Award Spotlights Leadership and Innovative Approaches to Child Safety
(AUSTIN) —Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today (Friday) received the J.C. Montgomery Child Safety Award from the Texas Office for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities (TOPDD) for her decades of leadership for Texas children, including in the arenas of child safety, juvenile justice, children’s mental health, infant health, and services for children with disabilities.
The award, named for former TOPDD Executive Committee Chair and Scottish Rite Hospital leader J.C. Montgomery, recognizes leaders throughout Texas who personify a wide variety of innovative approaches to child safety.
“I am grateful to TOPDD for this meaningful honor,” said Senator Zaffirini, a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “What’s more, I share it with everyone who cares about preventing developmental disabilities and protecting Texas children from injury and harm.”
She received the award not only for her dedication to the prevention of developmental disabilities, but also for her lifetime advocacy for the young, particularly children with disabilities. Her efforts have saved the lives of countless Texas children and improved the quality of life for even more.
TOPDD noted that Senator Zaffirni’s leadership has increased awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and child safety and prevention strategies, and her legislation regarding child safety seats improved transportation safety and reduced the risk of child fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.
Senator Zaffirini’s Shots Across Texas bill (SB 266, 1993) established a goal of providing access to age-appropriate vaccines for all Texas children, and her House Bill 3054 (1997) created Texas’ immunization registry, ImmTrac, which helps ensure children receive life-saving immunizations timely. Her SB 1485 (1995) created Child Fatality Review Teams that made children safer by reporting preventable deaths and reducing their occurrence. Other legislation she authored and passed supports services and protections for runaway, missing and other at-risk children (SB 1698, 1989; SB 223, 1987).
As a member of the Senate Finance Committee she championed reducing the waiting lists for health and human services and secured funding for prevention programs; the Medicaid buy-in program for children with significant medical needs; and the birth defects registry, which helps identify research areas and links families to needed services.
A lifelong champion for child safety and the prevention of developmental disabilities, Senator Zaffirini authored and passed the legislation creating TOPDD in 1989 and served as a member of its executive board through 1995.
She also passed bills establishing committee members’ training requirements, standards of conduct and staggered six-year terms. This year she extended TOPDD by amending legislation that would have terminated it.
Other child safety leaders who received the 2015 J.C. Montgomery Award included:
- Sarah Davis, R-Houston, who was honored for her leadership in improving healthy pregnancies and mental health services for children.
- George Block, a founder of San Antonio Sports and developer of Viva Swim for Life, who has demonstrated a life-long commitment to water safety and ensuring all children have the chance to learn how to swim.
- Alisa De Luna, executive director of CASA of Williamson County, an advocate and respected resource for policy makers dedicated to improving the lives of children in state care.
- Sarah Duzinski, a research scientist at Austin’s Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and a state leader in promoting evidence-based prevention initiatives, including the highly respected Period of Purple Crying program.
- Dolores G. Zarate, president and co-founder of Down on the Border, Inc, who organizes a festival for children and is active in public policy work.
- Elaine Parker of Houston, a psychologist, author and parent of a child with a traumatic brain injury who spearheaded the development and distribution of a brain injury survivor card to be used when brain injury survivors interact with police and first responders.
- Cherie Stanley, an instructional technologist for a school system, a parent of a child affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, who is actively raising awareness in her community and a recognized educator, policy advocate and leader on FASDs locally and statewide.
- Will Mina, an 11-year-old sixth-grader who engaged the Dallas City Council to improve safety around his school.
- Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, whose expansive Wesley Nurse Program serves rural communities in 80 different counties.
- Peaks and Ladders, Inc., a multidisciplinary coalition providing equipment and education to prevent childhood injury and deaths.
“Collectively, we have made significant progress in raising awareness and developing strategies to reduce preventable injuries and developmental disabilities, but there’s still much more to do,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Count on me to continue to be a champion for Texas children, who are our only envoys to the future.”