcare when schools or centers close. Meanwhile, childcare providers that remain open may become overwhelmed or may struggle to stay in business as some parents can no longer afford to pay or keep their kids at home. State agencies have changed or waived exisitng rules to meet the current needs.
Texas public schools serve over 5.4 million children, with 60.6% classified as economically disadvantaged. As schools close, districts are working to make sure students don’t fall behind and are experimenting in online learning. On March 16th, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he will be waiving the annual STAAR testing requirements for the year and requesting the US Department of Education waive federal testing requirements as well.
Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country and ranks 41st in the physician-population ratio. Many rural counties are also without any primary care physicians or could be classified as emergency care deserts. These factors make Texans uniquely vulnerable. Concerns around the costs of receiving treatment, lack of access, and limited supplies may stop some families from pursuing care or receiving necessary medical care.
An estimated 1, 676,740 children in Texas are food insecure, or nearly 1 in every 4 children (23%). Many Texas families rely on school meal programs or other food assistance programs such as SNAP or WIC. As quarantine and social distancing practices begin to take a toll on our economy and cause greater job insecurity, we expect these public nutrition programs to be more in-demand than ever. School districts, food banks, and other providers are finding innovative ways to serve families.
An estimated 2.6 million New American Children live in Texas. Current federal “public charge” policies dissuade documented and undocumented families alike from seeking out necessary care or social services out of fear of being perceived as a public burden. This creates an increased risk for transmission of the virus and puts many of our most vulnerable children further at risk.
PARENTING & FAMILY WELL-BEING
In the wake of school closures, changes in childcare, and disruptions in employment situations, many Texas families are seeking out resources to keep their children academically engaged, entertained, and anxiety-free. A daunting task for any parent, CHILDREN AT RISK and other nonprofit organizations are working to provide families with the information they need, free tools, online programs, and strategies to help families get through this crisis together.
There are an estimated 79,000 minor and youth victims of human trafficking in Texas. Victims’ access to medical care is controlled by their traffickers, and therefore may be sporadic or nonexistent. For youth engaged in survival sex, their options for diagnosis and treatment may be limited, not only by available services but also by their knowledge of where to go for help and how to get it.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
In the days, weeks, and even months ahead, CHILDREN AT RISK will monitor federal, state, and local responses to this crisis and how they impact the lives of Texas children and families. We will be sharing resources, best practices, and policy recommendations across our social media platforms (handles below), childrenatrisk.org, and our other web properties. If you or your organization have a resource you’d like us to share, please reach out to Julie Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or add it to the google sheet to the right.
In the interest of safety, we have canceled all events through April and have instructed staff to work from home as much as possible. Amid these uncertain and extenuating circumstances, we rely on our friends and supporters more than ever. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to CHILDREN AT RISK and enable us to continue supporting Texas children and families.
We are also rebooting the Children’s Resiliency Collaborative this week in order to be a service to non-profits and the community. Originally convened to support families affected by Hurricane Harvey, the relaunched Coronavirus – Children’s Resiliency Collaborative will bring together leaders from multiple sectors to work together to support the whole child. Interested in joining or learning more about the collaborative? Sign up to receive more information and regular updates via the button to the right.