Data Analysis on A Shortage of Texas Foster and Adoptive Homes

Posted on Apr 6, 2022

Blog Headline Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels.

Data Take-Aways

  • Texas is experiencing a shortage of foster and adoptive homes.  
  • For 2021, a bivariate approach identified 35 high-need counties across the state with 37% of these counties in central Texas.
  • Interested community members are encouraged to learn more about the shortage, talk about the issue, and seek out organizations that support and advocate for Texas children living in foster care.

Data Science Introduction

As a consequence of a shortage of foster and adoptive (FAD) homes across the state, a growing number of Texas children in foster care are unable to remain in their home counties [1-4]. Being uprooted from their home base can be detrimental to their overall well-being as it moves them away from their extended family, school, and communities. To confront the statewide shortage, this project aimed to explore the progression of this issue over the years and propose a blueprint to identify regions with the greatest need for homes and/or resources using data.

Key Project Objective

This project sought to identify areas of the state that are in high-need of FAD homes.

Data Science Background

Texas is Transitioning to a Community Based Care Model

Prior to 2017, the Texas state agency primarily responsible for placing children in foster care and helping children get adopted was Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS is part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). However, the 85th Texas legislature enacted law to transition the Texas foster care system to a Community Based Care (CBC) model. The CBC model shifts the functions of foster care services from DFPS to local private contractors.

Rather than implementing the CBC model statewide, the model is being rolled out in stages. Existing DFPS regions were used to partition the state into designated geographical areas. As of December 31, 2021, approximately 31% of the state or 79 counties had begun transitioning to CBC. In each designated geographical area and under a performance-based agreement, a single contractor is responsible for finding FAD homes or other living arrangements for Texas children in foster care.

A Child is Removed From Their Home When They Are Determined Unsafe

In both traditional DFPS and CBC models, CPS is responsible for the investigation into a report of neglect, abuse, or exploitation of a child [5]. During the investigation process, a child removal occurs if and when the investigator determines the child cannot remain safely in their own home. When a child is removed from their home, the child is placed in foster care, i.e. full-time care in an out-of-home placement.

The Most Common Placements are Kinship and Non-Relative Foster Homes

Placements with family or other significant connections [6] are prioritized. However, when the latter is unattainable, the alternative is a regulated foster care placement. Foster care placements include but are not limited to foster homes, adoptive homes, and foster/adoptive homes. Foster homes are homes that are approved to provide 24-hour residential care. Adoptive homes are homes that have been screened and approved for adoption. Foster/adoptive homes are approved for both.

Datasets

Three datasets were downloaded from data.texas.gov

  • CPS 4.2 Adoption - DFPS Foster, Foster/Adoptive, and Adoptive (FAD) Homes
  • CPS 2.1 Removals by County
  • CPI 1.1 Texas Child Population by County

Data Analysis

The project’s analyses included the following:

  1. Visualizations of DFPS FAD homes data overlaid on a Texas county map between the years 2011-2021. The purpose was to explore the temporal progression of the FAD home shortage and assess geospatial need. 
  2. Examination of DFPS child removals in a similar manner (temporal and geospatial) to quantify the demand for FAD homes. 
  3. Creation of a bivariate map overlaying county FAD home and DFPS child removals data onto a Texas map to identify high-need counties.

To describe findings in relation to familiar geographical and major metropolitan areas, geospatial discussions will reference the Texas DFPS regions 1-11 (Fig. 1) 

data for county count

data for county count

Fig 1. Map of Texas DFPS Regions 1-11. 

Important Limitations

The CPS 4.2 Adoptions - DFPS Foster, Foster/Adoptive, and Adoptive (FAD) Homes dataset included FAD homes screened and approved by DFPS. This dataset did not include homes screened by private licensed child placing agencies. At the time of this publication, the quantity of FAD homes screened by private agencies was unknown.

Further, FAD homes data analyses excluded counties transitioning to CBC as the FAD homes data for these regions were unavailable at the time of this publication. Considering these limitations, the project aimed to establish the feasibility of the bivariate approach, assuming future access to a more complete FAD homes dataset, including FAD homes approved by DFPS and private contractors.

Results

1. Foster/Adoptive (FAD) Homes 

Between 2011-2021, the quantity of statewide FAD homes per 100K residents decreased by 64% (Fig. 2). In 2021, there were on average approximately 4 FAD homes per 100K residents (Fig. 2) across the state.

data for county count

data for county count

Fig 2. Annual statewide FAD homes per 100K residents between 2011-2021. The FAD homes data included only FAD homes screened and approved by DFPS. It did not include homes screened by private agencies. Further, FAD homes data from CBC transitioning counties (or their populations) were not included.

However, considering the size of the state, it was necessary to examine the FAD homes data from a geospatial perspective. The FAD homes per 100K residents data are presented on a Texas county map (Fig. 3) between 2011-2021.

data for county count

data for county count

data for county count

data for county count

Fig 3.  Map of geospatial distribution of FAD homes per 100K residents between 2011-2021. In each map, counties were color-coded based on their quantity of homes per 100K residents (see color scheme in legend). Counties with zero FAD homes were displayed with the color yellow. The FAD homes data included only FAD homes screened and approved by DFPS. It did not include homes screened by private agencies. Additionally, as counties transitioned to CBC, these counties were removed from the map.

CBC Transitions

Between 2015-2021, multiple regions transitioned to CBC, including a subset of counties in DFPS Arlington region 3 (2015), all the counties in the DFPS Abilene region 2 (2019), Bexar county in DFPS San Antonio region 8 (2019), and all the counties in DFPS Lubbock region 1 (2021). Accordingly, as the counties transition, in each map the counties disappear (and their boundaries fade) from the map.

