Imagine if you were a young adult who struggled to pay for basic necessities such as your cell phone, food, clothes and rent — and you had no parents to help out. Now imagine that the government set aside money to help you pay for those necessities, but finding out how to get it was difficult and confusing, and no one could really tell you if it was coming or not.
That’s exactly what’s happening with funds earmarked for foster youth.
Thanks to the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act, the Texas Department of Family Services has access to millions of dollars of extra pandemic relief funds to assist youths ages 14-20 who are currently in or have aged out of foster care. Foster youth are some of the most financially vulnerable among us, with 20% entering homelessness upon emancipation (in Texas, on their 18th birthday). In fact, 50% of the total homeless population in the U.S. have spent time in foster care.
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These vital funds can provide a lifeline that could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Funding could keep a young person off the street by allowing them to finance a deposit on an apartment. Or it could position a recent foster care graduate for long-term career success by allowing them to enroll in training that leads to a job — and get a cell phone so they can communicate with an employer. Think of all the ways money makes your life possible. Now imagine if you didn’t have it.
As advocates with the Court Appointed Special Advocates programs throughout Texas, we know firsthand how youth who lack family support struggle with multiple challenges. These funds can help remove the challenge of having a computer to do schoolwork or bus money to get to school. We must do everything we can to support current and former foster youth in accessing the funds, which are only available until August 31.
These funds provide a remarkable opportunity to provide meaningful financial assistance to vulnerable young adults. However, DFPS appears to have provided very limited information — about both the availability of the funds and the fact that more substantive assistance than usual is available. Because of the limited information about the availability of the funds, it’s possible that youth seeking help for similar matters will receive varying responses and some may be improperly turned down.
Please help spread the word about the availability of these funds and the importance of seeking help if denied. We encourage you to share this information with current and aged-out foster youth and all who work with them.
Young people can access the pandemic aid funds by asking their Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) or Aftercare worker for help with financial needs. Youth can find out who their PAL or Aftercare worker is by calling 512-460-7394, and they must leave a message that identifies them as a current or former foster youth.
Additionally, if youth reach out for help with specific financial needs and are told they cannot receive help or are not getting responses to their request, they can contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project for legal assistance at 877-313-3688 or info@TexasFosterYouth.org.
It’s up to all of us to ensure that these funds are used for the intended purposes — to assist our most vulnerable young people in obtaining the necessities that so many of us take for granted. But we can only do that if we spread the word.
Because support like this doesn’t come around often—and it can’t do any good if the young people it’s meant for don’t know about it.
Vicki Spriggs is the CEO of Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates.