Foster kids in Dallas ISD will be getting extra help navigating high school and beyond, thanks to a nearly half-million-dollar grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.
DISD and non-profit CitySquare and its Transition Resource Action Center (TRAC) were awarded $498,051 to launch a two-year pilot program targeted at current and former foster children between the ages of 16 and 25. It was one of four pilots selected by the commission statewide.
With the grant, CitySquare and DISD will both add staff members to track and assist foster children, who are at higher risk for dropout. According to DISD counseling coordinator Sherri Vault, the district currently has at least 380 foster kids enrolled, 50 of them ages 16 or over.
"There are more out there," Vault said, explaining that the count is based on students and foster families who have self-identified. "We’ll be working closely with CPS to identify all of the students in our district."
DISD will redouble its efforts to ensure those students are on track for graduation, as well as receiving post-secondary planning and resources. CitySquare’s TRAC will expand its efforts in mentoring to help guide students through the college or certification training application process.
TRAC already works with nearly 800 youth who have aged out of the foster care system, providing them with crisis intervention, life skills training, intensive case management and other programs, such as work placement.
Foster children are disproportionately at risk for not completing high school, said Vault, because of frequent "displacement, moving from school to school, and being often disengaged with the education process."
"These students, many times, fall through the cracks," Vault said.
Even when foster children obtain a high school diploma, they have a difficult time transitioning to higher education or career training because they lack community or familiar support, said TRAC senior director Madeline Reedy.
Texas law waives tuition and fees at state-supported colleges for current and former foster children, but books, housing and food costs can be a hurdle that foster youth can’t overcome, Reedy said.
"National studies show that 70 percent of foster children want a college degree, but only 3 percent obtain them," she said. "It’s really, really hard for them."