The Texas Council on Family Violence was founded in 1978 as a nonprofit corporation to provide a statewide network of people involved in the domestic violence movement. At that time, no other statewide organization specifically addressed the problem of domestic violence. The executive directors and staff members of the six battered women's shelters in Texas made plans to form the council while attending the 1977 International Women's Conference in Houston. The founders wanted to form a network that would allow them to share information and conduct legislative work that would address the overall problem of domestic violence, and they wanted to seek state funding so that local, community-based shelters could obtain a more stable funding source for their operations. To form the council, the founders set up a coordinating board of eight staff members of local shelters. Each member was responsible for one area of council activities, which included, among others, legislation, fundraising, membership, and research. Many battered women's shelters across the country had developed at the grass roots level, where the women operated within the framework of a feminist consensus-building or collective model, rather than a hierarchical bureaucratic model. The council began with a similar structure, using a modified collective structure where decisions were made by consensus. In its initial years the council provided a communication network to the existing shelters and assistance and information to newly formed shelters.
TCFV contributed to the content of the legislation that established state funding for local shelters. They wanted to insure that shelter programs continued to develop as autonomous community-based programs with primary funding coming from community sources. They included provisions to discourage groups from forming shelters solely for the purpose of getting state funds, and they sought to limit the amount of state funding any shelter could receive in order to encourage local shelters to raise funds within the community, and by so doing, maintain acceptance and support in the community. In 1981, thanks in part to the national exposure of a "60 Minutes" report on battered women's shelters, the council received major funding from the Levi-Strauss Foundation. That grant and a contract from the Texas Department of Human Services enabled TCFV to establish paid positions for two staff members. The TDHS grant was part of the Family Violence Program, which the legislature had established to provide funding to local shelters. The Department of Human Services contracted with TCFV to visit each of the battered women's shelters in the state that qualified for state funding. Two of the founding members are still referred to with great regard today. Toby Myers is called the "mother" of the battered women's movement in Texas and continued to serve on the board of directors in 1993 as secretary. Deborah Tucker was one of the first paid staff members of TCFV in 1981 and continued to work as executive director in 1993.
When the council began only six battered women's shelters existed in Texas. In 1993 there were fifty-eight shelters, fifteen batterer's treatment programs, and four family violence legal assistance programs in the state. As the size of the council grew, the original coordinating board increased in size and changed in structure to a board of directors. The 1992–93 board of directors had nineteen board members from around the state. As of 1993 a paid staff of twenty worked at the TCFV state office. In addition, TCFV utilized members from across the state on the council's thirteen working committees. The original goals of the Texas Council on Family Violence continued to guide the efforts of the organization over the years. As of 1993 its goals were to: "provide support and assistance to Texas family violence programs; increase funding for family violence programs and prevention; educate the public about the causes and effects of family violence; and pass and promote better laws and policies affecting battered women and their children." To meet these goals during its first fifteen years, the council devoted much of its time and energy in the following areas: legislative advocacy and public policy implementation; program and administrative assistance to shelters; workshops and conferences for shelter staffs and criminal justice professionals; and special projects. TCFV's legislative efforts included advocacy for greater funding for the Family Violence Program and efforts to enact laws and establish policies to protect battered women and their children. Funding for the Family Violence Program increased from an annual statewide budget of $200,000 in 1979 to a two-year budget of $18.1 million in 1993. TCFV helped to pass the following legislation: protection from stalkers; warrantless arrest, which allows police officers to arrest batterers without a warrant; protective orders for battered women, which order their abusers to stay away; training requirements in family violence for police and judges; and laws that require law enforcement officers to report domestic violence incidents.
Membership in TCFV is available in four different categories: battered women's shelters, family violence programs, associative organizations, and individual members. Each category represents a different level of membership with corresponding voting privileges and levels of dues. The council offers a variety of services to its members in addition to its work in the legislative arena. TCFV provides technical assistance to family violence programs (shelters as well as batterer's treatment programs), criminal justice and law enforcement programs, the media, counselors, and individuals. They address problems related to budget, administrative and program issues at battered women's shelters as well as issues related to client security and confidentiality, crisis questions, the physical needs of women and children staying in shelters; and counseling and therapeutic services at shelters. TCFV sponsors the following conferences on a yearly basis: a statewide conference on family violence, three regional conferences, two institutes for new shelter workers, and a statewide advocacy conference. These conferences provide training and information to a variety of persons and organizations working in the field of domestic violence. The council publishes a newsletter six times a year. The River includes articles related to legislation and public policy at the state and national level; articles addressing legal questions; stories and news about members; information on training opportunities; a "grim tally" of the number of women killed or assaulted by their partners in a given time period; and news about TCFV activities. TCFV has received two major awards for accomplishments in the field of domestic violence. In 1986 the council received a $10,000 cash award from the National Improvement of Justice Foundation for their work in protecting the rights of victims. In 1991 they received a $50,000 gift in conjunction with receipt of the ATOR Award from the University of Houston Law School Foundation for their work in improvements to the Texas legal system.