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Our voices: Senator speaks on Mother’s Day and issues impacting women

By Sen. Royce West

In recent times, more and more grandparents, primarily grandmothers, are taking on the responsibility of being the primary caretaker of their grandchildren. In many instances limited and fixed incomes can be stretched
to the breaking point.

The celebration of Mother’s Day can be a very emotional one. For some, this will be their first celebration as a mother, while for others it will be their first or one of many commemorations since the passing of their mother, grandmother, godmother, special aunt, or that female nurturer.

I am blessed to be able to pick up the phone and hear my mother’s voice or drive over to visit. It’s special for me because she is the light of my life. She brings joy and shares words of wisdom.

As the matriarch of four generations, Gloria Ashford continues to be a source of inspiration and voice of reason, navigating our family as we evolve and her contributions to society will be her legacy.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I salute my mother, my super intelligent, beautiful, and compassionate wife, Carol and all mothers, whether by birth, surrogate or adoption. However, as a legislator, it’s not enough for me to say Happy Mother’s Day if I am not ensuring that everything possible is done to bring those wishes to fruition or taking care of mothers and women.

Many of our mothers are elderly residents in nursing homes. My legislation expanded the list of criminal offenses that bar employment at nursing facilities. It also required owners and employees of nursing homes to report all observed instances of abuse and neglect to health officials and law enforcement.

And grandmothers have always been an integral part of the familial structure. Grandmothers were who everyone looked to in our villages, communities and neighborhoods to cure, discipline, educate and love, when no one else could or would.

In recent times, more and more grandparents — primarily grandmothers — are taking on the responsibility of being the primary caretaker of their grandchildren. In many instances limited and fixed incomes can be stretched to the breaking point. That’s why I passed legislation giving a one-time financial grant of $1,000 to any person over 50 caring for their grandchildren. I know that in today’s economic environment, $1,000 is not a windfall, but it is a start as we continue to call attention to issues and seek respite. That’s why I subsequently created the Permanency Care Assistance program at DFPS, in which a caregiver who assumes legal responsibility for the child can receive between $400-$545 per month.

Further, I applauded U.S. Congresswomen Alma Adams (D-NC) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) for co-launching the Black Maternal Health Caucus because I am also concerned about the disparity as it relates to maternal health and African American women.

Subsequent legislation, introduced by Rep. Adams and then – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and supported by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), recognizes “Black Maternal Health Week” to bring national attention to the maternal health care crisis in the Black community and the importance of reducing the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women is also significant and necessary as we express our love for mothers.

There are so many issues, like gender wage gap, protection of female migrant workers, human trafficking, birth control, health insurance and child care, that must be addressed.

If we don’t care about and address those issues, saying, “Happy Mother’s Day,” is just an empty expression.

Royce West was first elected to the Texas Senate in November 1992. He represents the 23rd Senatorial District on behalf of the citizens of Dallas County.

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