Author: Meg Costa

This Summer, North Texas Children Face a Variety of Challenges, Including Food Insecurity

Home to leading businesses, a steady stream of new residents and seemingly endless prosperity, North Texas was just named the fastest growing region in the U.S. But it’s also home to staggering inequality.

Nearly 700,000 North Texans are food insecure—meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life, according to North Texas Food Bank. This translates to one in eight people, including one in five children, going hungry at least part of the time.

Food insecurity and childhood hunger in particular are significant issues that prevent individuals and families from truly thriving. After all, a child who is distracted by hunger is less likely to succeed in school, workers without reliable access to food can’t be at their best and anyone who frequently experiences food insecurity is more likely to see their physical and even mental health suffer.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, our focus areas—education, income and health—are inextricably linked to food security. That’s why we address the root causes of hunger and advocate for improved food accessibility as we drive progress toward our Aspire United 2030 goals.

The summer months are a particularly important time for preventing childhood hunger, because it’s when many North Texas children miss out on federally funded school nutrition programs. But together, we can take key steps to improve access to quality nutrition. Read on to learn more about food security challenges during the summer, how United Way prevents childhood hunger and how you can be part of this life-changing work.

Summer Is ‘The Hungriest Season’

In some local school districts, 90% of children rely on federal nutrition programs during the school year. When the school year ends, tens of thousands of North Texas students lose access to regular nutritious meals.

For many families, the added expense of one to two meals every day for each child is difficult to absorb. And in recent years, the situation has only been made worse by the cost of food itself. The price of food increased about 11% from 2021 to 2022, due to inflation and supply chain disruptions, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And while food prices have started to stabilize over the last few months, local families are still struggling to afford necessities.

Fighting Childhood Hunger

With our focus on improving access to education, income and health, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas makes it a priority to address hunger in our community. We lead and invest in innovative programs that support communities and families and address systemic challenges like food insecurity. A large part of that work involves partnering with dozens of local school districts, nonprofits and other organizations to provide nutritious food to hard-working families throughout the summer.

The North Texas Summer & Supper Council (NTXSSC) is our longest-running and most impactful hunger advocacy program. In 2013, United Way teamed up with Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to launch NTXSSC, which supports summer meals programs as they provide millions of meals and supplemental programming to local children when school is out. These programs are run by local school districts, such as Dallas and Garland ISDs, and nonprofits like CitySquare and Equal Heart.

Over the last three years, the pandemic and rising food costs have pushed the demand for summer meals to unprecedented levels. Prior to COVID-19, in a typical summer, NTXSSC would work with more than two dozen groups that serve more than 2 million meals to 55,000+ children. Since 2020, demand has continued to rise, and NTXSSC and our partners have stepped up even more. In 2022, our meal provider partners served a record 56 million meals to North Texas children within Dallas and Collin counties alone.

Across 86 program sites, these organizations also provided fun and engaging programming that keeps kids excited about summer meals programs and takes a little pressure off of caregivers each day. With activities such as crafts, games, bounce houses and water balloon fights, children get to have a little summer fun without the stress and uncertainty that comes with food insecurity.

Nutrition Programs Are Just One Piece of the Puzzle

While improving access to nutritious food is paramount, supporting North Texas children this summer goes well beyond summer meals programs.

When we come together, we can ensure that all children get the support they need in every area of life. This includes keeping them well-fed, providing families with fun educational resources to keep kids’ minds engaged and setting them up for success after they finish school.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we create and invest in a variety of programs that support children’s educational attainment, overall health and even their future work prospects. In addition to our work supporting summer meals programs, here are just a few of our programs and partnerships that ensure kids can thrive:

  • Dollars for College, a partnership with Communities Foundation of Texas that seeds college savings accounts for low-income students, putting them on a path to attend and graduate college. Children with at least some college savings are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate. In our last fiscal year, parents opened 229 new savings accounts through Dollars for College and, with community support, made $191,500 in deposits—more than double the previous year.
  • Once Upon a Month™, which delivers free age-appropriate children’s books to families every month, encouraging early literacy by stimulating curiosity, language development and learning skills. In our last fiscal year, 9,397 children received books from Once Upon a Month and 94% of parents read more to their children thanks to the program. And thanks to support from The Boone Family Foundation, we’re moving closer to our goal of distributing 1 million books by 2027.

Together, We Can Support Children Throughout the Summer

When school lets out for the summer, many families struggle to keep their children well fed and engaged.

