CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There are at least 31,567 Texas children in foster care, according to nonprofit Buckner International. The organization’s top three reasons children are removed from their homes are neglect, drug use by the parent, and caretaker inability to cope.
Foster care is a service provided by the state to get children into safe homes. For some of them, that care even continues through college with a tuition waiver.
“They struggle. They struggle,” said Noreli Roque, a staff member of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
One of the teens Roque is now helping is 18-year-old Amber Dye.
“It’s so crazy to even be here because I never would have thought… and now I'm so thrilled about college, and I never thought I would be,” Amber said while on her first college tour at Texas A&M University Kingsville.
For her, making a decision like this is about more than what is served at the cafeteria or how the dorms look.
“They’re looking for somebody to trust. They need to know that where they’re going is safe, who they’re talking to can be trusted,” Jennifer Alaniz said, TAMUK’s foster care liaison.
In October, the university hosted a group of around 30 south Texas foster teens, led by members of the TDFPS. As they walked around campus, they carried with them big dreams.
“Traveling nurses, engineers, music, it’s just a lot of dreams and hopes that they have,” Roque said.
Amber wants to become a caseworker, to help other kids who share her childhood experiences. She will get her college education for free. According to The Imprint, an independent news outlet focused on child welfare and youth justice, Texas is one of 37 states offering tuition waiver for kids in the foster care system.