When Beth and I became parents, our whole world changed. We were captivated by how Lauren and Ashley filled our hearts with infinite joy. At the same time, of course, concern for the future shaped my thinking. Providing a foundation on which they could build their faith, education, and family values to shape a beautiful future of their own is an awesome responsibility and purpose.
Like many parents, some days my head hit the pillow with satisfaction thinking of the wonderful moments we spent together as a family. On other days, I wondered if the wisdom and guidance shared would make a difference. Every day ended in prayer that the Lord would make me better than the day before as I replayed where I missed the mark as a parent or as a role model and husband. Now, our girls are in college, building a bright future of their own with the love that Beth and I poured into them each day.
There is no perfect parent. Families face trials and tribulations every day. Beth and I have learned that the grace we give ourselves, and each other has been a positive influence for our girls and helps them navigate this complex and ever-changing world.
While so many of us have been extraordinarily blessed to have children of our own and a family to love, far too many Texans struggle in unimaginable ways. As the Easter season arrives, my reflection on the meaning of resurrection, and the power of forgiveness calls to me as both a father and lawmaker. Texas cannot be the place that leads and the state we love if we turn a blind eye on actions that help keep families together.
Therefore, during the 87th Legislative Session, I worked with policy leaders, social workers, government and non-government organizations in evaluating how Texas addresses the termination of parental rights. It’s a very intricate reality and one that weighed heavy on me as much of my legislative work through the years has been grounded in the protection of children, vulnerable populations, and public safety.
Sadly, there are dire, and even horrifying, situations in which a child must be removed from parental custody and the rights of parents are in turn involuntarily terminated. The innocent children whose lives are forever changed will go into some facet of foster care, becoming part of the Department of Family and Protective Services (“DFPS”). A recent article by the Texas Public Policy Foundation cites that during the Fiscal Year 2020, there were 47,913 youth in the DFPS conservatorship – nearly 50,000 precious lives left exposed to a system that is seeing a dramatic rise in the lack of safe placements and are at a high risk of instability throughout the remainder of their childhood. In 2018 alone, more than 5,500 cases of parental termination occurred with many of these happening in the foster care system.
The hope is that my bill, HB2926, passed last year, will start to make a difference. This law specifically provides a very rigorous process, which after a minimum of two years and many highly structured steps in personal rehabilitation, helps reunite parents whose rights were involuntarily terminated with a child who remains in foster care and has not been adopted nor is the subject of an adoption placement agreement. This important reform measure opens doors to Second Chances, providing greater hope for a child longing to go back home.
Taking on this problem also provides an opportunity to more responsibly confront the long-term mental and physical health consequences for children who experience trauma, helping to reduce medical, educational and economic impacts they and Texas taxpayers face. A study showed 41 percent of emancipated youth (those who age out without placement) will spend time in the criminal justice system within 6 months of leaving foster care and a third will face homelessness before turning 21.
It won’t be easy and only a very small number are fit for this program. Yet, just as we are forgiven for our sins and given a chance for healing and redemption, so too should we find ways to share God’s love to others. I cannot think of a more pure love that is ours to unfold than that between a parent and a child. In these cases, it will be up to the parent to put in the hard work and make genuine changes before seeking a request that the courts must very carefully decide.
I am happy to share with you that I recently received a call from the DPFS about a mom and her son who have been successfully reunited as a family. The darkness that dominated her life was lifted and their lives transformed. There lies hope for a brighter tomorrow.
It is an honor to serve in the Texas House of Representatives. Please never hesitate to stay in touch by calling 972.724.8477 or email [email protected]. You can also follow me on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.