Who Are the Kids in Foster Care?

Foster care is a vital service that can provide a safe and nurturing environment for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. In Texas, Child Protective Services (CPS) is the state agency responsible for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect and providing services to children and families in need. CPS is also responsible for removing children from their homes when their safety cannot be ensured and, in many places, a community-based provider finds a foster care placement that meets the needs of the child or youth. 

When they are placed, caring and compassionate foster parents can provide stability and support during a difficult time in the child’s family life. 

Understanding How Texas Children and Youth Enter the Child Protective Services System 

There are a variety of ways that children and youth enter the Child Protective Services system in Texas. Some of the most common reasons include: 

  1. Reports of Abuse or Neglect: When someone makes a report to CPS about suspected child abuse or neglect, the agency is required to investigate. If the investigation reveals that a child is in danger, CPS may remove the child from their home and place them in foster care. 
  1. Parental Surrender: In some cases, parents may voluntarily surrender their parental rights, either to CPS or to a licensed child-placing agency, if they are unable or unwilling to care for their child. 
  1. Court Orders: In some cases, a court may order that a child be placed in foster care due to concerns about their safety or well-being. 

The Link between Social and Economic Situations and Child Abuse and Neglect 

Child abuse and neglect can occur in families from all social and economic backgrounds and there are certain factors that can increase the risk of these problems. Some of the most common risk factors for child abuse and neglect in Texas include: 

  1. Substance Abuse: Parents who struggle with substance abuse may be unable to provide adequate care for their children. 
  1. Mental Health Issues: Parents who have untreated mental health issues may struggle to provide consistently adequate care for their children. 
  1. Domestic Violence: Children who witness or experience domestic violence in the home may be at increased risk of abuse or neglect. 
  1. Poverty: Although poverty and child neglect are highly correlated, the issue is much more complicated. Lacking the capacity to provide care is different from unwillingness and intentions matter when we think about abuse and neglect. 

These risk factors don’t necessarily mean that a family will experience abuse or neglect, but families facing these challenges may benefit from additional support and resources (called “Prevention and Early Intervention”) to provide safe and nurturing environments for their children. 

Why Open-Minded and Trauma-Informed Foster Homes Are Needed 

Children and youth in foster care have often experienced trauma, and they need foster homes that are prepared to support their unique needs. Trauma-informed foster parents are those who understand the impact of trauma on children and youth and are able to provide a safe and supportive environment that promotes healing and growth. 

Open-minded foster homes are also essential. Foster parents who are willing to learn about different cultures, beliefs, and experiences can help children and youth in their care feel accepted and valued. Additionally, foster parents will work collaboratively with birth families, CPS, and other service providers to help ensure that children receive the support they need to thrive.