ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Karla Aguilar, 19, said her mother abandoned her when she was 14 after suffering years of physical abuse at the hands of her husband, Aguilar’s stepfather.
“I used to see my mom getting beat up all the time for no reason,” she said.
Aguilar was then beaten by her stepfather for two years and placed in the custody of Child Protective Services when she was a sophomore after she showed up to high school with visible bruises on her face.
“He beat me up, he put a gun to my head,” she said. “After that, he said he was going to kill himself … I was just so scared to get in trouble, then I was scared of my step dad finding out I told somebody what was happening.”
Aguilar hoped that she would find a new family, but she bounced from foster home to foster home. When she turned 18, she aged out of the system and is now on her own.
Aguilar is one of many children who age out of the foster care system without being adopted. State numbers show there are about 15,000 children in the system, 6,000 of whom are available for adoption. According to the Center for Child Protection, about one in 10 foster children in the state “age out” of foster care when they turn 18.
But they have options. For instance, Aguilar is now a freshman at the University of Texas at Arlington. She has no car and minimal money, but the state and social services are paying for her tuition, room and board and textbooks. Those aging out also have access to Medicaid.
However, Aguilar came close to finding a permanent family. When she was 17, one of her foster mothers did want to adopt her. The paperwork had been filed.
But Aguilar said she began acting up and hanging around with the wrong friends, so her foster mother thought the best thing for her was to remove the teenager from her home and place her with another foster family in another city.
“I could have sisters, a mom and everything, but I chose friends over them,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said she learned a hard lesson. She also became close to her CASA volunteer – a Court-Appointed Special Advocate – and her final foster mother, who let Karla stay in her home until she started college.
“I couldn’t have been with her and stayed with her and not continued to stay with her,” said Annette Conely, the CASA volunteer. “It just didn’t seem normal to say, well we’re done, and our relationship is over. We’ve just bonded.”
Karla is now 19-years-old and studies Forensic Science at UTA. She also wants to model. Aguilar said she is determined to be successful and hopes to get married, have children, and become a foster parent herself.