With local families struggling to make ends meet, it’s more important than ever that we come together as a community to support kids. This year, we invite every North Texan to invest in the education, financial security and health of local children by donating to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

A gift of any amount makes a meaningful impact in our community:

  • $25 can support the North Texas Summer & Supper Council, enabling summer meal sponsors to increase their impact and feed more students.
  • $36 could provide a child with 12 books a year through Once Upon a Month, preparing them for school and early reading. Students who read on grade level by third grade are five times more likely to graduate ready for success in college or career
  • $45 can ensure every student goes back to school with the supplies they need to succeed, including school uniforms.
  • $50 could seed a child’s college savings account through Dollars for College, which can grow to nearly $500 by high school graduation.

Together, we can ensure every child has the access and opportunity to thrive this summer and throughout the year.

Our Collective Impact This Legislative Session

The regular session of the 88th Texas legislature has come to an end, and we are overwhelmed by the level of engagement and enthusiasm we saw from our fellow North Texas advocates this year.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, our team worked closely with hundreds of dedicated change-seekers to speak up and speak out for meaningful change in our focus areas of education, income and health. And over the 140 days of the session, advocates like you stood up for our community, educated lawmakers and called attention to policies that will have a real impact in the lives of our fellow North Texans.

Thank you to everyone who was part of our advocacy efforts over the last several months. Here’s just a snapshot of our collective impact this session:

Engaging Directly with Lawmakers

We identified several opportunities to connect lawmakers directly with our advocates, our United Way team and the people in the North Texas community:

  • To kick off the legislative session, on March 1, United Way team members and supporters gathered in Austin for United Way Day at the Capitol, our largest and most impactful advocacy event during Texas’ legislative session. Throughout the day, our 24 advocates met directly with 30 local state legislators and their staff and voiced their support of our legislative priorities.
  • Over the past year, city, state and federal elected officials or staff attended United Way volunteer events to see our community impact work in action. More than a dozen local officials joined us at events that included Lunch with Legislators, Digital Connections laptop distributions and United Way Reading Day.
  • During the session, the United Way advocacy team worked directly with legislators to file two bills—the first time we have taken the lead on bills. We partnered with Rep. Yvonne Davis to file HB 4846, which sought to improve transportation options for individuals in job training programs. We also worked with Sen. Nathan Johnson to file SB 1822, which would seal evictions records if a tenant wins their case or their case is dismissed, and worked with two offices that filed similar bills in the Texas House. Although bills related to both of these issues failed to pass this session, together with our advocates and statewide partners, we helped to build interest and awareness on these important issues.

Tracking Hundreds of Bills

Lawmakers introduced more than 11,800 bills this session. Our team closely tracked 166 pieces of legislation that would directly impact our Aspire United 2030 goals so we could quickly and efficiently rally our advocates when these key bills were being considered.

Bringing Together Hundreds of Advocates—Many for the First Time

Throughout the legislative session, the Live United movement truly united around the issues that matter most in our community. Our group of dedicated advocates grew to 907 this year—and many of these change-seekers were advocating for the first time. We are so grateful to everyone who was a part of this inspiring effort.

Advocating Collectively at Key Moments

Our team sent a total of 17 Action Alerts this session, notifying our subscribers of important updates on our legislative priorities to let advocates know exactly how and when to contact their representatives to make the biggest impact possible. This collective advocacy is the best way to call attention to specific bills that may otherwise get overlooked.

Meanwhile, we also developed Action Alerts for the various coalitions we help lead, especially the Texas Fair Lending Alliance to protect the payday and auto-title lending ordinances. And we highlighted and directed calls to important legislation that our partners were championing, including HB 12 (which extends Medicaid coverage to postpartum mothers to 12 months) and HB 77 (which decriminalized a child voluntarily running away from home).

Informing North Texans About Important Policy Issues

Our advocacy work also involves providing North Texans with context about our legislative priorities that enables them to have a full picture of complex issues around education, income and health. Over the last year, that involved:

  • Organizing three regional pre-session webinars in partnership with four other local United Ways, with about 70 people in attendance at each event.
  • Hosting our annual Lunch with Legislators with Dallas Citizen’s Council, which was an opportunity for business leaders and community leaders to hear from local legislators about the 2023 session.
  • Co-hosting Dallas Delegation Day with the Dallas Regional Chamber and Dallas Citizen’s Council before session, which included five robust panel discussions with community leaders on key community issues.

Lending Our Expertise to Important Topics of Debate

Through our community impact work, our team at United Way has extensive experience and expertise on the challenges and opportunities impacting education, income and health in North Texas. This year, we were able to leverage that expertise in several ways:

  • By providing a unique perspective to the housing policy landscape based on our experience providing rental assistance. Through testimony and one-on-one meetings, we provided insight into the efficacy, administration and benefits of certain policies to help give legislators a well-rounded understanding of the obstacles facing tenants, and benefits and disadvantages of varying solutions.
  • By convening our local partners connected to home visiting programs to discuss how our region should collectively address proposed changes to the state’s approach to these programs.

