Precious Minds New Connections Families Visit the Pumpkin Patch

Photo: Boy Riding a Horse

The parenting education program operated by BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio, Precious Minds New Connections (PMNC), sponsored a trip to the Owl Creek Farm pumpkin patch on Saturday, October 29, for families in the PMNC program.

Sixty-nine PMNC parents and their 78 children, most of them adorned in creative Halloween costumes, visited the pumpkin patch for an afternoon of free, family fun. The children and families enjoyed pony rides, hayrides, face-painting, feeding the animals in the petting zoo, and picking out pumpkins for decorating.

“PMNC encourages parents to interact and have fun with their kids,” said Patty Heredia, BCFS-San Antonio Case Manager. “We’ve had such a great time playing with the kiddos and families at the pumpkin patch this year. It was the perfect way to help them enjoy a day of family bonding and making memories… Whether we’re helping families overcome disruptive issues in the home, or just helping them celebrate happy times with one another, BCFS-San Antonio is here to support our PMNC families, every step of the way!”

PMNC helps parents of young children up to 4 years old navigate the challenges of raising their children in today’s hectic world, and how to maintain a loving and nurturing atmosphere in the home. The program teaches parents how to properly care for their children, encourage growth, engage in effective communication and resolve conflicts in a firm but gentle manner. PMNC is free to participants and works to support parents as they help their children reach their full potential.

For information on BCFS Health and Human Services’ parenting programs, call 210-678-2008 or visit

Firefighters, Police and First Responders Visit BCFS Education Services

Photo: Students Line up in front of a Fire Engine

BCFS Education Services Head Start programs celebrated Fire Prevention Week earlier this month with visits from area fire departments and first responders. Firefighters talked to Head Start students and staff about the importance of fire safety, gave firetruck tours, demonstrated how to put on a fireman’s suit, and described each piece of equipment they use while responding to a fire.

Students were intrigued by the fire truck and wowed at how high the ladder can reach. Firefighters discussed some of the basic rules regarding fire safety, and encouraged Head Start staff and parents to check fire alarms at least once a year to keep them fully functional.

Fire Prevention Week is an annual campaign spearheaded by the National Fire Protection Association. This year’s campaign, “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years,” is part of a three-year effort to inform the public about basic, critical components to smoke alarm safety.

At Head Start classrooms in Atascosa, the Pleasanton Fire Department was joined by the U.S. Border Patrol, Department of Public Safety Officers, emergency medical technicians and Floresville Police Department Officers. Each department explained how they communicate and work together to help ensure the safety of the community.

Photo: Students form a line at the Fire Station

The Head Start classes in Fredericksburg and Johnson City were honored with a special visit from the Fredericksburg Fire Department. The firefighters told each student what to do in an emergency situation, and even gave each child an “Honorary Firefighter” helmet.

The George West Fire Department along with the Beeville Police Department visited the Head Start location at Skidmore. The students sat attentively while police officers and firefighters answered the student’s questions concerning what to do in the event of a fire.

About BCFS Education Services Head Start

Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children by providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. BCFS Education Services operates Head Start in twelve counties across Texas.

Congratulations Devin, an Our House resident

Photo: Devin with Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie

Devin, a young man who lives in Our House transitional apartments operated by BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville, recently celebrated his high school graduation. By his side stood his mentor, Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie, Interim Director for BCFS-Kerrville.

Our House apartments provide shelter and transitional services to young adults ages 18 to 25 overcoming homelessness.

Devin received his diploma from Hill Country High School, a campus that serves students who struggled to graduate at the district’s traditional high school.

He was wiping away happy tears as he received his diploma and the principal declared, "this graduation wouldn't have been possible without BCFS and Mrs. Maxwell-Rambie’s help."

“I was the only adult there for Devin's graduation other than school officials,” said Kathleen. “He had some friends and classmates there, but no one else from his family attended.”

A few months prior, Principal Steve Schwartz contacted Kathleen to share that Devin had been missing class for weeks at a time. Kathleen spoke with Devin, checked up on him regularly, and began holding him accountable for his attendance and school performance. Devin began attending class regularly and turned to Kathleen for help along the way.

Congratulations, Devin, from everyone in the BCFS family!&

BCFS-Kerrville serves as a resource to provide counseling and support services to students in need in local schools. Visit for more information.

BCFS Stands Down for Homeless Veterans

Photo: Veteran receives a check-up at Homeless Veterans event

BCFS-Laredo joins Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event

The Healthy Start and Colonias Promotoras Program (CPP) operated by BCFS Health and Human Services-Laredo assisted in an interagency community event for veterans on September 20.

At the Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event, hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, BCFS’ Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) was utilized to provide a place for health screenings, lab tests, immunizations and case management services.

Photo: Volunteers at Homeless Veterans Event

Twenty-three veterans received services at BCFS’ MMU, including physical assessments, preventative care injections and HIV screenings.

Other local organizations were on-site to provide wrap-around support to the veterans, including providing resources and referrals, clothing, food and shower facilities.

What does BCFS do in Laredo, Texas?

