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Isabella Morningstar asks Marcus Anthony, a case manager at Thrive Youth Center if they have received any updates on her new birth certificate. She looks over his shoulder as he navigates the shelter’s email for any information about Morningstar. She has had a difficult time updating her paperwork to her current legal name, since she left the foster care system.
Foster Care in Texas

Texas politics leave transgender foster youth isolated — during and after life in state care

Support once afforded LGBTQ+ foster kids has vanished and a culture of silence has blanketed the agency tasked with raising children growing up in the system.

A cycle of chaos

“LGBTQ young people are aging out of care and most of them do not even have a single person, let alone a robust support system, who they can count on. It is a type of loneliness unlike anything I've seen.”

— Adam McCormick, associate social work professor, St. Edward’s University
On Nov. 21, 2023, Isabella Morningstar woke up at 6:30 am to get ready to go to Palo Alto College in San Antonio, where she recently started a cosmetology program.
Isabella Morningstar does last touches on her makeup on the morning of Nov. 21, 2023. She says she enjoys doing her hair and nails because while she was in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services she wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or feminine clothing.
On the morning of Nov. 21, 2023, Jai Gonzalez Quintero, a case manager at Thrive Youth Center, hands Isabella Morningstar a letter stating that she is homeless so she can apply for financial aid at Palo Alto College, where she has recently started a cosmetology program.
Isabella Morningstar, 21, poses for a portrait in her room at the Thrive Youth Center on Nov. 21, 2023. Morningstar spent much of her youth in the foster care system. When she was a teenager she says she was continuously deadnamed, discriminated against for dressing feminine and denied acknowledgment of her being a trans girl.

Falling dominoes

Isabella Morningstar looks at the bus route on her phone outside a car dealership on Nov. 21, 2023. Once she has a job, she will start saving to buy a car. Traveling around San Antonio using public transit can take hours longer than driving.
Isabella Morningstar drops her documentation at Student Financial Services at Palo Alto College. She has had to jump through multiple hoops to access financial support as a former foster youth because her paperwork was under her deadname.
Isabella Morningstar has a fear of heights, which she tried not to think about while walking through a pedestrian bridge on her way to Palo Alto College. Morningstar has not had a stable home since she was 14, when her adoptive mother relinquished guardianship of her because she couldn’t meet Morningstar’s needs as someone with autism. She was officially diagnosed with autism at 16 while in the foster care system.

Aged out and alone

On Nov. 21, 2023, Isabella Morningstar looks at her phone on the bus on her way to Palo Alto College, which is 10 miles south of the youth shelter where she is staying.
Isabella Morningstar stops at a convenience store to buy food on the morning of Nov. 21, 2023. Without a job, she relies on food stamps to get groceries.

An absence of training

Isabella Morningstar and Marcus Anthony laugh together. After telling Anthony about her day, Morningstar says “I did everything by myself, like a big girl.”
After a whole day out in the city, Isabella Morningstar finally made it back to the dorms at Thrive Youth Center. She said that during her time in the foster care system, she wasn’t allowed to be around other LGBTQ+ youth, but since arriving at Thrive, she has made good friends.

Building a life

Kayden Asher poses for a potrait on Nov. 19, 2023. Asher was placed under the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services at 15, after his mental health was affected by his family not accepting him coming out as a trans man. He is now in school to become a paralegal.

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Demographics Politics State government Child Protective Services Department of Family and Protective Services Greg Abbott Ken Paxton