Helping Achieve Several Legislative Victories

Thanks to dedicated advocates like you, this session we had key wins in education, income and health:

  • We helped secure an additional $65 million in funding for prevention and early intervention programs that help prevent child abuse and neglect.
  • We helped secure an extra $1.8 million in funding for Texas’ 211 Referral Helpline, which is an important community resource for low-income North Texans.
  • We pushed back against legislation that would have allowed more high-interest loans in our communities. These bills ultimately died.
  • We joined with hundreds of partners throughout the state to expand Medicaid coverage to 12 months post-partum. Advocates have been pushing this for multiple years, and with your help, it finally helped!

What’s Next?

Gov. Greg Abbott has until June 18 to sign or veto legislation passed this session. Advocates are waiting to celebrate their wins until after this veto period, so let’s try to not call attention to our issues or wins just yet.

Gov. Abbott called a special legislative session last week, which is already underway and deals with property taxes and border security. The governor has indicated that he will likely call several special sessions, though the topics are unknown at this time.

At United Way, we’ll continue to monitor education, income and health issues that are raised during these special sessions. Please watch for additional Action Alerts from United Way in the coming months so we can continue to speak up and speak out together to improve access to education, income and health in North Texas.

United Way Tocqueville Society Drives Community Change and Welcomes New Members at Bench & Bar Boo-Ray Tournament

The verdict is in, and the First Annual Bench & Bar “Boo-Ray” Tournament hosted by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas was judged guilty—a guilty pleasure that is! Best of all, the event was also a great success that ultimately will benefit the North Texas community by supporting United Way’s mission to improve access to education, income and health.

A Society of Supporters Committed to North Texas

The Bench & Bar event, sponsored by FTI Consulting and held May 16 at the Crow Library, is United Way’s initiative to bring together the North Texas legal community and encourage their support of United Way’s programs, as well as individual membership in the United Way Tocqueville Society.

The North Texas chapter of the Tocqueville Society was founded in 1986 by the late Ruth Sharp Altshuler—a legendary member of the Greatest Generation of community volunteers in Dallas—and includes the most committed and generous supporters of United Way.

Leaving Their Briefs at the Office

The Bench & Bar event was a night for the North Texas legal community to leave their briefs (legal briefs!) at the office and join in some fun and fellowship during a tournament of Boo-Ray (Bourré), an exciting, fast-paced trick-taking card game primarily played in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. Thirteen of North Texas’ largest firms joined in the games, and by the end of the night, United Way’s recruitment efforts added 20 new Tocqueville members, double the goal for the evening!

A Docket of Bold-Faced Names

The chairs of the Dallas Tocqueville Society are legal heavy-hitters Erin Nealy Cox, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District and now partner at Kirkland & Ellis; and her husband, Trey Cox, co-managing partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Co-chairs of the Bench & Bar Cabinet hail from North Texas’ corporate titans: AT&T’s General Counsel David McAtee and Toyota Motor North America’s General Counsel Sandra Phillips Rogers.

This fearsome foursome recruited an all-star host committee that included general counsels ripped from the pages of the Fortune 500 ranking and beyond:

  • Cynthia Trochu, Texas Instruments
  • Leeanne Oliver, PepsiCo Foods
  • Jeff Melucci, Kimberly-Clark Corporation
  • Stephanie Zapata Moore, Vistra Corp.
  • Sarah Decker, McAfee
  • Von Hays, Comerica Bank
  • John Henrich, Sally Beauty
  • Rachel Morgan, Nexstar Media Group
  • Julia Simon, Mary Kay, Inc.
  • Bryan Stevenson, Arcosa
  • Marc Kesselman, Purdue Pharma
  • Sarah Teachout, Trinity Industries
  • Lynne Puckett, Celanese
  • Van Beckwith, Halliburton
  • Rudy Rodriguez, CEC Entertainment
  • Tasha Grinnell, The Container Store
  • Ellen Farrell, Toyota Financial Services

A Three-Year Goal to Beat ‘Bama

Proving that Southern rivalries aren’t only on the football field, the Cox co-chairs have a bold goal for the North Texas Tocqueville Society: to lead the country in the number of donors who live and work here. Those bragging rights are currently held by United Way in Birmingham, Alabama. With a three-year chairmanship, the Coxes used the Bench & Bar event as one way to make progress with their goal, chipping away at Birmingham’s leadership and getting one step closer to earning North Texas its eventual place as the leader of the pack.

What’s Next?

Look for more innovative efforts to grow the Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society across the board in the months to come. The Coxes are joined by Tocqueville $25,000 Circle co-chairs, Laura and Jason Downing, and Women of Tocqueville chair Mandy Austin.

Together, the Tocqueville Team is planning other events during their chairmanship, with nationally recognized speakers, influencers and change-makers highlighting the impact of United Way as the organization marches toward its Centennial celebration in 2025.

