The State of Texas recognizes that children who have left foster care find postsecondary education challenging because these students seldomly have the same level of familial and financial support as their peers. A 2017 study of nearly 4,000 former Texas foster-care children, found 67% hadn’t pursued postsecondary education. Of those who did enroll, fewer than 4% had earned a certificate, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree.
This project is funded by the Texas Legislature.
Bexar County Fostering Educational Success works to improve college enrollment, retention, and graduation rates for students with a history of foster care by providing unique and dynamic programing which expand the students’ emotional, social and professional networks, giving them the tools to succeed in college.
The model is a trauma-informed, strategic framework that incorporates evidence of best practices, coaching, and holistic support to meet the educational aspirations and unique needs of youth with foster care history. BCFES has assembled partners across child welfare, the Children’s Court, and two- and four-year colleges in Bexar County who work together
for the common goal of improving educational outcomes for foster care alumni and children still in foster care. UTSA serves as the fiduciary agent and administrator tasked with implementing and ensuring its success.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Data Book, there are 51,417 children in foster care. Of those children, 4,858 currently reside in Bexar County, ranking first in the state for children in DFPS custody. In 2021, there were 982 youth and young adults in foster care in Bexar County ages 14-18. That's over 20% of youth in foster care that will likely age-out of the system. Aging out of the system threatens the education advancement of youth in can as detailed in the disparaging educational outcomes for youth in foster care.
In San Antonio’s education district, or Region 20, there wwere 125 foster youth in the 2020 class of which 50.8% graduated high school while 40.1 % dropped out. The graduation rate is 34.3% below youth “at-risk” who graduate from the same region. There is more work to be done to ensure educational support occur well in secondary schools to increase graduation rate of youth in foster care. This is a critical time that adolescents that youth begin transitioning into adulthood and planning for educational, career and life goals. However, many are left without the critical support needed to navigate educational, social, political, and economic barriers.
Navigating the college application process can be daunting for any high school student. There are financial forms, college applications, letters of recommendation, and personal statements all with strict guidelines that require attention well before graduation. Once a student navigates the admissions process and is accepted new challenges of how to successfully complete a degree awaits. For foster youth this process is intimidating, confusing, and discouraging leading most will youth not pursue any
higher education certification or degree. BCFES is working with a diverse network for partners to identify, engage, and educate foster youth to overcome a myriad of hurdles.
Impact By The Numbers
students with lived experience in foster care received targeted outreach to increase awareness of college & available support
million in tuition & fees waived by BCFES partner institutions so foster youth could pursue higher education
in emergency funds, incentives, & financial assistance was disbursed
pre-college & college workshops were delivered
young adults & 30 dependent children are supported by the Housing First program to provide housing stability
new & transfer students were provided early college transition programming
foster care alumni employed at BCFES programs
students in BCFES at UTSA completed degrees in the first biennium
Impact On Expanding Programs
As a result of expanded support, the Bexar County Children’s Court, in partnership with Bexar County Fostering Educational Success, has become a nationally recognized specialty court for youth in foster care that is focused on college preparedness and enrollment.
The program provides critical wrap around services like tutoring, mental health care and emergency funding. Staff work directly with the university or college the youth will attend to ensure a continuity of support.
Since 2019, the program has served 110 foster youth, of which 58% have enrolled in state public universities such as The University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M University San Antonio.