Continuing our efforts in Central Texas foster care

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.

By now, you’ve heard from several of our partners about the good and positive things that are happening for children and families in Central Texas. They are changing lives daily, in so many ways.

  • By forming alliances between non-profits, they have broken down silos to improve prevention and intervention efforts, as well as victim services.
  • Through engaging extended family members who can be a potential placement, can encourage the biological family to be more accountable, and can help the child maintain connections with family and build a web of support.
  • Training and supporting direct-care staff who care for challenging children in turn helps improve staff retention and job satisfaction. And it ultimately leads to a more consistent continuum of care for children to build trust with their caretakers.
  • Educational opportunities help our most vulnerable children stay on track academically.
  • For those who age out of the system, a continuum of programs and services lead them to become self-sufficient. The data that is yielded is then used to publish insightful research and even launch new programs.
  • And finally, system-wide improvements through trauma-informed training and practices help identify additional opportunities to impact system change.

Learning from these investments over the years and deepening our understanding of the foster-care space led to those broader, more systemic-level investments and improvements.  Through our high-touch approach with partners and stakeholders, we have strengthened the cohesion between non-profit organizations and Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Child Protective Services (CPS).  Cross-sector social change is taking place by working with state agencies, non-profits, health, education, and the faith-based communities. Collaborative efforts and aligning with existing successful initiatives are part of the secret sauce.

We’re tackling it together as a community to get the biggest impact for our children. They deserve nothing less than our best, most focused, diligent and combined effort for a better life.

Tipping point for improvements in foster care in Texas

As a community, and as a society, we are getting more comfortable talking about child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence. But beyond awareness, more needs to be done to support struggling families, as well as recruit, strengthen, and support foster families. There are numerous strong non-profits and agencies providing great programs and services, and there are engaged organizations within the system, yet abuse and neglect still exist in our communities. As Katy Bourgeois from Mission Capital mentioned in her blog, we have a better understanding of the capacity constraints, and we are finding the need to engage the community to support struggling families, recruit strong foster families, and build wrap-around supports.  Stay tuned for more to come on this as we are exploring opportunities with our partners for this kind of community engagement.

The foster care system has reached a tipping point in Texas and key stakeholders and groups are taking notice – namely,  Governor Abbot, DFPS Commissioner Henry Whitman with his 10-point plan, the DFPS transformation efforts that are underway, and the upcoming 2017 legislative session with several senators seeking information going into the session. I’m excited to see – and be a part of – the changes that are just around the corner with this work. We’re tackling it together as a community to get the biggest impact for our children. They deserve nothing less than our best, most focused, diligent and combined effort for a better life.

Other blogs in the series:

Improving the experience of the most vulnerable children in Central Texas

Keeping Central Texas children safe

Caring for our most vulnerable children in Central Texas

From data to action: Supporting Central Texas youth as they age-out of foster care

Caring for our caregivers: Investing in our children in Central Texas

Families matter in the child welfare system

Giving our most vulnerable children a chance at education