How United Way Enables Businesses to Achieve Their Corporate Social Responsibility Goals

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we lead a community-wide movement to improve access to education, income and health. We bring together the corporate, philanthropic, civic and nonprofit sectors, as well as individual change-seekers, to achieve strategic goals for North Texas.

This collaborative approach to community impact work is unique—in fact, it’s why we’re called United Way.

An important part of our strategy involves partnering with corporations that are committed to improving the communities in which their employees live and work. Our corporate partners, companies like Texas Instruments, PepsiCo and AT&T, are deeply invested in our mission to improve access to education, income and health and bringing greater equity to North Texas.

Kelem Butts, United Way’s vice president of CSR strategy

Indeed, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is the trusted corporate social responsibility (CSR) partner for dozens of corporations across North Texas. And together with these leading businesses, we’re making a meaningful impact in our communities.

This year, our team welcomed its first vice president of CSR strategy, Kelem Butts. Kelem was previously with AT&T as a member of their CSR team for more than 13 years. In his new role, he’s working closely with local companies to align their CSR goals with our Aspire United 2030 goals—our 10-year roadmap for advancing racial equity and driving lasting impact in education, income and health for our community.

Read our Q&A with Kelem as he describes the basics of CSR, why it’s an important focus for North Texas businesses and how United Way works with our corporate partners to meet their CSR goals.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to join United Way.

Kelem: I started my career in 1989 right out of college. Until now, I was 100% corporate. I spent the previous 22 years with AT&T, the last 13 of which were with the CSR organization. Then, two things happened. First, I became retirement eligible and was ready for a career change. Secondly, I had done work with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and realized that this would be a great landing place for me. I believe in the mission, I love how United Way has evolved over time and it’s great to be able to make an impact in the Dallas area.

How do you define corporate social responsibility, and what do you believe are the key components of an effective CSR program?

Kelem: If you ask 10 CSR people to give a definition of CSR, you’ll get 10 different answers. Here’s how I think about it: It’s the work that a company does that impacts both the company and society. Think of a Venn diagram with two overlapping circles—one is the needs of society and the other is the needs of business—and the intersection area in the middle is where CSR is focused.

An effective CSR program should truly align with the company’s goals, otherwise it’s difficult to get full buy-in from the company. Many companies do materiality assessments to determine alignment with all stakeholders, which generally includes the communities where they live and work. The materiality should influence those CSR initiatives.

Why is CSR increasingly important for North Texas companies?

Kelem: I would argue that well-run companies have paid attention to CSR for a long time, it just wasn’t called that. Today, many investors look at a company’s focus on CSR as a proxy for a well-run company. In other words, a robust CSR program indicates they are addressing the needs of their stakeholders, including the communities where they are, the broader society, investors, employees and more. Additionally, a well-run company wants to ensure their long-term viability, and they understand you’ve got to support your communities—it’s the right thing to do and the smart thing.

In your opinion, what role should nonprofits play in promoting CSR, and how can organizations like United Way best work with businesses to drive positive change?

Kelem: In my opinion, nonprofits work best to drive positive change by clearly understanding their mission and working within the community to address the needs of their constituents. This does not always align perfectly with the needs of the company. But I think honesty and clarity are always best practices, so it’s important to make sure both sides understand up front what is possible and what is not.

Timelines are important to understand as well; companies and nonprofits may have different ideas of when an initiative can be completed. And lastly, a nonprofit must be willing to work with the company on stories of how the work is making an impact. Frequently, companies want to tout the work they’re doing in the communities where they’re located.

Why is United Way of Metropolitan Dallas such a strong CSR resource?

Kelem: How much time do I have? First of all, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has such a long history of working with corporations and a great understanding of their needs. And no one has a stronger connection to the broader community than United Way: We have relationships with hundreds of other nonprofits in our area, so we can connect the priorities of almost any company to a nonprofit.

United Way’s intense focus on long-term impact through our Aspire United 2030 goals is so appealing to companies. So is our mission around improving access to education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity—and the way we’ve formulated our goals. (At Procter and Gamble I was trained about the importance of SMAC objectives—specific, measurable, achievable, concise—and that’s exactly what United Way has done).

Furthermore, United Way has compiled a board of directors with some of the greatest corporate minds in the area, including vice chair Charlene Lake, SVP of CSR and chief sustainability officer of AT&T, who I would argue is one of the best CSR leaders in the country.

How do companies measure the impact of their CSR efforts?

Kelem: Many companies measure different impacts, but the well-run ones are indeed looking at measurable impact. They look for return on investment (ROI) on their business investments, right? For CSR they are looking for “social ROI.” When I was at AT&T, Charlene Lake used to ask a very simple question: “What are we getting for our investment?” In other words, she wanted to be able to tell the board for every $100 invested in society, we’re seeing some sort of positive societal return. That is hard to do and to quantify, but a lot of companies are really starting to think about measurement in that way. Of course there are other metrics, but everyone should be thinking of that concept of social ROI, in my opinion.

