Briones: Harris County mothers deserve more than just flowers

13 May, 23

Growing up as the oldest of three children, I saw how much my own mom, a public-school teacher who often worked multiple jobs, sacrificed for us to have every possible opportunity. But nothing truly prepares you for motherhood, for that moment when you see your first child for the first time and for every day that follows – such transcendent love and purpose coupled with tremendous responsibility and concern.

I want to raise my three daughters in a world where they feel safe, respected, and empowered to become the very best version of themselves. Every mother deserves to live in that world, and every child deserves that opportunity.
As the first mother elected in her own right to Harris County’s highest governing body, I think of our children in every action I take, and I know that for all the joy being a mother brings, being a mom is incredibly challenging – especially for mothers in Harris County.
We have the largest medical complex in the world, yet the maternal mortality rate in Harris County – the third largest county in the nation – is higher than the rate in Texas and the United States. Approximately 105,000 low-income children in Harris County with working parents have few or no affordable childcare options in their area. And when our children are at school (or at any public place, for that matter), we worry about the possibility of gun violence – the leading cause of death for children in the United States.
We must do better for the mothers and children of Harris County – and we have the tools to do so.
Public safety is my top priority. As a mom and as someone who has been the victim of crime multiple times, I never want my daughters – or any of our children – to be victimized.
We must take a holistic approach to public safety that looks at the criminal justice system as an interdependent system, keeping all people safe while protecting everyone’s Constitutional rights.
I recently led the passage of a justice and safety package at Commissioners Court. Through this package and related initiatives, we are working to create new courts; add capacity for the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office; promote best practices in our courts to reduce the backlog; raise compensation for detention officers; increase the number of body-worn cameras; develop a first responder high water training facility; and expand the Holistic Assistance Response Teams program, which diverts non-violent 911 calls to trained mental health professionals. The Court also funded the new Women’s Empowerment Center, a jail for low-to-medium security female inmates to help them get the job training and treatment they need before they return home to their families. Nearly 80% of women who are incarcerated are mothers; we must stop the intergenerational impact of the criminal justice system and keep our children safe and out of the system.
Commissioners Court is also working to create safer spaces in which our children will grow up, play, and thrive. With our Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods initiative, we are investing $25 million toward reducing neighborhood blight and revitalizing our communities.
And even though we teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street, we know that our roads are some of the most dangerous for both pedestrians and motorists. To help improve safety, we have joined the nationwide initiative Vision Zero, which aims to reach zero annual traffic deaths or severe injuries by 2030.
We have dedicated $7.7M in American Rescue Plan Act funding to establish the Maternal and Child Health Program – with a special focus on Black mothers, whose mortality rate is almost 3 times higher than the rate for any other group in the County, and 1.4 times higher than the rate for all mothers in the U.S.
Through this program, we hope to reduce the risks of adverse outcomes among expectant mothers and empower them to create a healthy foundation for a healthy family. We must continue to combat maternal mortality – no one should have to sacrifice their life to have a child.
We also are investing in sustainable infrastructure with the next 25-100 years in mind. As a County, we must be more forward-thinking, especially in fighting climate change, improving mobility, and decreasing flood risk. We must preserve our environment and design future-ready infrastructure that will keep our region competitive. We owe this to our children.
As a mother first and a Commissioner second, I believe that each child’s well-being contributes to our collective success. So, on this Mother’s Day and every day, we must make sure that along with flowers, our mothers receive the support and respect they deserve.