For more than 15 years, BCFS Health and Human Services-Laredo has been working to improve maternal and child health outcomes in the colonias of Webb County through the Healthy Start Laredo (HSL) program. Most of the individuals served through the HSL program don’t have a doctor or receive regular medical care, live below the poverty level, and lack health care insurance and transportation. Despite these grim circumstances, BCFS-Laredo staff from the HSL program and the Colonias Promotoras Program (CPP) work tirelessly to enroll clients for services, make sure pregnant women receive the earliest possible prenatal appointment at the BCFS mobile medical unit, and help them submit state benefit applications for CHIP Perinat or Medicaid when eligible.

Drum Circle & Grief Camp Helps Youth Overcoming Loss

The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas’ operated its CAMP HEROES: Beyond the Walls grief camp for youth ages 13 to 19. At the camp, therapists and specialists from the Bereavement Center help youth who have lost a loved one work through the grieving process in a healthy way. One memorable moment included a vibrant, pounding drum circle. The camp was hosted at BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Westside Community Center from June 14 through 16.

The drum circle offered youth the opportunity to express their thoughts and emotions collectively through music. The drum circle facilitator — Laura Cavazos of The Children’s Bereavement Center — brought different styles of drums to the middle of the circle, asking the youth to pick one. She asked them to “get to know” the drum, holding and feeling it, learning the kinds of sounds it could make.

Then, she asked the youth to reflect on the emotions they felt when losing a loved one. Youth said things like “sadness,” “alone,” “confused,” “crying,” “anger,” and “hope.” Ultimately, Laura and the youth chose to focus on sadness, anger and hope.

Each emotion was the focus of a different turn in the circle, and each elicited a different rhythm from the circle. It was a powerful scene as the youth manifested their thoughts and emotions into the motions of playing the drums. As their collective drumbeats grew louder and louder, Laura would direct them to play a little softer, and then go back to playing louder, and then focus on only a section of the circle, and then incorporate the rest of the circle, and then direct them to stop. It was brilliant!

The whole session lasted about a half hour, and afterwards several of the youth looked especially energized and said the experience was fun.

About Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas: We believe that each person’s journey through grief is unique and therefore deserving of a distinctive approach to healing. Our goal is to help teens understand the depth of their grief and develop healthy coping skills after the death of loved one.

Foster Care and Adoption: A Labor of Love

The BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Foster Care and Adoption programs have touched hundreds of lives, building forever families and creating safe havens for youth in transition to experience a loving home, even if only for a short while. The Medinas and Reinas are passionate advocates for foster care and adoption who agree on this foundational truth: opening up your home to a child in need is a labor of love.

The Reina Family

Rebecca and Andres Reina have a 7-year-old adopted daughter, Natalie, who they began fostering when she was nine months old. In a milestone moment for the family in early June, they finalized the adoptions of a brother-and-sister duo, Isabel, 4 and Omar, 2.

Mrs. Reina says the BCFS-San Antonio Foster Care and Adoption programs “guided us and gave us the resources we needed. They helped us with the classes, how to fill out the application and the inspections and verifications of our home.”

“Most of our requirements are beyond minimum standards,” says Director Elizabeth Lopez from the BCFS-San Antonio Foster Care program. “Since we work with the United States Office of Refugee Resettlement, working with international youth who arrive in this country, our expectations are a little higher and our practices go above the state-mandated minimum standards to qualify parents and their homes.”

“The children’s well-being and safety are the main focus of our programs,” she emphasizes.

The Reinas, like the Medinas, echo similar sentiments about the rewarding experience of opening up their home to a new family member–even if it’s just for a short while.

“The children coming into our lives… they’re blessing us, growing our family, and we provide stability and structure for the kids,” said Mrs. Reina. “More importantly, we provide them with love and knowledge.”

Adds Mr. Reina, “I just say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity, because some people don’t have the chance, some don’t want (to foster), but when you are walking this path, you realize the blessings you have around you.”

While BCFS-San Antonio Foster Care & Adoption works to attract prospective foster families, Lopez keeps their organization’s top priority in sharp focus.

“It’s all about the children who come in and our foster parents,” she explains. “We want to make sure they have everything they need in the way of resources and training to succeed at nurturing these youth, because they are in it together, 24/7.”

The Medina Family

Lorenzo and Janette Medina welcomed a foster child into their home for the first time in 2012, which proved to be a life-changing experience. Fourteen years later, they’ve housed and cared for a grand total of 20 foster youth, including some youth from impoverished nations in Latin America.

“We always had in our minds that we wanted to help children in need,” said Mrs. Medina, a stay-at-home mom who helps her husband with his real estate business on the side.

Mr. and Mrs. Medina, originally from Mexico and Guatemala, respectively, have three biological children; two sons, 16 and 14, and an 11-year-old daughter.

“We’ve gone back to our home countries and our kids have seen the needs that the people have,” explains Mrs. Medina. “It helped them sympathize and understand where these (foster) kids come from. It teaches them to acknowledge the blessings we have that others don’t, and to learn to share those blessings. Hopefully, this will leave something in their hearts to help others in the future.”

“For us as a family, it’s been a blessing to be part of these kids’ lives, ” Mrs. Medina says. “We hope to continue helping children as long as God allows us.”

