Getting Real About BeREAL

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By Kara Robbins, Intern with TNOYS member organization Upbring & MSW candidate at the University of Texas at Austin

Zoe was a 19-year-old single mom who felt completely overwhelmed by the demands of providing a loving, safe, and stable home life for her 5-year-old son. The most frustrating challenge was finding a job that paid enough to cover expenses and didn’t require her to work the night shift, which would mean having to find and pay for evening childcare.

So Zoe applied for and was accepted to the Upbring BeREAL program. BeREAL is a supervised independent living (SIL) program that walks alongside young people aging out of foster care and helps them grow into independent adults.

As a BeREAL participant, Zoe enrolled in Goodwill Central Texas’ Certified Nurse Aide program. After graduating in May, she secured a job that gives her the flexibility to work while her son is at school. So now the mother and son spend their evenings playing games together and reading bedtime stories.

Zoe is relieved and excited to have a clear career path that will provide long-term stability for her and her son. But she’s not stopping there. She has her sights set on becoming a registered nurse, and she enrolled in classes to achieve her goal.

Why BeREAL?

Imagine turning 18 and having no home, no family and nowhere to turn. That’s exactly the case for many young adults like Zoe who age out of foster care. Consider these statistics:

  • 1 in 5 will become homeless after age 18
  • Only half will be employed at age 24
  • Less than 3 percent will earn a college degree
  • 1 in 4 will experience post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 71 percent of young women will be pregnant by age 21

Upbring BeREAL Austin, San Antonio, and San Marcos are SIL programs that set young adults up for success by offering housing, life skills development opportunities, and assistance for food, clothing, transportation, and cell phones.

Our compassionate case managers and mentors support these brave young men and women as they develop critical life skills such as managing their finances, leveraging community resources, and accomplishing their educational and employment goals.

BeREAL and other SIL programs help young adults get a head start on life after foster care, which means a brighter future for their children, as well.

Picking up where BeREAL leaves off

Upbring recently partnered with Foundation Communities, a nonprofit that provides a continuum of services that picks up right where Upbring’s continuum leaves off. 

Upbring placed six young adults aging out of foster care in high-quality, safe, affordable housing units operated by Foundation Communities. The units are located in a part of Austin young adults want to live in. These young people will be able to stay in the units after they turn 21, removing a common placement disruption. The partnership with Foundation Communities is new, but it’s already producing success stories.

Within a week of moving in to his apartment, which a local church furnished, a young man named Mustapha got a job at a nearby restaurant and enrolled in Austin Community College. Another church gifted him a bike so he can get to work.

And a young lady named JoAnna is working in the after-school program at the YMCA, which is another  Upbring strategic partner. She’s studying at Austin Community College, and she’s been accepted to the University of Texas.

By collaborating with Foundation Communities and our other strategic partners, Upbring closes service gaps and delivers support that meets each young adult’s unique needs.

Now that Upbring BeREAL has served young adults for nearly three years, we are ready to evaluate outcomes. To get an accurate picture of our progress, we will work directly with young adults who participated in the program – who after all, are the experts.