Examples of Our Corporate Partnerships in Action

Industry leaders across North Texas have chosen to invest in United Way’s community impact because we understand that corporate philanthropy is a key driver in achieving business continuity, productivity and profitability goals. In the last year alone, we’ve partnered with organizations big and small to drive measurable, meaningful impact in ways that directly align with the corporate and philanthropic goals of our partners.

Consider the social innovation and impact represented by these programs:

  • With AT&T, we created the Digital Connections program to support our neighbors in Southern Dallas who lack a computer to narrow the digital divide. This investment has resulted in the distribution of more than 2,000 laptops to families, as well as bilingual digital training and support.
  • For Texas Instruments, building stronger communities through employee engagement is a top priority. As the overarching sponsor of our annual volunteer series, TI and its employees dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to improving access to education, income and health in North Texas.
  • With PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, place-based investments in Southern Dallas to support historically under-resourced neighborhoods led to the creation of Southern Dallas Thrives, a partnership with United Way. The goals of the initiative include providing families with nutritious meals, improving the quality of preschool education, preparing high school students for college or career, and providing supportive services and workforce development training in high-growth industries to women.
  • Together with Hilti, which faced a growing shortage of skilled workers, we created the Women in Construction program, which trains and places women into high-wage construction jobs and develops a pipeline to fill critical job openings for the company.

Learn More About Partnering With Us

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is proud to partner with companies of all sizes and industries to advance racial equity and drive lasting change in North Texas. We have the relationships, data and expertise to help you build and strengthen your culture of good citizenship and corporate social responsibility.

Interested in learning more? Visit our Partner With Us page to discover some of the ways we work with corporate partners and to connect with our team.

Women of Tocqueville Support a Brighter Future for Women and Children

United Way Women of Tocqueville members gathered virtually on April 28 for their third-annual baby shower, celebrating 71 expectant and new moms from our partners Abide Women’s Health Services, Lumin Education and Parkland Nurse Family Partnership.

The Women of Tocqueville are a group of passionate United Way supporters who work to advance our mission of improving access to education, income and health in North Texas. Each year, the group hosts a virtual baby shower to support new and expectant moms to ensure their babies get a strong start in life.

During this year’s shower, moms and volunteers played baby shower games, such as Animal Gestation, where they matched the animal with the average number of days they are pregnant, and The Price is Right, where they guessed the cost of baby items such as diapers, baby bottles, bibs and pacifiers.

During the shower, moms shared what they were most excited about, including:

  • “Being his mommy.”
  • “I can’t wait to hear his voice.”
  • “Having a little best friend.”

Then, Women of Tocqueville volunteers shared tips and words of inspiration, such as:

  • “Remember to sleep.”
  • “Take time for yourself.”
  • “You got this!”
  • “You’re amazing!”

Gifts for the shower were made possible by donations from the WOT Joy! event in December and by the generous support of Smocked Auctions. These gifts impacted 71 expectant and new moms who gave birth in the last three months. Moms expressed many heartfelt thanks for the shower, the baby items and words of encouragement and support.

Abide Women’s Health Services, Lumin Education and Parkland Nurse Family Partnership are important partners of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Their early childhood services bring trained parent educators, nurses and birth workers to the homes of pregnant moms and new families to promote maternal and child health, advance school readiness, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

These partnerships align with the Women of Tocqueville mission to give, advocate and volunteer in support of the community through United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and to leverage the collective power and leadership of women to produce visible impact in education, income and health in North Texas.

Thank you to everyone who generously supported the WOT Joy! event, as well as the expectant and new moms who joined our Women of Tocqueville members for this year’s baby shower.

And a special thank you to Stephanie Bird, Joan Cetera, Hayley Krahl, LaTara Moore, Katie Rose and Ashley Sink, who make up the Women of Tocqueville Volunteerism and Engagement Subcommittee, for your leadership, service and dedication to our mission. Finally, a special thanks to Natalia Mundo, a fellow Women of Tocqueville member, for translating in Spanish throughout the event for our Spanish-speaking moms.

6 Ideas for Preventing Evictions in a Post-COVID World

In the years since COVID-19 hit North Texas, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has worked with civic, corporate and community partners to provide support to our neighbors facing the threat of eviction. However, now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us and federal eviction protections have expired, the rate of evictions is once again on the rise.

Eviction prevention is a key component of our work to prevent homelessness and encourage financial stability. We recognize that a stable home environment is foundational to our three focus areas—education, income and health. That’s because without a safe, comfortable place to live, children are less likely to succeed in school, adults often struggle to maintain steady work and families face greater threats to their physical and mental health.

