A Texas State program aimed toward helping students who have been through the foster care system recently began its second year on campus.
Foster Care Alumni Creating Educational Success (FACES) held its first professional development training for faculty and staff Aug. 31. FACES will host the training at least once a semester to provide a greater awareness of issues facing foster care students. The Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation recently awarded FACES a $90,000 grant to expand the program.
FACES assists foster care alumni by hosting social events and creating an on-campus support network. The program also provides mentoring and advising when sought by students.
The program has a foster care advisory council students can approach for help with a variety of issues including adjusting to college life, success tips or graduation plans.
The vice president for student affairs office has held mentoring services for foster care alumni for the past three to four years, said Christine Norton, associate professor for the school of social work.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is de-stigmatize having been in foster care — that it shouldn’t be a source of shame for anyone,” Norton said. “Personally, I feel very inspired by our students who were in foster care. They’re really strong and resilient, and that’s how we approach them.”
Toni Watt, associate professor of sociology, said approximately 80 Texas State students have been identified as foster care alumni. Watt became involved with FACES after doing years of research on the transitions experienced by foster children. She studied graduation rates and realized it was not enough to simply do research alone.
“Very often, when (students) get shuffled around and never find a stable family, at (age) 18 they are left with nothing,” Watt said. “The state has not done a great job. We feel we have these responsibilities as a community and as a society to try and help these youth transition.”
Courtney Jones, a foster care alumna and FACES advocate working on her master’s in social work at Texas State, spoke at the training session.
“I was in the foster care system from age eight to 18. You have your good days and your bad days,” Jones said. “I went through many foster care placements, some of them because of me, and some of them because of a broken system. That’s why I became a social worker.”
Jones, who graduated from Texas A&M-Commerce with a bachelor’s degree in social work, said completing college was difficult because she graduated high school with a seventh grade reading and writing level. Jones said that’s part of why she helps with FACES.
“I busted my butt and worked probably 10 times harder than anybody to get my bachelor’s,” Jones said. “I can now say I have a degree and no one can take that away from me. I try to let students know all the time, ‘You are not defined by your past.’”