The Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program was implemented in 1986 to ensure that older youth in substitute care are prepared for their inevitable departure from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ care and support. At any given time, there are about 3,500 youth 16 years of age and older in substitute care. PAL program staff strive to provide each of these youth with skills and resources they will need to be healthy, productive adults.
Preparing youth for adulthood is much more than teaching them how to balance a checkbook and sign a lease. PAL services include involvement in programs aimed at improving youths' self-esteem and improving their ability to make responsible decisions. PAL helps youth face the challenges of adulthood and independence.
PAL policy requires that youth 16 and older who are in substitute care and likely to remain in care until at least age 18, and who can qualify for services up to their 21st birthday receive services to prepare them for adult living. With funding availability, regions may serve any youth 14 or older on whom Child Protective Services has an open case.
There is no typical case for which PAL services are provided. Many of the youth have endured emotional and psychological trauma, and most have few options for living arrangements once they are discharged from care. PAL, in collaboration with public and private organizations, assists youth in identifying and developing support systems and housing for when they leave care. The PAL program gives these youths skills and training, but most of all, it helps them realize that there are options.
Independent Living Skills Assessment
PAL policy requires that staff or contractors conduct an assessment of each PAL participant’s general readiness to live independently around the youth’s 16th birthday. The results are used to develop specific plans and training to prepare youth for adult living. DFPS uses the Casey Life Skills Assessment (CLSA).
Independent Living Skills Training
A foundation of the PAL program is the provision of training to assist youth in developing skills necessary to function as an adult. Regions contract with community organizations to provide this training. Information and guidance for other acceptable methods to complete Living Skills Training can be discussed on a case by case basis with regional PAL staff. Youth with disabilities may require accommodations to participate in and complete both the assessment and the training. In all cases, training must cover the following areas:
- Health and Safety
- Housing and Transportation
- Job Readiness
- Financial Management
- Life Decisions/Responsibility
- Personal/Social Relationships
Support services are optional services provided based on need and availability of funding. Listed are examples of some support services provided as funding allows:
- Vocational Assessment and/or Training
- GED Classes
- Preparation for College Entrance Exams
- Driver Education
- High School Graduation Expenses (if not available from another source)
- Volunteer Mentoring to Provide Guidance and Support
Note: Certain guidelines must be met to receive benefits. All payments must be made by the young adult's 21st birthday.
Transitional Living Allowance
A transitional living allowance (up to $1,000 to be distributed in increments not to exceed $500 per month) is based on funding availability. Eligible young adults:
- Must have been in DFPS paid foster or other residential care within the 24 months prior to initiating the allowance;
- Must be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien;
- Must have completed at least 5 hours of training in each of 5 of the 6 PAL life skills core elements (Any substitution of training hours or variance must be approved by the regional PAL supervisor);
- Must be moving or have moved into an independent living arrangement, or a supervised or semi-supervised setting;
- Must not be living with a designated perpetrator while receiving assistance;
- Must be employed, be actively seeking employment (for those youth who are able to work), be enrolled and attending school or college, or be receiving prevocational or vocational training services; and
- Must provide all information required by regional CPS staff.
Case Management Services and Aftercare Room and Board Assistance
Case management is provided by community contractors or PAL staff while young adults receive financial assistance. Efforts are made to partner with local housing authorities, workforce development boards, and other community resources to ensure that youth in need receive services to help them achieve successful outcomes. Aftercare room and board assistance is provided by contracted transition support services providers.
Aftercare Room and Board Assistance
Based on need, young adults can receive aftercare room and board assistance (up to $500 per month with a total cap of $3,000 of accumulated payments); variances may be considered in emergency or special circumstances.
- Must be between 18 and 21 years of age;
- Must be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien;
- Must have aged out of foster care at age 18 or older;
- Must not be living with a designated perpetrator who committed abuse or neglect on the youth, unless DFPS determines the perpetrator does not pose a threat to the health and safety of the youth while receiving assistance;
- Must be in an educational program, be employed or actively seeking employment (for those who are able to work), or be receiving prevocational or vocational training services; and
- Must prove financial need, with priority given to youth who do not receive adequate assistance from another source to meet minimal room and board needs.
Note: Some time-limited exceptions may be made in special medical or emergency situations.
PEAKS Camps are two four-day experiential learning camps held annually for children and youth aimed at increasing self-esteem, improving communication and problem-solving skills, and having fun.
The camps accommodate 40 youth per session. The youth are accompanied by an adult, preferably their caseworker. Activities include ropes course activities, canoeing, expressive arts, swimming, nature hikes, skits, journal writing, etc.
Statewide Teen Conference
The Statewide Teen Conference is an annual three day conference held on a college campus. Approximately 155 youths attend workshops designed for youth that lead to self-sufficiency and independence. The youth are accompanied by staff, preferably their caseworker.
Texas A&M University at Commerce hosts an annual two day (weekend) college conference for youth to learn about and prepare for higher education opportunities. The conference features motivational speakers and workshops focusing on transitioning youth topics such as what to expect in a college class, choosing a major, financial aid and other resources, college applications and admissions.
Regions host regional Teen Conferences and if funding is available, other activities may include: wilderness trips, mentor programs, support groups, job development workshops, youth forums, etc.
To learn more, download the reference sheet about the benefits for youth transitioning from foster care to adult living: