Subsequently, Senate Bill 501 enacted during the 82nd legislative session established the Center in statute and created an interagency council of which Ms. James served as the Presiding Officer. The legislative intent of Senate Bill 501 was to examine and make recommendations to the Legislature to address racial disparities in health, mental health child welfare, juvenile justice, and education and to expand the Texas Model to other agencies external to HHSC. Ms. James led the Interagency Council in the development of the findings and recommendations and delivery of the statutorily required report to the Texas legislature in December 2012.
Ms. James served as the Deputy Commissioner for Texas Department of Family& Protective Services (DFPS) working on the day-to-day operations of the agency’s Child and Adult Protective Services Programs and the Residential and Child Care Licensing Programs. She provided leadership of the Center for Learning & Organizational Effectiveness serving approximately 11,000 DFPS employees. It was Ms. James’ bold and creative leadership that led the way for the introduction and implementation of training that moved the organization from a focus solely on cultural competency to a focus on anti-racist principles and practice for achieving racial equity.
Ms. James served as the Assistant Commissioner of Texas Child Protective Services Program from 2004-2009 providing leadership and direction for the state administered system’s 254 counties and approximately 9,000 staff. Ms. James’ leadership and testimony during the 79th legislative session was instrumental in the creation and implementation of Senate Bill 6, resulting in unprecedented and historic legislation requiring CPS to address racial disproportionality and disparities; an effort Ms. James started at the regional level and introduced at the state level when she took this position in 2004.
The Texas Model for addressing Disproportionality and Disparities that had its roots at the regional level was expanded when Ms. James became the Assistant Commissioner for Texas CPS. Ms. James is credited with being a catalyst for significant and nationally recognized improvements in the Texas CPS Program, including a reduction in disproportionality for African American and Native American children, and overall improved outcomes for all populations served.
Ms. James’ knowledge and expertise as told through her story about her personal struggle and journey to find the courage to raise an issue she knew could be unpopular, is widely recognized in Texas and across the Country.
Ms. James has served on local, state, and national boards and committee, bringing her expert knowledge and personal experiences in leading anti-racist work. She has been recognized nationally for her leadership and courage to speak out on racial inequities and her role in creating a movement across Texas to increase the knowledge and understanding among systems leaders, of institutionalized racism as the underlying cause of racial inequities across all systems.
Ms. James is best known as a pioneer of the first real efforts to address racial inequities in Texas CPS, and above all, for her ability to effect positive change in systems, by capitalizing on the strengths of leaders.