TRAC Provides A Safety Net For Texas Youth Leaving Foster Care System
Turning 18 is typically thought of as an exciting time, full of hope and promise. But for an 18 year old transitioning out of Texas foster care, it often means exiting a system where foster children “almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered.”
That’s according to U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who declared the Texas foster care system broken and unconstitutional last December and ordered an overhaul of the entire system.
The recommendations of a nine-person investigative team appointed by Judge Jack are due this September. Hopefully these suggestions will help the children in Texas foster care live healthy, secure, and fulfilling lives, which will make the transition from foster care much easier. Until that happens, many of these children need the assistance of programs like CitySquare’s Transition Resource Action Center (TRAC).
“We see the kids that are in crisis and have the biggest struggle making it on their own,” said Carla Cleeton, assistant program director of TRAC. “We don’t see kids who went straight from a good foster home to college. We see youth who left foster care with a felony on their record, the ones that ran away consistently and always got into fights. We see youth that struggle with getting and keeping a job, struggle to continue their education, struggle to stay out of jail and maintain permanent housing.”
TRAC helps guide these young people toward the life skills that are essential to develop into a stable adult.
“TRAC is the transition center for a 19 county area that includes Dallas and Tarrant County,” said Madeline Reedy, program director of TRAC. “There are 17 transition centers around Texas, but we are the only one in this region. With the support of CitySquare’s programs and services, we are a one-stop shop for youth to come and get the services they need to help them find their footing as they become an adult.”
TRAC provides assistance to approximately 800 young people every year. TRAC’s programs include:
- Life Skills Training – a 36-hour, experiential training program on six core elements for youths that are still in the foster care system
- Case Management – coaching for ages 17½-21 as they transition out of foster care
- Housing Programs
- Short-term rental assistance
- Transitional housing for homeless youths
- Permanent housing for homeless disabled youths
- Workforce Training – including assistance with job search and job retention
- Crisis Intervention
“At TRAC, we use a coaching philosophy,” said Reedy. “We’re not caseworkers. A caseworker’s job is to manage tasks: to make sure the youth is doing what they are supposed to be doing. A coach’s job is to see where they are today and where they want to be in the future – and help them achieve their goals. That’s really what we’re hoping to do, to help coach youth to become successful in the future.”
“Our culture at TRAC is empowering,” said Cleeton. “When someone leaves foster care at 18, they want control of their life. They don’t want to answer to another caseworker that’s going to shake their finger at them. Working with TRAC is often the first time a foster youth gets to hear someone say, “This is your life. What do you want to do with it?” That gets their attention. We’re laying the groundwork for trust and believing in that person, which helps us establish a good relationship.”
Many of the young people that leave the foster care system have no one they can turn to for help. TRAC provides some of the stability and resources that is missing from their lives.
“The ones who find us have the biggest struggle making it on their own. Despite that, we see a lot of our young people thrive,” said Reedy. “We just got our report card on our outcomes. The goal is for 75 percent of our kids to be on track to a living wage job and we’re consistently somewhere between 80-85 percent.
“I’m extremely proud of the staff that we have here at TRAC. They are some of the most committed people. The work we do is very hard work, but they stay because time and again they see how hope has intervened in a young person’s life and given them many more options than they ever thought they had.”
TRAC is helping to transform the lives of former foster care children. Join the movement and support our youth by clicking here.