Fewer Homes in Regions 2 and 9

In 2015, the statewide decline in FAD homes (Fig. 2) was evident on the Texas county map (Fig. 3) as an 83% increase in the number of counties with zero FAD homes (displayed in yellow) compared to 2011. This vast area spanned the Abilene and Midland regions of the state (Fig. 3). Examining these two regions directly, the FAD Homes per 100K residents plummeted between 2011 and 2015 (Fig. 4).

Fig 4. FAD Homes per 100K residents for the DFPS Abilene Region 2 and Midland Region 9 between 2011-2021. The data for the Abilene Region 2 conclude in 2018 due to its transition to CBC.

2. DFPS Child Removals 

Between 2011-2021, the number of statewide removals was on average approximately 2.4 child removals per 1K children (Fig. 5). However, no major fluctuations in the statewide child removals were discernible.

Fig 5. Annual statewide DFPS Child Removals between 2011-2021.

Again, from a geospatial perspective, the DFPS child removals per 1K children are presented on a Texas county map (Fig. 6) for 2011 and 2021. In 2021, a greater number of child removals were observed in central Texas (Fig. 6).

Fig 6. Map of geospatial distribution of Removals per 1K children in 2011 and 2018. In both maps, counties were color-coded based on the quantity of removals per 1K children (see color scheme in legend). Counties with zero removals were displayed with the color yellow. CBC transitioning counties were included on the maps because CPS remained responsible for child investigations and removals.

3. A Bivariate Approach to Need

To create a bivariate map and compare across multiple years, both the homes and removals data were binned. For both variables, intervals were determined by pooling the county averages between 2011-2021 (excluding CBC counties) and calculating the 33rd and 67th percentiles. For 2021, univariate maps were created for FAD homes per 100K residents and removals per 1K children with the binned intervals (Fig. 7).

 

Following this, the bivariate map was created using the binned intervals (Fig. 7). Only the 2021 map is presented. To perform the bivariate analysis for other years, visit my R Shiny application. High-need counties are displayed with a dark burgundy color. For 2021, 35 counties (Fig. 8) were identified as high-need. These counties have 6 or fewer homes per 100K residents and 6 or greater removals per 1K children.

 

The DFPS region with the most high-need counties was the Austin region, followed by the San Antonio, Edinburg, and Midland regions respectively (Fig. 9).

data for county count

data for county count

Fig 9. High-need county count by Texas DFPS region in 2021. The high-need counties are displayed with a dark burgundy color in the bivariate map (same as the horizontal bars in this graph).

Discussion

The quantity of statewide FAD homes steadily decreased between 2011-2021 (Fig. 2). Even more, geospatial analyses revealed the growing shortage was most severe in northwest Texas. Specifically, a strikingly large cluster of counties that emerged in the Abilene and Midland regions (Fig. 3-4).

Even so, the intention of the proposed bivariate approach was to capture the demand for FAD homes by incorporating the DFPS child removals. The 2021 bivariate map revealed a prominent band of high-need counties in central Texas (Fig. 8). Notably, 37% of the high-need counties were in the Austin region (Fig. 9).

The project established the feasibility of the bivariate approach. Nonetheless, these results must be interpreted with caution and a number of limitations should be kept in mind. As noted, the FAD Homes dataset did not include homes screened by private licensed child placing agencies. Likewise, FAD homes in CBC transitioning counties were also not included as these counties transfer foster care services from DFPS to a regional private contractor.

Therefore, the results are incomplete and missing information for 31% of the state (visibly evident in Fig. 8) and potentially more. To address these gaps, future work aspires to apply the approach to a more complete FAD homes dataset, including homes approved by DFPS and private agencies.

Action

The purpose of identifying high-need counties was to take a targeted approach to tackling the scarcity of FAD homes. Also, considering the long-term goal is to not only increase statewide FAD homes capacity, but to serve the diverse needs of Texas children and families, this effort requires everyone. Accordingly, rather than at state legislators, the recommended actions are directed at community members. 

To Texans/Interested Community Members:

  • Talk about this issue. 
  • Seek out organizations in your community that support Texas children living in foster care and foster families.  
  • Interested in fostering or adoption? Learn more
  • Urge your state officials to designate and keep Texas children living in foster care and their families a top priority in upcoming legislative sessions.

Future Work

To create the bivariate map, the intervals were chosen based on average county data. Future work will aim to establish the intervals based on external knowledge. 

Connect with Author

Project R Shiny Application, GitHub, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

References

[1] Clements, C. (2022, March 23). GC child welfare steps up to meet foster care needs. The Navasota Examiner.

[2] Landesman, D. (2022, March 3). Coalition of Foster and Adoption Advocacy Group Forms. CBS7.

[3] Gardner, W. (2022, March 10). Texas foster care entities respond to expert panel's recommendations. Community Impact Newsletter.

[4] Oxner, R. and Bohra, N. (2021, July 19). Texas foster care crisis worsens, with fast-growing numbers of children sleeping in offices, hotels, churches. The Texas Tribune.

[5] TexProtects. (Accessed 2022, Mar 28). TexProtects Infographic Guide to Child Protective Services.

[6] Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (2022, January 1). Placement Process Resource Guide. DFPS.

The skills I demoed here can be learned through taking Data Science with Machine Learning bootcamp with NYC Data Science Academy.

About Author

Mandy McClintock

I'm an NYC Data Science Academy Alumni with a passion for working with data and people!
View all posts by Mandy McClintock >

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