National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month Celebrated at BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville

Despite Historic Declines in Teen Pregnancy and Teen Birth Rates, There is Still More Work to be Done According to Local Nonprofit BCFS-Kerrville

Despite historic declines in the rates of teen pregnancy and birth rates in the United States, and an 11% reduction in the teen pregnancy rate in Texas, it is still the case that roughly one in four teen girls become pregnant before age 20 in the United States. In addition, Texas has the 45th highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. To focus attention on the progress that has been made addressing the issue of teen pregnancy, and spotlight how much work is yet to be done, BCFS-Kerrville joins organizations across the country in participating in National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

Throughout the month of May, BCFS-Kerrville will provide free pregnancy prevention classes for girls, ages 14-19. The classes will be 1-hour long and utilize an evidence-based, interactive video called Seventeen Days to engage and educate the young women. The movie depicts real-life scenarios young women face in romantic relationships, and encourages the viewers to choose how they would respond in each scenario to learn about risk, health and safety. Participation is confidential and all youth will receive prizes upon completing the 1-hour program. For more information or to schedule a class for you or your teen, please contact Kathy Rice at (830) 928-1597.

“We are pleased to bring this interactive program to the community as part of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. We recognize that teen pregnancy is a year-round issue that greatly impacts the youth of our nation, and young women in the Hill Country,” said Dennis Ferguson, Director-Community Services at BCFS-Kerrville. “We serve youth who have experienced abuse or neglect, those with an unstable home life, and teens from families that are living in poverty – it’s precisely this population that is most at-risk of teen pregnancy. So we strive to connect them to services, programs and mentors that help them make wise decisions about their health and their futures.”

BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville helps local families, youth from foster care and teens and young adults struggling with homelessness. BCFS-Kerrville provides transitional shelter, counseling, life skills programs, mentorships and more. For more information about BCFS-Kerrville, visit

Fiesta Fun for Families

Fiesta Fun for Family Programs Operated by BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio

Photo: Girl playing a ring-toss game at BCFS table

BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s commitment to end child abuse and neglect was front and center during Fiesta Week 2017 in San Antonio, April 19-29. April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, so BCFS-San Antonio staff that provide services to local families ventured out to various Fiesta events to share information and resources with the community. At the events, staff distributed giveaways and incentives to parents, caregivers and children, and even invited children to join them in a fun game of ring toss!

Staff from the Texas Families Together and Safe (TFTS) program and the Services to At-Risk Youth (STAR) program help families raising small children and teens, and families and youth in crisis.

Fiesta de los Niños San Antonio

At Port San Antonio’s Fiesta de los Niños event on Saturday, April 22, BCFS-San Antonio staff from the TFTS and STAR programs interacted with families and filled a booth with information about resources available at BCFS-San Antonio. At Fiesta de los Niños, children and families enjoyed games, a colorful parade, rides, activities, music and dancing.

United Way Kids Festival

Friendly faces from BCFS-San Antonio’s TFTS and STAR programs manned a table at the United Way Kids Festival at Lockwood Park on Saturday, April 29, to enroll families and caregivers in the two programs. The free, community festival was open to families in the San Antonio area. The United Way Kids Festival featured more than 65 booths, where organizations provided information, activities and entertainment to promote early childhood development.

HUG ME Ink KidsFest

HUG ME Ink, which stands for “Helping to Unite by Generating Mental Empowerment,” uses the arts to advocate for mental health awareness and bullying prevention. On April 29, BCFS-San Antonio staff attended the HUG ME Ink KidsFest to promote the TFTS and STAR programs. The KidsFest featured live entertainment, face painting, rides and souvenir balloon characters for children.

To learn more about BCFS-San Antonio’s TFTS and STAR programs, visit or call 210-733-7932

TFTS and STAR are funded by the Prevention and Early Intervention Division

Counselors awarded from STAR Program

Counselors Awarded from BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Services To At Risk Youth (STAR) Program

Counselors from the BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Services To At-Risk Youth (STAR) program were recently honored as outstanding community partners of San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District (NISD) at NISD’s annual Partners of the Year Awards Ceremony.

