Dallas program gives extra help to kids aging out of foster care

This year, more than 1,200 children will age out of foster care in Texas.

They turn 18 and legally become adults, but not all of them are ready to live on their own.

One program in Dallas is helping those who've aged out of foster care get on the right track.

Barista Lou Anna Fowler lived the life of a foster kid since she was five years old. But she struggled when she ages out of foster care.

“It was really hard. I didn’t have nowhere to go,” she said. “I just aged out and basically just got thrown outside to find somewhere to go myself.”

The young mother of two was not alone.

In 2018, Texas had 1,246 youth, ages 18 and 19, in foster care. About 63% of youth who leave foster care in Texas emancipate, meaning they leave with no permanent connections or caring adult to help them. It’s shockingly higher than the national average of 51%.

Madeline Reedy directs the Transition Resource Action Center at CitySquare

“I think CitySquare’s TRAC program is the beacon of hope for a number of young people,” she said.

TRAC helps Lou Anna and about 300 more like her in Dallas each year.

The challenges thee kids face are daunting. About 68% are unemployed, 50% have experienced homelessness, 46% have not graduated high school, and 30% are parents.

Mandalyn Finley found the TRAC program about six months ago.

“I was homeless for a little bit, then I moved into my own apartment,” she recalled. “And then a bunch of stuff happened and I was homeless again.”

Finley is now working helping others aging out of foster care.

“It’s actually really rewarding to be able to talk to people and help them through things that I’ve already been through and help them reach the next step of their life,” she said.

“It is a life mission to get to be hope and to provide that to the people that come through our doors,” Reedy said.

“I have my own apartment through CitySquare housing, and I graduate the program on December 13,” Finley said. “It’s made me more independent, and I have a job. I actually have two jobs. And so that’s actually really good for me.”

It is the fifteenth year of the TRAC program that operates with state funding and private donations. This year, the program is on track to be like family and support more than 800 youth.