Through the Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative, the Targeted Eviction Prevention Program, advocacy work and other initiatives, United Way brought the community together to support thousands of families through the height of the pandemic, helping to prevent an eviction crisis in our communities.

As we look ahead, it’s important that our community unites once again to encourage housing stability on an ongoing basis. Working with other members of the Dallas-Area Eviction Prevention Task Force, our team has developed a set of recommendations for ongoing eviction prevention efforts across North Texas.

Our Recommendations for Preventing Evictions

In a new report, “Recommendations for a Permanent Eviction Prevention Infrastructure,” United Way and our partners detail a series of steps that our community can take to ensure more families can stay in their homes.

The recommendations cover several high-level elements of eviction prevention, including:

  • Give tenants opportunities to access rent relief.
  • Provide legal aid to tenants facing eviction cases.
  • Ensure tenants can easily access eviction navigation and other resources.
  • Improve data gathering and sharing to infuse more transparency in the eviction process.
  • Adjust eviction policies to give renters an “opportunity to cure” back-rent and to protect tenants who have resolved an eviction case.
  • Create a tenant education program to ensure renters know their rights.

In the full report, we explore how to best achieve these goals and which agencies would need to be involved.

Of course, making these recommendations a reality would take time and community-wide buy-in. However, we saw during COVID that eviction prevention measures such as these have a profound impact on people’s lives, enabling children to stay in their schools, empowering parents to maintain steady work and creating a more stable, healthier environment for all.

Read the Full Report

Click below to read the report with our full recommendations for sustaining a local eviction prevention infrastructure to minimize housing instability and prevent homelessness:

Download “Recommendations for a Permanent Eviction Prevention Infrastructure.”

Raising Awareness of Texas’ Dire Black Maternal Health Statistics

Across Texas, Black maternal health has become a crisis. Black mothers are dying at a shocking rate in our state, and it’s vital for all of us to do everything in our power to reverse this trend.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we drive transformative change and advance racial equity in the areas of education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. One of our Aspire United 2030 goals is to increase to 96% the percentage of North Texans with access to affordable health insurance. An urgent component of that work involves raising awareness of harmful health disparities, providing new moms and mothers-to-be with the resources necessary to thrive, and advocating for legislation that expands healthcare access and brings greater equity to maternal healthcare.

Read on to learn more about the state of Black maternal health in Texas, to hear about the experience of one local mom and to discover how United Way works to improve Black maternal health in our communities.

Black Maternal Health Is in Crisis

The United States is failing mothers who are about to give birth or who are postpartum. Our country has the highest maternal death rate among similarly developed countries and is the only industrialized nation where such deaths are rising.

Black mothers fare the worst of any ethnic group in this country. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was three times the rate for white women. The high rates of maternal mortality among Black women span across income level, education level, socioeconomic status, general overall health, access to prenatal care and mental health status.

According to the CDC, multiple factors contribute to these disparities, including:

  • Lower quality healthcare
  • Structural racism
  • Implicit bias from healthcare providers
  • Underlying chronic conditions

The situation is even more dire in Texas, which is the state with the highest Black maternal mortality rate. That number has now risen to 117.3 deaths per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations.

Mothers of color in our state face barriers to quality care that most of their white counterparts have never experienced. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Black patients are more likely to feel that a healthcare provider doesn’t believe their symptoms or pain level. Black women typically begin receiving prenatal care much later in their pregnancy—if at all. Meanwhile, patients of color are also significantly more likely to experience mistreatment, such as shouting or scolding, ignoring or refusing requests for help.

Faced with these and other inequities, it’s no surprise that Black moms are much more likely to be left without the support and care they and their baby need to stay safe and healthy before, during and after birth.

A North Texas Mom Tells Her Story

To commemorate Black Maternal Health Week, United Way hosted a Black Maternal Health Lunch & Learn on April 14 for community partners, government agencies and local parents to learn more about this important issue.

During the event, one inspiring North Texas mom shared her story of navigating the healthcare system while pregnant. As a first-time mom, Lasean accessed services and resources through our partner Abide Women’s Health Services, which offers culturally informed prenatal and postnatal care. She was also seen postnatal by a nurse with our partner Metrocare Services.

“I was pregnant and new to Dallas, and I had no idea what resources were around me,” Lasean shared. “I was terrified of hospitals, because of all the disparities and the horror stories that you hear about women of color. So I Googled ‘prenatal care POC near me’ and that’s how Abide showed up on my radar.”

Lasean said the first time she visited Abide, she immediately felt comfortable and safe.