BCFS-San Antonio’s STAR counselors Tanya Monita and Sandra Bar-Yardin were awarded for their contributions to the Violence Intervention Program presented at NISD’s Alternative Middle School. Over the course of six months, Tanya and Sandra led presentations to alternative middle school students on the devastating effects of violence.

Presentation topics included cyberbullying, violence prevention, coping skills for aggression, and how family roles affect self-esteem.

Congratulations to Tanya and Sandy for being honored for their impactful work with San Antonio students!


BCFS joins in the Cardboard Kids campaign

BCFS Health and Human Services Gets Artistic with Cardboard Kids

Photo: BCFS Kerrville Staff

BCFS Health and Human Services staff in San Antonio, Del Rio and Kerrville recently participated in the ChildSafe Cardboard Kids Campaign to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect. Cardboard Kids are 2-foot tall cardboard figures shaped like children, each representing one of the thousands of children abused or neglected each year.

Staff from each BCFS Health and Human Services site put their arts and crafts skills to use, decorating dozens of cardboard kids in unique ways. ChildSafe designated April 6 as the official “Reveal Day,” asking participants to display their cardboard kids prominently at their homes and offices and share photos on social media to bring increased awareness about child abuse.

Each of the three BCFS Health and Human Services sites leads child abuse prevention programs within their respective communities in different ways. BCFS-Del Rio operates STAR (Services to At-Risk Youth), a program that aims to reduce family conflict, prevent delinquent behaviors in youth and help parents develop healthy parenting skills. BCFS-Kerrville operates Texas Families Together and Safe (TFTS), a parenting education program that provides support groups for moms and dads to learn how to create a nurturing home environment. BCFS-San Antonio operates both STAR and TFTS for Bexar County families.

The ChildSafe Cardboard Kids Campaign is in its fourth year partnering with local businesses, organizations and individuals to display Cardboard Kids to call attention to the scourge of child abuse and neglect, and the work of organizations like BCFS Health and Human Services striving to end abuse for good.

Gleaming Smiles at BCFS Education Services Head Start

Local Dentist Keeps BCFS Education Services Students' Smiles Gleaming

Meet Dr. Espino and BCFS Education Services Head Start student Garrett. They are all smiles for a reason. Dr. Espino of Republic Dental is a Head Start community partner in Atascosa County. Dr. Espino kindly provides pro bono dental treatment for some families in need in the Atascosa area. He has been practicing in Pleasanton, Texas, for 3 years. In 2016, he took over the Republic Dental practice. Since beginning his practice, Dr. Espino has made a huge impact on his community and built a reputation as a kind, caring dentist for all ages.

When asked about his philosophy in providing care, Dr. Espino says, “I have long valued the principle of service. For years, I have been involved in a non-profit organization with a mission based on the principle of service. I feel fortunate to be in a position to serve and give. I think Gandhi said it best when he stated, ’the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’”

Garrett, a BCFS Education Services Head Start student in Jourdanton, Texas, visited Dr. Espino’s office earlier this year. A typical morning in Garrett’s Head Start classroom includes breakfast time. When asked about the treatment on his teeth, Garrett gave a big smile, pointed to his teeth, and said they no longer hurt him. He then went back to happily eating his breakfast with his friends and classmates.

A special thanks to Dr. Espino for helping our children have healthy teeth and happy smiles!

Project HOPES’ Spring Fling a Success

BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene celebrates with families enrolled in the home-based training program for parents, Project HOPES

Photo: Father with his daughter

Every month, BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene holds an event for the families enrolled in Project HOPES, a child abuse prevention program that helps parents with children 0 to 5 years old.

On March 16, Project HOPES hosted a Spring Fling in the Family Life Center at the First Baptist Church of Abilene, open to all enrolled families as well as the public. The event celebrated the successful completion of the HOPES parenting program for several families with free skating, bowling, pizza and drinks courtesy of BCFS-Abilene.

BCFS-Abilene Parent Educator Kelly Davis said the main goal of the event was to provide a stress-free environment to help facilitate bonding between parents and their children.

At every Project HOPES event, parents receive information or resources to help them overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of their family’s well-being. In March, Project HOPES provided informative packets to families on how to get their kids to eat healthier, tips on shopping for healthy foods, and included several delicious meal recipes.

