Improving the experience of the most vulnerable children in Central Texas

This is part of a blog series that focuses on the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s investment in organizations working to improve the experience of children in foster care in Central Texas. In this series, we will highlight how our partners are working to put an end to the cycle of abuse and neglect. You can find the whole series here.

The abuse, neglect, and abandonment some children endure is often unimaginable and inhumane.  They arrive at shelters, treatment centers, and foster homes traumatized and many have behavioral and mental health issues as a result.  They have learned to survive by using anger, violence, and emotional detachment. Many have school related issues and learning disorders, various forms of mental and physical issues, and some have post-traumatic stress disorder at rates higher than military and war veterans. These are preventable, community health and societal problems that need to be addressed.

But we know one organization alone cannot solve all of these problems.  Former Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner John Specia summed up these challenges when he said, “Child abuse and neglect is a public health issue. It’s driven by poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health issues. It is not something this agency can stop or prevent all by itself.”  Given the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s mission of transforming the lives of children, we know that it is incumbent upon us to support those who are the most vulnerable – those who come from abusive and neglectful families.

Supporting the most vulnerable children in Central Texas

We have taken on this challenge in Central Texas.  We work with non-profit partners who are making a difference by providing:

  • Prevention and early intervention services
  • Healthy relationship education
  • Court case advocacy
  • Quality foster homes
  • Shelter services
  • Therapeutic residential treatment
  • Trauma-informed training
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Educational support
  • Adoption services
  • Aging out support

While great programs and services are making an impact, current government funding is not high enough to sustain necessary staff-to-child ratios, or to meet the demand for services.   Our investments have built programmatic and organizational capacity, strengthened trauma-informed caregiving, fostered collaboration, and improved educational services. These organizations are top-notch, with strong leadership and passionate, dedicated staff who provide quality programs and services to uniquely challenging children and teens. Making an impact is at the heart of their work, and there are countless success stories of parent coaching that improved neglectful parenting, counseling services to help a child work through their abuse, residential treatment to help a child stabilize to be ready for a foster home, and case management support to help a young adult take college classes or get a job.  Positive success stories need to be shared more broadly – there are good things happening.

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Working together to create a change

Through these impactful programs and services, children who have endured difficult environments are able to learn to build trusting relationships with caring adults to help them heal from their suffering and go on to fulfill their potential. That is the change we want to see for every child in these situations.  By working with non-profit partners who are aligning with many state initiatives, we can get on the same team to support what is best for the child. It really does take a village to protect and support children and families and build strong communities.

Stay tuned…

In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for these programs and services.  But the reality is, that even with the best prevention and intervention efforts, there will always be some children and families who need support.  So we need to build supportive communities, strengthen our non-profits, and share the impactful efforts that are happening in the foster care space.

These changes can also be replicated in other communities. We need to share best practices, build capacity, strengthen collaboration between agencies, and spread trauma-informed efforts. Ultimately, by working together towards the same goals, we can break the cycle of abuse.

To that end, we will be hearing from some of our non-profit partners who will share the stories of what they’re doing to support these vulnerable children.  What’s working, what’s not, and what’s next.  So stay tuned for this blog series and to learn more about our efforts in the Central Texas community.