“I felt confident in a place where I could just be a pregnant person of color,” she said. “They were very informative and always checked on me. Our visits were very cultural; we understood each other in ways that I wouldn’t have gotten in traditional care. [My doula] understood my preferences and my natural birth plan, and she supported everything that I wanted to do. Being around women who look like you, who have done the things you’ve done…[it] boosted my confidence that I could actually be a mom. It’s very communal and you feel very supported.”.

Lasean also told her harrowing story of giving birth. She had made her birth plans at a Dallas-area birthing center, but things quickly went off course once she started feeling contractions and rushed with her partner to the center. Although she was in labor, the doctor told her to go home and wait until she was further along. On her way home, she had to sit in rush-hour traffic for an hour.

“To me, they didn’t do their jobs. And within 30 minutes of getting home, I had my baby in the bathtub,” she said. “With no medical supervision—nothing. It blows my mind to this day. Luckily there were no complications, no issues. But the flipside to that trauma is that anything could have happened to us.”

Lasean’s experience illustrates how traditional healthcare providers can so easily discount the needs of moms of color, which can lead to dangerous, and even deadly, consequences.

Working Together to Improve Black Maternal Health

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we recognize that maternal mortality is unacceptably high in Texas—especially for women of color—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“One of the things that stood out for us is that 90% of pregnancy related deaths are preventable,” said Nailah Johnson, director of the Texas Home Visiting Program at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “So, we’re really focused on catching those mamas in that prenatal stage to ensure that they have the support they need. Our goal is to share and understand these disparities and inequities that are occurring in Dallas County and work with our partners in the community to provide the services and resources that families in North Texas need to thrive.”

United Way leads and collaborates on several initiatives that support improved care for Black moms and moms-to-be in North Texas. This work includes:

  • Doorways to Health: This partnership with Abide Women’s Health Services and Metrocare Services seeks to improve the maternal health outcomes of Black women in Dallas. Doorways to Health offers a variety of resources and programming, including home visiting and holistic maternal healthcare services, to ensure new and expecting mothers have the support necessary to thrive.
  • Family Wellness Council: This collaborative partnership works to ensure a strong start for all families living in North Texas. The council engages multiple sectors across North Texas to focus on improving health equity and providing high-quality support for parents and healthcare providers. The council includes the Help Me Grow North Texas and Health Initiatives Workgroup, which includes about 25 nonprofits serving local families.
  • Advocating for expanded healthcare coverage: Notably, more than half of maternity-related deaths in the U.S. happen in the 12-month postpartum period, which indicates the importance of postpartum health coverage. Securing 12-month health care coverage for new moms is part of our goal to ensure that all our neighbors have access to the resources needed to live longer, healthier lives. During the current Texas legislative session, we signed on to back a bipartisan bill (HB 12) that would allow moms to keep Medicaid insurance for one year after pregnancy or miscarriage, instead of just two months. We also support HB 2873, which requires the state to develop a strategic plan for improving maternal health outcomes under programs administered by the state to women during and following pregnancy.

Let’s Support Improved Healthcare for Black Pregnant Women

Join our community-wide effort to bring greater equity to healthcare and provide support to parents of color in North Texas. Here are two ways to get involved right now:

  • Advocate for Black pregnant women. During this year’s legislative session, United Way is working with hundreds of advocates to speak up and speak out on important policies that directly impact North Texans. With HB 12 and HB 2873 being considered, now is the time to contact your representatives. Sign up here to receive our Advocacy Alerts, and we’ll let you know how and when to contact your lawmakers to make the biggest impact possible.
  • Make a donation to support programs that improve access to healthcare. When you invest in United Way, you create lasting change right here at home. Your donation will support programs like Doorways to Health and ensure all North Texas families have the opportunity to thrive. Click here to invest today.

Together, We’re Improving College and Career Readiness in North Texas

It’s graduation time across North Texas, as tens of thousands of high schoolers get ready to head to college or join the workforce. Although this milestone brings plenty of excitement, for today’s graduates it’s also a time of anxiety. Facing a tight labor market, rising college tuition and the possibility of a recession, many students understandably feel uncertain about their future.

College and career readiness is an important concept for individual students and for our community as a whole. At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we recognize that to achieve our mission of improving access to education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity—we must make college and career readiness a top priority. That’s why we lead and invest in programs that deliver the knowledge and skills that students need to succeed in life after high school.

Read on to learn more about the importance of college and career readiness, some of our programs that prepare students for the future and ways you can get involved in this important work.

What does college and career readiness mean?

High school graduates are considered college or career ready when they have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed at a two- or four-year college, in technical school, or in a job. This level of preparation doesn’t happen overnight—and it takes the support of teachers, parents and the community.

Research indicates that the seeds of college and career readiness begin from a young age and continue throughout elementary, middle and high school.

