Critical Gaps Exist With Domestic Violence, Child Welfare Services in Texas, Report Finds

AUSTIN, Texas — Domestic violence and child welfare agencies in Texas do not have enough resources to provide survivors with consistent housing, child care and counseling services, according to a new analysis funded by the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor that highlights the gaps facing the state.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas Medical Branch drew from surveys and interviews with numerous stakeholders including survivor parents, youths exposed to domestic violence and legal aid professionals. Although survivors identified long-term housing and child care as top needs, only 53% of agencies surveyed provide housing beyond emergency shelter, and only 40% offer onsite child care. Agency staff members reported a lack of resources and staffing to meet the needs of families.

The findings also showed that parents and youths report domestic violence programs help families find safety, improve mental health and access resources to heal after violence, but there were consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on survivor parents, youths and agency staffers. Disruptions to the social safety net increased risk for violence for survivors, with 69% of domestic violence agency staffers reporting decreases in client families’ safety since the start of the pandemic. Although domestic violence and child welfare agency staff members quickly pivoted to virtual services, staffers and clients both reported limited resources and service closures due to COVID-19.

The analysis underscores the need for more youth-targeted services, especially for teenagers. Most Texas domestic violence agencies surveyed offer children’s counseling and child advocacy services, but more than half reported needing to increase counseling and advocacy capacity for youths by at least 50% to meet demand. Researchers additionally found that youths benefited from continued connection to resources — such as support groups, counseling and after-school care — once they exited the program.

“When we spoke with survivors and their children across Texas, we found a deep need for services that address the impact of violence on kids,” said Monica Faulkner, director of UT Austin’s Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing who co-led the study. “Building the capacity of domestic violence agencies to offer trauma-informed and youth-oriented services such as counseling and mentoring will help ensure all kids in Texas are safe, healthy and thriving.”

Additional findings include:

• The top reported needs of youths exposed to domestic violence and their survivor parents were housing, child care and counseling.
• Only 18.5% of Texas domestic violence agencies offer full-day, onsite child care.
• Since the pandemic began, 73% of Texas domestic violence agency and child welfare staffers have reported increased work stress.

“Housing is violence prevention. Child care is violence prevention,” said Leila Wood, director of evaluation for UTMB’s Center for Violence Prevention and the lead investigator on the study. “Domestic violence and child welfare agencies do incredible work to support survivors and their children across Texas, but more resources and economic supports are needed to facilitate safety and healing in the aftermath of trauma. My hope is that this study provides the road map for filling resource gaps and addressing survivors’ needs.”

For more information about this report, contact Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing Communications Director, Kate McKerlie, 512-232-0648