UMW presses children’s issues at legislative event

Holly BandelTexas women meet in Austin to push for support of Child Protective Service and public schools

"Children are the living messages we send into a time we will not see,” author and educator Neil Postman said. His quote provided the opening line for Vicki Spriggs, CEO of Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), who spoke to United Methodist Women at last month’s Texas Impact Legislative Event in Austin.

It was my honor to accompany our church members from First UMC Dallas, St. Paul UMC, Lovers Lane UMC, Grace UMC Shermanand others to an event raising awareness on what it means to be faithful advocates for women, children, immigrants and those in the cycle of poverty.

It was heartening to see so many women (and a few men) learning and gaining confidence in talking with their friends, family, churches and even legislators about what is important for our communities. We learned how telling our stories is a way to relate and advocate for others.

I was reminded of our family journey as adoptive parents and the impact of the foster care system on our son. We were amazed at the care of the foster family, social workers, CASA advocates and others we encountered. We also know that Child Protective Services was understaffed and its employees overworked and underpaid — a big topic of debate and action in the last session of the Texas Legislature.

The lawmakers’ actions are positive but also raise questions about their impact. The Legislature voted to raise pay for CPS workers as well as give kinship parents a larger amount for adoption. It also voted to privatize some social work case management. Privatized services are sometimes harder to oversee, much like what is happening in education.

Education was also on the hearts and minds of many women as we gathered. Nothing of substance was passed in the 2017 session, leaving many public schools underfunded with the state paying less than a third of the cost per student. Charter schools, on the other hand, are 100 percent funded by our state budget. Those statistics and others presented to us continue to create big questions on why public education, a right for every child, is not priority in our state.

The North Texas UMW members and I were able to share with one of our state senators, Don Huffines, about our One + One partnership in South Dallas/Fair Park. The needs of this school and many like it are of great concern financially. The funding of vouchers and charter schools undermines the public schools, especially the ones in need of extra support and attention.

Linda McSwain, a Lovers Lane UMC member who is a retired teacher and first-time participant in the Texas Impact event, said, “I was surprised to learn that Texas has fewer voters than any other state. And we are so big! Be affirmative. Learn about the candidates and vote. Every vote counts. If you have an issue that is important to you, call or send a note to your representative. It’s not that hard.”

What an incredible experience of the Holy Spirit to see women of all ages working together. It reminds me of Jesus’ message and mission of good news in Luke 4:18-21. Through our learning and growing as advocates, “Today, may this scripture be fulfilled in your hearing.”

Rev. Holly G. Bandel is Associate Minister for Mission and Advocacy at First UMC Dallas.

Published: Tuesday, February 6, 2018