Each year more than 1,200 young people in Texas leave, or “age out,” of the state’s foster care system and embark on very uncertain futures. About one in four will be homeless within four years, according to national statistics. Fewer than 3 percent will earn bachelor’s degrees.
The state has established benefits for this group, including tuition-free higher education until the age of 25. Many, however, don’t know about the program, and many who do don’t take advantage of it. Some are distrustful, fed up with the foster care system and wanting nothing more to do with it. Others are almost ashamed, fearful of being labeled as former foster care recipients.
“This is a very difficult population to reach,” said Rosemarie Hammon, assistant director of advising and counseling at TCC South, “so, this event we’re having is basically trying to connect with these individuals.”
The event, “Foster Care 2 College Success,” will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, in the TCC South Student Center. It will be a come-and-go affair, with participants getting free food, a free backpack with school supplies, a fee waiver for taking the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) test and a chance to hear about the many resources available to them from TCC and partner organizations. Making presentations will be First Time in College success coaches, the Child Care Assistance Program, the TCC financial aid office, Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, the Our Community Our Kids organization, and the Southern Methodist University Law School’s Child Advocacy Clinic.
They’ll also hear from their peers at a panel of foster care “alumni,” not only from TCC, but also from the University of North Texas PUSH program and Texas Woman’s University’s Pioneer program, both of which furnish both free tuition and residence accommodations.
But the keynote address will be from Precious Rooks, a former TCC student who spent 12 years in foster care, works for several childcare agencies and has made it her calling to advocate for those in the system and to carry her story to them, especially those wary of the benefits for which they qualify.
“For some reason they think that getting these benefits means they’re still involved with the foster care system, and they’re not. A lot of them are afraid they’re going to be controlled,” she said. “I tell them, ‘Look at it this way guys. You’re being basically paid to go to school. You get a tuition waiver plus financial aid. Everybody else, they have to pay to go to college. You don’t.'”
Hammond is unsure as to how many students will attend the day’s activities. She’s hoping for 50 to 70, but said, “But if only two show up, those are the two that really need to be there.”
Information on the event is available from Hammond at 817 515-4557 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on TCC’s Foster Care Alumni Transition Program (FCAT) can be found at https://www.tccd.edu/services/support-services/foster/.