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March 24th

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Examining Life Skills Development within the Child Welfare System


Sarah Crocker is the Transitional Services Program Director of Upbring BeREAL in Austin and San Antonio

From the moment a child enters foster care, someone has already made the decision that the child will be legally separated from his or her parents. Decision-making has been taken away from the child from the start. Often, being in a foster care setting leaves little room for these young individuals to make decisions about what they want to eat, what they want to do (and can do) within the foster home, and where they will be placed next.

This white paper, titled “A Developmental Theory Perspective on the Child Welfare System,” is Upbring’s fourth in a series of white papers. The basic premise is that youth in foster care need opportunities to develop independent decision-making and other life skills throughout childhood and adolescence in order to achieve adult competency.

From working with our Supervised Independent Living (SIL) residents in the Upbring BeREAL program, I agree with the authors that a lack of practice can leave these youth behind in acquiring independent living skills such as cooking, budgeting, using public transportation, and other skills needed for successful adulthood. This is the gap that BeREAL is helping to fill. We provide an opportunity for young people to live independently, take risks and learn experientially while providing a safety net and having a support system in place. Our residents make their own schedules, have bank accounts, are responsible for their medical needs, and make their own choices about friends and social situations. If they need support, we are here to help get them get back on track.

It’s been a year and a half since BeREAL opened in Texas, and we have seen first-hand that most young people who turn 18 in foster care are not equipped to live completely independently. It is very gratifying to see our BeREAL residents developing critical life skills and making progress toward independence.


The white paper, “A Developmental Theory Perspective on the Child Welfare System,” is available online in its entirety. Authors are: Rebecca Gomez, PhD, Our Lady of the Lake University and Tiffany Ryan, PhD, Northern Arizona.

About Upbring BeREAL

BeREAL Austin & San Antonio – Supervised Independent Living programs – help the more than 1,300 young adults who age out of foster care in Central Texas every year. BeREAL empowers them to become contributing and self-sufficient members of our communities, ultimately helping to break generational cycles of poverty and abuse.


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