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Helping kids who age out of foster system

Helping kids who age out of foster system

SAN ANTONIO - Right now, nearly 6,000 kids are living in foster care in Bexar County - and a lot of them are about to turn 18.

When they do, they could find themselves homeless. That's why a local program called Turning Point is helping steer those young adults onto the right path.

At Texas State University, Lauren Tyler-Smith is studying for a social work exam.

"Growing up in foster care, these are the people I want to help," she says.

Tyler-Smith knows what it's like to fall through the cracks. She was removed from her mother's care when her mom chose to stay with an abusive boyfriend.

"He sexually molested me when I was growing up," Tyler-Smith says.

In the foster system, she bounced through 20 placements in seven years. When she turned 18, Tyler-Smith says she tried to go to college but lost her way.

"I just didn't show up to class," she says. "I got into a bad relationship and ended up back in San Antonio."

Homeless and afraid, she turned to Roy Maas Youth Alternatives' Turning Point program.

"I don't know where I'd be without them," Tyler-Smith says.

She lived in a house near The Bridge shelter on West Avenue near Basse Road. Her roommates were other kids who aged out of foster care and faced battles.

"These are the kids that will end up draining our system," Renee Garvens with Roy Maas says. "As they grow up, they become homeless. They will get involved in sex trafficking. They get involved in drug use and become addicts."

She says the shelter's program helps kids learn life skills like cooking, budgeting and keeping a job while also getting therapy.

"This is really about breaking the cycle," Garvens says.

Tyler-Smith credits the program with putting her on the path to higher education and someday, a job where she too can advocate for children.

"Knowing that somebody had that effect on the kids when there are so many bad things about the system, I want to be able to help in a way like that," she says.

So much of helping these kids depends on the kindness of strangers. Child Protective Services needs volunteers for good, loving foster homes. If you can answer the call, contact case workers at (210) 337-3117.

By EMILY BAUCUM

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