“It takes a significant amount of guidance and support for a student to have the knowledge and abilities to succeed after high school,” said Cathy Lee, director of educational career success at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “And it’s not just about parents, teachers and community organizations ensuring children have book smarts. From an early age, students also need to learn about and be exposed to different college and career options, internships, mentorship and other resources that illustrate the various paths they could take after graduation.”

The Importance of College and Career Readiness

As the cost of college tuition rises and the job market fluctuates, it is as important as ever for young people to develop the skills necessary to succeed after high school—and to understand the many different opportunities they have to thrive. Being college- or career-ready has the power to impact the rest of a student’s life, affecting everything from healthcare access and financial stability to overall quality of life.

“We know that when students are empowered with a strong education, they are more likely to go on to achieve financial stability, which also supports a lifetime of good health,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “These three building blocks of opportunity—education, income and health—are the foundation that enables our neighbors in North Texas to thrive.”

The stakes are also high for our community, because college and career readiness directly impacts our region’s workforce and economy.

Local Students Require Support to Truly Thrive

Unfortunately, only about 30% of North Texas students are graduating high school prepared for college or a career. Rates of college readiness are significantly lower for Black (15%) and Latinx (17%) students compared to their white peers (42%).

For many North Texas students, these challenges begin well before high school. Research has shown that students who are both not reading proficiently by third grade and living in poverty are 13 times less likely to graduate from high school on time compared to their proficient, more affluent peers.

This lack of preparedness can have a huge impact on a graduate’s future financial security. Today, 74% of young adults in North Texas don’t earn a living wage. Without that basic level of financial stability, our young neighbors often struggle to pay bills and rent, afford quality health insurance and support their families.

When a large percentage of high school graduates aren’t college- or career-ready, our region feels the effects. Today 85% of good-paying jobs in North Texas require education beyond a high school diploma, but only 30% of local students are prepared for college or career training that will qualify them for these jobs.

For our region to continue its economic success, it needs a skilled workforce that is prepared for the jobs and demands of today’s global economy. And the workforce must include a steady pipeline of qualified workers for our most in-demand careers, such as those in healthcare, IT and construction.

To ensure local students are prepared to succeed in college or a career—and to ensure students of color receive equitable opportunity—we as a community must invest in initiatives that give young students a strong start in school, better prepare graduates to earn a living wage and help build a more diverse workforce.

United Way Prepares Students to Succeed

Part of our work to improve access to education, income and health involves creating and investing in programs that give students strong pathways to financial security, while also enabling young adults to get and keep better jobs.

One of our Aspire United 2030 goals—our 10-year roadmap for driving transformational change in North Texas—is to increase by 20% the number of young adults in North Texas who earn a living wage. This type of progress won’t only benefit individuals; it will have an enormous impact on our region’s economy and workforce, adding nearly $800 million in wages every year.

Understandably, most students don’t intuitively know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. At such a young age, they need exposure and access to the relevant skills, experience and connections that will equip them for a living wage job with career advancement—helping to ensure long-term financial stability and economic mobility.

“Our programs and partnerships take a holistic approach that enables students to prepare academically, develop social and emotional skills to ensure well-being, and connect with mentors and resources so they graduate ready for the professional workplace,” said Greg Mangum, vice president of economic mobility at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “

A variety of United Way initiatives directly impact college and career readiness, including:

  • Digital Connections, a partnership with AT&T, which provides families in Southern Dallas neighborhoods with free laptops, digital literacy training and technology support, encouraging students to engage in online learning and setting them up for success in today’s digital school and job environments.
  • Dollars for College, a partnership with Communities Foundation of Texas, which provides easy, low-cost college savings accounts for low-income North Texans, significantly increasing the odds of students attending and completing college.
  • Once Upon a Month™, a partnership with The Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy and Boone Family Foundation that delivers age-appropriate children’s books to children every month to encourage language development and spark a love of reading. (It’s never too early to prepare a child for college or a career; in fact, researchers have found that children reading on grade level by the end of third grade are five times more likely to be college or career ready than their peers who aren’t reading proficiently.)
  • Start Smart Texas, a free text service that gives busy parents the tools they need to be confident first teachers for their children, including information on child development, social-emotional learning and other skills that help them succeed in preschool, kindergarten and early grades.

Two Ways to Support College and Career Readiness in North Texas

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas invites all of North Texas to work together to support college and career readiness, both during graduation season and throughout the year.

  • Volunteer: This May, we have two volunteer opportunities that directly encourage college and career readiness, including a career attire drive and a networking event for high schoolers. Sign up here.
  • Invest in lasting change: Make a donation to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to support initiatives that encourage student success at every grade level, prepare high schoolers for life after graduation and expose young workers to career opportunities. For example, a $50 contribution to Dollars for College seed one college savings account for a local student, opening the door to college success, better job opportunities and greater economic mobility. Click here to make your donation now.

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