ACS Residential Services

Austin Children’s Shelter provides an array of campus-based intervention and prevention services created to best serve the children and young adults affected by child abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Emergency Shelter Care

Providing a safe haven and an opportunity to begin to heal to the thousands of children who are forcibly removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect.
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Issue
The State of Texas removed more than 17,000 children from their homes last year due to abuse or neglect. Once removed from their homes, these children are moved to different placements in foster homes, group facilities, or other living arrangements, an average of 2.5 times while they’re in the state’s care. Older children, whose long-term goal is emancipation from the state’s care, experience an average of 7.5 placements. With each placement, research shows that a child loses educational and developmental progress.

Response
Emergency shelter was the first service Austin Children’s Shelter ever provided, in recognition that young people who have experienced trauma deserve to feel safe, listened to and protected. Austin Children’s Shelter staff are trained in the protocols of trauma-informed care, to ensure a consistent and supportive approach to working with youth in crisis. Whether they’re with us for only a few nights or are preparing to enter one of our other long-term residential programs, the children we serve in emergency shelter receive:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Medical, vision and dental care
  • Educational assistance and tutoring
  • Support and encouragement

Impact
In 2013, Emergency Shelter served 177 children, whose average length of stay was 109 days.

“When I came into Austin Children’s Shelter at seven years old I was very scared. I didn’t know why I was being put in a home away from my parents and with people and kids that I had no idea who they were. But the shelter quickly made me feel loved and unafraid of the situation I was put in. The shelter made sure that I was given the attention I needed and comfort in the worst time of my life.”

– former resident

Teen Parent Program

Helping young parents break the generational cycle of violence, abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills and building a strong supportive community.
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Issue
Young women in the state’s care are more likely to become pregnant than their peers; yet, they often don’t have the support or the practical education needed to become effective parents.

Response
Austin Children’s Shelter’s Teen Parent Program gives young women who have grown up in abusive or neglectful homes the support and education they need to care for their children and build independent lives. Our focus on positive parenting skills and building a strong supportive community helps teens break the generational cycle of violence.

Staff members work with the teens to develop and progress toward educational and employment goals. All residents also have access to:

  • Group, individual and family therapy, including play therapy
  • Positive parenting coaching
  • Child care while the parent is at school or working
  • Connection to other community services
  • Educational and career planning
  • Financial literacy training
  • On-site health clinic

Impact
In 2013, the Teen Parent Program served 23 parents and 24 infants/toddlers, who stayed an average of 309 days.

“I had no idea how to be a mom but Austin Children’s Shelter helped me learn how to take care of my little girl.”

– former resident

Transitional Living Program

Prepares youth who are aging out of the state’s care to make a successful transition to independent living.
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Issue
Without consistently reliable support networks, youth who age out of the state’s care are at a higher risk of homelessness, incarceration, addiction, welfare dependency, early pregnancy, illness and physical abuse.

Response
Austin Children’s Shelter’s Transitional Living Program offers a pathway to successful independent life for teens and young adults. Dedicated staff work with residents on developing essential skills and beginning to meet their educational, vocational and/or employment goals. Residents of the Transitional Living Program receive intensive case management. Additionally, each resident has access to:

  • On-site health clinic
  • Counseling and psychiatric care
  • Financial literacy training
  • Life skills training
  • Job skills training

Impact
In 2013, 30 teens and young adults were served by this program, staying an average of 304 days.

“I had no place else to go and needed help to figure out what to do next. Austin Children’s Shelteris home.”

– former resident

“Austin Children’s Shelter helped me turn my life around.”

– former resident

Supervised Independent Living

Provides youth who are aging out of the state’s care—but are not quite ready to successfully live independently—the opportunity to further develop adult skills and prepare for a successful independent life.
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Issue
While many young people who leave home for the first time have support systems that can provide a safety net during times of instability, youth exiting the foster care system can be especially vulnerable and in need reliable adults to lean on during setbacks. Kids may be age-ready to leave our shelter and/or transitional living program but lacking that vital supportive network, they may be unprepared to navigate adult life completely on their own.

Response
The Supervised Independent Living program offers young adults the opportunity to handle the responsibilities that come with independent living while still working on their goals with a case manager. The youth in this program live in a “non-college dorm” setting on campus; for many of them, this is the first time managing their own finances including shopping for their own food and personal items. Supportive adults are available to these residents while they navigate the complexities of young adulthood. They can offer assistance as these residents look toward new challenges such as college, apartment hunting and greater self-sufficiency.

Impact
Transition to independent living is made gradual and helps more young adults to succeed on their own by providing a safety net and guidance as needed.

Respite Care

Enhancing family stability and well-being by reducing stress for both children and their families through a short, pre-defined “respite stay” on our residential campus—a free service provided to many foster, adoptive and referred families
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Issue
Due to the trauma they’ve suffered, kids who have been abused or neglected often exhibit behaviors that can be very challenging. Foster and adoptive parents who are unprepared for these challenges experience increased stress; eventually, these parents can decide to give up on a placement, convinced that they are unable to manage the child’s behaviors on their own, in turn causing further trauma to the child, as he or she is uprooted once again.

Response
A short, pre-defined “respite stay” on our residential campus can reduce the stress level for both children and their caregivers. Provided as a free service to all of Austin Children’s Shelter’s Foster and Adoption Program families, Respite Care is also available to caregivers through local referring agencies: Austin/Travis County Integral Care, as part of a contract specifically serving children with emotional or developmental disabilities; SafePlace; and others.

Impact
In 2013, Austin Children’s Shelter provided respite care to 12 children, who stayed an average of 9 days. Because respite stays are short and the program is small, there is no dedicated budget for the program.

“The Austin Children’s Shelter Respite Care is a great service. It allows me and my 13-year-old developmentally disabled son time apart so we can relax and re-energize. My son came home telling me about all the fun things he did there.”

-respite client who needed time to take care of medical needs

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