Beginning with the fall 2018 semester, two Texas universities will offer extra support to older students in foster care in partnership with the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
The state-funded pilot program will allow Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville to help students in foster care cover the costs of housing, meals and other expenses under the state’s supervised independent living program (SIL). SIL is a voluntary extended foster care program for youth ages 18 to 21.
While youth who have spent time in foster care in Texas are eligible for tuition waivers at all of the state’s public universities, this marks the first time DFPS is partnering directly with a university system to administer independent living support.
“As an institution dedicated to expanding opportunity for Texans, we are honored to be a part of this program,” said A&M-Kingsville President Steven Tallant in a press release. “We hope that all former and current foster students know that they are welcome and have a place to call home on our campus.”
As of December 2017, Texas had more than 16,000 foster youth in various independent living arrangements. Nationally, researchers found that while 80 percent of foster youth want to go to college, only 2 to 9 percent of youth who have been in foster care go on to earn bachelors degrees.
Tymothy Belseth spent time in foster care as a teenager, and today is an advocate for foster youth and a research coordinator with the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing. Belseth is a graduate of A&M-Kingsville as well as Texas State University.
“The new SIL program in the Texas A&M System will improve educational outcomes for youth in foster care,” Belseth said in a press release. “Foster youth who feel welcome on campus, have a supportive network, and have resources available to them will be more likely to graduate college and have better upward mobility. I am honored to work with DFPS and my alma mater on this effort.”