A woman holds a child wearing a backback with a playground in the background.

New Report Reveals Critical Gaps in Texas Domestic Violence Services

A report published today highlights major gaps in community service provision to children exposed to domestic violence and their survivor parents across Texas. The report, released by the University of Texas Medical Branch, Center for Violence Prevention and the Texas Institute Child & Family Wellbeing at UT Austin (TXICFW), shows domestic violence and child welfare agencies do not have the resources to provide survivors with consistent housing, childcare, and counseling services.

Leveraging the expertise and relationships of statewide coalition Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV), researchers contacted, interviewed and provided surveys to survivor parents, youth exposed to domestic violence, and domestic violence, child welfare, and legal aid professionals to draw data to inform the report. While survivors identified long-term housing and childcare as top needs, only 53% of agencies surveyed provide housing beyond emergency shelter and only 40% offer onsite childcare. Agency staff report a lack of resources and staffing to meet the needs of families.

“Housing is violence prevention. Childcare is violence prevention,” said Dr. 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 roadmap for filling resource gaps and addressing survivors’ needs.”

In 2019, TCFV released the Texas State Plan, which detailed the availability of family violence services, as well as the gaps in services, for adults in every Texas county.  The plan also highlighted how communities could better support survivors and their families. Now, that method is being replicated to identify the gaps in support for children impacted by domestic violence.

“TCFV was honored to assist in the making of this report by sharing our knowledge and insight as the sole coalition of domestic violence agencies in Texas and one of the largest in the country,” said Gloria Aguilera Terry, CEO of TCFV. “Providing healing for children who have been exposed to domestic violence, as well as a path forward for them to grow up in a violence-free environment, are fundamental to ending the cycle of abuse. That’s why identifying where those services are lacking is so important. Looking ahead, we are eager to start closing these gaps.”

Findings from the report reveal the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on survivor parents, youth, and agency staff. Disruptions to the social safety net increased risk for violence for survivors, with 69% of domestic violence agency staff reporting decreases in client families’ safety since the start of the pandemic. Although domestic violence and child welfare agency staff quickly pivoted to virtual services, both staff and clients reported limited resources and service closures due to COVID-19.

The report also underscores the need for more youth-targeted services, especially for teenagers. While most Texas domestic violence agencies surveyed offer children’s counseling and child advocacy services, over half reported needing to increase counseling and advocacy capacity for youth by at least 50% to meet demand. Researchers also found that youth benefited from continued connection to resources—such as support groups, counseling, and after-school care—after program exit.

“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 TXICFW Director Dr. Monica Faulkner, 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 topline findings include:

  • Parents and youth report domestic violence programs help families find safety, improve mental health, and access resources to heal after violence.
  • The top reported needs of youth exposed to domestic violence and their survivor parents were housing, childcare, and counseling.
  • Only 18.5% of Texas domestic violence agencies offer full-day, onsite childcare.
  • 73% of Texas domestic violence agency and child welfare staff reported increased work stress since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about this report, please contact Dr. Leila Wood, Director of Evaluation for UTMB’s Center for Violence Prevention, at leiwood@utmb.edu.