Gov. Perry signs Uresti's Blue Ribbon Task Force bill
AUSTIN — With Sen. Carlos Uresti looking on, Gov. Rick Perry signed the senator's statewide Blue Ribbon Task Force bill that will launch a new, sustained effort to combat child abuse and neglect in Texas.
Senate Bill 2080, sponsored by Uresti and San Antonio Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, creates a nine-member task force that will develop a strategic plan to combat child abuse and improve child welfare. The panel will look at specific statutory changes, new programs, and methods to foster cooperation among state agencies and the state and local governments.
"This new law provides a fantastic opportunity to take a step back and look critically at how the state is addressing this problem," Uresti said. "We need to know what we're doing right, but even more importantly, we must know what isn't working and fix it."
Uresti said there is no doubt that CPS needs more financial resources, but some problems can be solved simply through better communication and coordination between state agencies, service providers and child advocates. Others problems will need new approaches, new policies and new laws.
"The task force will ensure that the agencies most responsible for child protection get a top-to-bottom review of their policies, procedures and resources," Uresti said.
"A single child being abused or neglected is one child too many, and I hope that this legislation will move us ahead in our progress toward keeping all children in a stable, satisfactory and safe home environment," McClendon said.
Perry signed the bill Thursday, Aug. 20, in a ceremony at the state Capitol attended by Uresti, McClendon and child advocates from St. PJ's Children's Home, the Center for Health Care Services, Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and the Children's Hospital Association of Texas.
These advocates are members of the local Blue Ribbon Task Force formed by Uresti after the starvation death of four-year-old Jovanie Ochoa, a young San Antonio boy who was starved to death by his family. He died on Christmas Day, 2003.
"The task force was born out of Jovanie's death, and today we are taking our cause another step forward," Uresti said. "We are beginning to wage a new battle in a war that we simply have to win."
Senator Uresti represents Senate District 19, a 55,000 square mile area extending from the city of San Antonio in Bexar County to the Lower Valley of El Paso County and including approximately 750,000 people. The largest legislative district in the nation, it spans two time zones and contains nine of the 14 border counties in Texas.