Self-Defense Workshop

Self-Defense Workshop Teaches Del Rio Girls How to Handle a Physical Altercation
Annual workshop hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services-Del Rio

Thirty-two middle and high school girls learned the basics of self-defense at an annual workshop hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services-Del Rio. The workshop was held in observance of February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Photo: Assistant Demonstrates Self Defense Techniqus

Along with instruction in taijutsu martial arts, the young ladies learned how to avoid a dangerous situation, good decision-making skills when in trouble, and how to react in a life-threatening situation. Attendance at the workshop, which was open to girls ages 12-18, doubled from last year.

According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, one in three girls in the United States is the victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, and according to the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center, violent behavior often begins between the ages of 12 and 18. The self-defense workshop equipped girls with the skills to react quickly to destabilize or disarm an attacker.

The workshop was led by Hector Cruz, Jr., a healthcare professional with teacher certifications in tai chi, gymnastics, the martial arts and yoga. Throughout the workshop, Cruz and his squad of assistants demonstrated different moves that used balance, weight and the body’s pressure points to fend off an attacker. After each demonstration, the girls partnered up to try their newly acquired skills.

“We always want our kids to be safe, but when they’re faced with danger, we want them to be prepared to defend themselves if necessary,” said BCFS-Del Rio Family Violence Specialist Claudia Lopez, who organized the workshop. “Although this workshop was only for middle and high school students, some people from around the community have asked us to host a session for older women. Self-defense really is important for people of all ages.”

BCFS Health and Human Services-Del Rio operates programs to serve those in need throughout Val Verde County, including free counseling and crisis intervention through the Services to At Risk Youth (STAR) program, and domestic violence treatment and prevention through the Del Rio Domestic Violence (DRDV) program.

BCFS-Del Rio’s domestic violence hotline is available around the clock at (830) 768-2755.

For more information about BCFS-Del Rio, or to seek help for an abusive relationship, visit or call (830) 768-2755.

Breckenridge Village of Tyler Salutes America

Breckenridge Village of Tyler Salutes America at Eighth Annual Night to Remember

Photo: Family at Night to Remember Event

More than 700 guests sang, danced and laughed at Breckenridge Village of Tyler’s (BVT) Eighth Annual “A Night to Remember” on Friday, February 24, at the KE Bushman’s Celebration Center. Red, white and blue décor, a Statue of Liberty replica, and flags representing each branch of the Armed Forces accented the event’s patriotic theme, Stars, Stripes and Lots of Laughter.

Event headliner, comedian Jeff Allen, brought the laughs with his family-friendly, side-splitting brand of humor. Allen has performed his comedy for audiences for more than forty years, drawing from his experiences as a husband, father and grandparent.
“People are still calling and saying they hadn’t laughed that much in years,” said Linda Taylor, BVT Associate Executive Director of Advancement. 
Warming up the stage for Allen were musical performances by George Faber & Friends, Casey Rivers (star of TV show Nashville Star) and Texas’ all-women quartet, Shake Rattle & Roll. Shake Rattle & Roll, known for performing their repertoire of oldies in beautiful harmonies, offered their rendition of The Shirelles’ 1962 hit, Soldier Boy, in serenade to Mr. Ardene Hendley, a World War II veteran and BVT volunteer who attended the event.

“The highlight of the evening was definitely the residents – from kicking off the show with the prayer and the pledge, down to wearing their lighted hats and proudly waving an American flag in their grand finale performance, to a standing ovation from those in attendance,” said Taylor. “All their beautiful smiles and happy faces reflected their genuine love for God, family and country.”

Photo: Man speaking at Night to Remember Event

A young woman who lives at BVT, Erin, led the audience in prayer at the start of the show, and Jesse, a participant in BVT’s day-program, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the program, BVT residents donned illuminated patriotic hats and marched down the center aisle singing the century-old patriotic march “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

“They’re always awesome,” said Taylor of the BVT residents, “the people were on their feet!”

