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Outcome: Socially and Emotionally Healthy and Safe

Children and Youth In Foster Care

In Travis County in 2013, there were 5.8 children in substitute care for every 1,000 children under 18.

Significance of indicator: Children and youth who have experienced maltreatment are sometimes placed in substitute care when they cannot be cared for by their primary caregivers. 

How we are doing on this indicator: Texas has a large number of children in substitute care.  In Travis County, the number of children in substitute care has remained fairly stable with some decreases between 2009 and 2011.

what the data tell us

Definition: The rate per 1,000 children, ages 0-17, placed in substitute care in Travis County.

Data Source: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Annual Report and Data Book 2007-2013  

Data Considerations: Substitute care includes Foster Care, Kinship Care, Residential Treatment, and Independent Living.

The story behind the data

When children have experienced maltreatment and/or cannot live with their primary caregivers, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will first seek to place children in the care of relatives (kinship care).  When children cannot be placed with relatives, they may be placed in a foster home, group home, emergency shelter or a residential treatment center.  Once in substitute care, youth may experience multiple changes in living situations, particularly if they are older youth.

Youth in substitute care have poor outcomes on most social, educational and health indicators when compared to children who are not in foster care.   However, little research has been done to examine whether the outcomes are due to placement in substitute care or experiences of maltreatment.

Caution is needed in interpreting numbers of youth in substitute care.  Increases in youth in substitute care may indicate increased levels of child maltreatment that result in children being removed from their homes.  However, it may also indicate improved service levels that are more appropriately placing children in substitute care.  In terms of numbers of children in substitute care in a particular area, caution in interpreting numbers is important because the children in care in an area may be more indicative of the numbers of substitute care placements rather than the numbers of children from that area who have been maltreated.

Local efforts to improve the indicator

Foster care redesign

Recommendations from a representative group of child welfare stakeholders in Texas are being implemented for a redesigned foster care system. They are focused on improving outcomes for children and families, including permanency outcomes. The quality indicators used as a foundation for the development of the redesign include many that will contribute to moving children through the system to permanency at a quicker pace.  Children placed in their home communities, who live in a least restrictive environment supported by minimal moves, and maintain connections to family and other important people in the children's lives are less likely to continue to move through the system.  For more information about the redesign, visit:

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Travis County

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Travis County believes every child who's been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate speaking up for their best interest in court, at school and in the community. To accomplish this, CASA educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure each child's needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system. When the state steps in to protect a child's safety because the people responsible for protecting them have not, a judge appoints a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what's best for the child. CASA is the only child advocacy group working in the court system that provides a caring, consistent adult focused on the well-being of a single child. For more information, visit:

Substitute care placements in Austin/Travis County

There are multiple substitute care agencies in Austin/Travis County.  Below is a list of some agencies and their websites where additional information can be obtained.

A closer look at the data

Click on the title below to see the corresponding graph.


Child and Family Research Institute at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Contact Dr. Monica Faulkner for additional information at