Donors and community partners who helped make the annual event possible include the de Wet family of Kiepersol Enterprises, Sandy King, and Chick-fil-A sponsors, Jeff & Debra Johnston and Ikey & Allison Eason. All proceeds from A Night to Remember benefit the residents and day-program participants through the scholarship fund at BVT, a faith-based community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more information about BVT, visit

Dads and Daughters Dance the Night Away in Del Rio

Photo: Father Daughter Dance Participants

Father Daughter Dance benefits youth & families

More than 100 fathers and daughters from across Del Rio donned their best Friday night attire to attend the second annual Father Daughter Dance hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services-Del Rio on February 17. The event celebrated the special love between a father and his daughter, and gave families an opportunity for a memorable night of fun, music and bonding.

Several talented father-daughter couples were awarded for their skills on the dancefloor in six different categories: Best Line Dancer, Best 80s Dancer, Best Slow Dance Dancer, Best Cumbia Dancer, Best Country Dancer and Best Overall Dancer. Winning duos in each category received a certificate. DJ Sammy Lopez spun family-friendly tracks that kept dads and their daughters grooving all night.

<blockquote“As soon as people knew there were prizes available for their dancing, they hit the dancefloor!” said BCFS-Del Rio Case Manager Raquel Torres.

During a short intermission, a few dads and their daughters were asked to share with the crowd what their father-daughter relationship means to them. Each attendee spoke lovingly about how special the time is that they spend together – a few proud dads even became teary eyed.

“We had a great turn out,” Torres said. “We had a lot of people who came last year, and just about everyone said that they are looking forward to next year.”

Emily Ray Photography provided professional photographs for fathers and daughters to keep as a memento. The Mexican Consulate in Del Rio also provided gift bags to all those in attendance. Several airmen from nearby Laughlin Air Force Base attended the dance with their daughters.

Photo: Father with his daughter

The dance was held to recognize February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

“A daughter’s first example of how men should treat women often comes from her father, said BCFS Director Delia Ramos. “The dance is a fun way for dads and their daughters to get together and make memories that last a lifetime.”

Sponsors who made the dance possible included DJ Sammy Lopez, Emily Ray Photography, Sugar & Spice Event Decoration, the Mexican Consulate in Del Rio, individual community members, and Queens for a Cause, a local group that donated refreshments for the event. Proceeds from ticket sales at the dance will benefit BCFS-Del Rio’s domestic violence program.

BCFS-Del Rio provides domestic violence prevention and treatment, and crisis intervention and counseling for families. BCFS-Del Rio operates the Services to At Risk Youth (STAR) program to help families reduce conflict, and prevent delinquent behavior like running away or truancy. STAR works with youth and their families to learn to resolve crises and develop coping and parenting skills.

For more information about BFCS-Del Rio, call (830) 768-2755, or visit

BCFS Education Services gives more children a Head Start

Fredericksburg Primary partnership with BCFS Education Services gives more children a Head Start

Of the approximately 300 students enrolled at Fredericksburg Primary School – the Battlin’ Billies – 106 are in the Head Start program operated by BCFS Education Services. Head Start is a national program for income eligible families that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through intensive educational, health, nutritional and social services.

Before BCFS Education Services partnered with Fredericksburg Primary School (FPS), the school served about 65 children in two, half-day pre-K classes. BCFS Education Services was awarded the Head Start contract in July 2015 – soon after, enrollment grew to 82 students. In the less than two years since, the partnership between FPS and the Head Start provider has grown exponentially to the point that they now teach 106 children in seven full-day pre-K classrooms, including two classes of 3-year-olds. With continued expansion in the works, the school is excited to add first grade classes next year, and hopes to add a third Head Start classroom for 3-year-olds as well.

Win/Win Partnership

Photo: Head Start Student

“Head Start is a win/win partnership for BCFS Education Services and FISD,” said Dr. Delesa Styles, the principal of Fredericksburg Primary School, “because we are able to provide a full-day program to our students and their families, while also offering employment opportunities to maintain a 10:1 student-teacher ratio. We currently have 15 full-time employees at FPS that work directly with Head Start children.” 

“Most of our Head Start families are already familiar with FPS as an early childhood center for kindergarten,” said Principal Styles, “so the expanded partnership with BCFS Education Services to provide a quality educational program for 3 and 4 year olds is reassuring and encouraging to our families. Also, with the approaching addition of first grade in 2017-18, families feel more at ease knowing their children will be at FPS for several years.”

According to Tosha Grosch, Senior Program Director for BCFS Education Services, the need for Head Start services is certainly there.

“Our strong relationship with the school administration has been pivotal for us to move forward to meet the needs of children and families in our community,” says Grosch. “Superintendent Eric Wright has always been available to discuss any element of the program and our partnership. They are extremely positive and eager to serve the needs of the community.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Celina Estrada Thomas says they have enjoyed the working relationship with BCFS Education Services, through which they are able to establish relationships with at-risk families at a critical time in the academic development of their children.

“Both sides have grown professionally over the course of two years,” said Dr. Thomas. “Our working relationship is critical to having this tremendous resource for our families, especially our economically disadvantaged families.”

“We have monthly meetings to bring in all the departments that have a role in the program, from the registration team to the food and nutrition folks. We present a unified organization, parents don’t necessarily know the difference between the school and BCFS Education Services; all they see is that together we are there to serve their children. It is seamless.”

Meet Head Start Mom, Felicia

Felicia Mitchell has a 3-year-old son named Hunter who has attended BCFS Education Services’ Head Start at FPS for the past year. Mrs. Mitchell, who works at Wal-Mart, says she has been impressed with the skills her son has developed in Head Start.

“It has been awesome,” said Mrs. Mitchell. “Hunter knows his ABCs, his numbers, he can name all the planets. Hunter is able to carry on a conversation at such a young age. He picks up a lot… They’re all about parents coming and interacting with the kids when they’re at the school, so you can see what they’re doing. They make sure the kids get all the nutrition they need. They spend more time with him than I can, because I’m at work.”

Encouraging parental involvement in a child’s education is a key component to Head Start. Mrs. Mitchell says Hunter brings home schoolwork that shows what he’s learning in class, along with some optional family activities they can do together to practice some of those new skills. Mrs. Mitchell now has some enjoyable homework of her own: help little Hunter write the letters in his name.

Wrap-Around Support

Head Start provides individualized teaching, bilingual services, disability services, and healthy meals and snacks, but the added support services for parents help make a long-term impact on each family’s quality of life. Three BCFS Education Services Family Specialists – Sarah Apis, Taylor Chadick and Sarah Cox – provide home visits and case management to the students’ families to ensure each child has what they need to thrive, in and out of the classroom.

These home visits have proven to be an important component of the program, according to Dr. Thomas.

“Meeting the parents on their own home turf and sitting across from them in their home – it’s less intimidating than having them come to the school,” Dr. Thomas reiterated. “Together, we are able to win parents over by reaching out to them, not always in a school setting.”

Hunter’s mom, Mrs. Mitchell, is one of the hundreds of Head Start parents who have received added support outside the classroom. Family Specialist Sarah Cox is helping the mom apply to receive social security benefits to meet the needs of her 9-year-old daughter, who is in a special education class due to difficulties caused by a premature birth. Mrs. Mitchell is hoping to use social security benefits to spend more time with her daughter to help her with schoolwork and further her development.

“It’s amazing how much they help people who need it and all the stuff that they do for you, at no cost at that,” said Mrs. Mitchell.

Principal Styles echoed this sentiment as she recalled how her school and BCFS Education Services worked together to help a single mom with two children who suffered several prolonged stressful life events last year.

“My staff and I witnessed firsthand how BCFS Education Services and FISD intervened to offer support and services to the family. The family is now flourishing and the children continue to make significant strides academically, socially, and emotionally.”

These services provided to families extend beyond the traditional scope of FISD, according to Principal Styles, such as providing well child and dental checkups.

“For many of our families, this is often their sole support and reassurance that their children are receiving early childhood intervention services and the proper care they need for their overall wellbeing.”

Positive Outcomes

Dr. Thomas says over time the school will gather data on how the students are performing and track their progress, but their initial observations are overwhelmingly positive.

“We have already seen how the 4-year-old children who were part of pre-K Head Start last year were able to have smooth transitions into kindergarten,” said Dr. Thomas. “The home visits have been powerful in establishing trusting relationships with parents. They have made a wonderful adjustment and you can tell right away which ones came from the Head Start program. Head Start children are much more adjusted to being in a school setting and embrace the environment.”

According to Dr. Thomas, the school welcomes the opportunity to work with the community’s families in need – and that the program, true to its name, truly does give children a Head Start.