Mr. Medina says that, while it is difficult to say goodbye to a youth when it’s time for them to move on, it’s critical to be flexible and accept those bittersweet moments.

“You get to know them personally, they become part of the family, and they always will be, but we know that we have them for only a short time,” Mr. Medina said. “We wish them the best on their journeys, and encourage them to try their best everywhere they go.”

“It’s something that we can’t control,” adds Mrs. Medina about the hard goodbyes. “But just like with our biological kids, someday they are going to leave home and go on their own journeys. Our foster kids are our kids, too, and there will be a time that they have to go and experience their own lives.”

“It is a good calling for us to provide a home for those that need a safe place,” Mr. Medina continues. “We have to be open-minded and have an open heart to anyone that needs help, anywhere.”

Visit for more information or to read the stories of other families.

International Students Awarded for Academic Excellence

International Youth from BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Highway 90 Campus Awarded for Academic Excellence

Photo: Gold Medal

Six young men from Central America and Mexico were recently recognized for their academic achievement at John Jay High School in San Antonio. These youth are in BCFS Health and Human Services International Children’s Services Extended Care Program, where they are housed and cared for at the BCFS-San Antonio Highway 90 Campus while the federal government works to reunify them with family members.

Three of the young men were inducted into the John Jay Honor Society, and one received a gold medal for excellence in poetry from the Northside Independent School District.

“Together as a team we have helped these boys thrive academically, with their hard work and dedication,” said Ashley Vallejo, Vocational Coordinator for the Extended Care Program. “The boys have been able to accomplish so much with the help of case management, clinicians, supervisors, and direct care staff. Mr. Theo Alexander (Program Director) has helped open the door to opportunity for these boys by encouraging them to actively participate in any extracurricular activities their school has to offer. Extended Care is very proud of our clients and we make sure that they are praised for each and every award they earn.”

The young men received these awards:

  • Outstanding Pillars of Character in Trustworthiness, English
  • Outstanding Pillar of Character in Citizenship, Physics and Chemistry
  • Outstanding Academic Achievement on the Dean’s List
  • Outstanding Pillars of Character in Respect, Biology 1
  • Outstanding Academic Achievement, Best Overall Student, English
  • Outstand Academic Achievement, Best Overall Student, English 1
  • Outstanding Academic Achievement, Best Overall Student, Spanish 3
  • Outstanding Service in Spanish Club
  • Outstanding Academic Achievement, Most Improved, English

“Ashley Vallejo is our Vocational Coordinator and truly OWNS her job – as evidenced by these amazing boys getting awards and recognized at John Jay High School,” said Asennet Segura, EVP/COO – Community, International & Residential Operations. “Ashley and the Extended Care team have done an outstanding job!”

*The names and faces of the award-winning young men have been omitted to protect their privacy

Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie Retires

Kathleen has been an esteemed member of the BCFS family for over five years. She made a profound impact on our agency’s philanthropic efforts, cultivated fruitful relationships with donors and foundations across Texas, and spearheaded memorable fundraising events that sparked the interest of media all over the state!

On Thursday, May 12, 2016, BCFS hosted a retirement ceremony for Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie at the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center in Kerrville. Kathleen served as the Development Officer for BCFS Health and Human Services’ Community Services Division (CSD).

A message on Kathleen’s contributions to BCFS from the desk of Asennet Segura, EVP/COO-Community, International & Residential Operations:

Kathleen has been an esteemed member of the BCFS family for over five years. She made a profound impact on our agency’s philanthropic efforts, cultivated fruitful relationships with donors and foundations across Texas, and spearheaded memorable fundraising events that sparked the interest of media all over the state!
All ten CSD sites have been blessed by her passionate dedication to the mission and her “servant’s heart” for the children, youth and families we serve. Her innovative approach to fundraising and outreach raised an impressive $3 million cumulative total in support of our life-changing programs across the division!   In addition, Kathleen’s branding initiatives in each community have been invaluable, laying the groundwork for our future marketing efforts for years to come.
We are also indebted to Kathleen for her vision and commitment to the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center which opened its doors in December 2015 in part thanks to her tireless efforts to raise awareness, funds, and community support for the project. Kathleen was a catalyst for propelling our reputation with donors across the state, but most notably in Kerrville, where she has worked tirelessly to ensure our success with so many important community partners.
We know you all join us in wishing Kathleen well as she starts a new chapter in her life… spending time with her husband, children and adorable grandchildren. We know she is eager to catch up on the traveling and writing she loves so much. She will be greatly missed by all of us here at BCFS – however, we are thrilled she has agreed to serve on a PRN basis for special projects as needed.
The word of God is foundational in Kathleen’s life, both personally and professionally, so with full hearts we wish her well in her future plans, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11…
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.    Jeremiah 29:11

Bikers Rally Around BCFS in Harlingen & McAllen

Rio Grande Valley Families Enjoy Family Fun Day Hosted by BCFS

Photo: Bikers posing for picture

More than 240 people gathered for Family Fun Day hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen and BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen, Saturday, April 23. The free event at the Boys and Girls Club of Harlingen featured a bounce house, face painting, a cupcake walk, photo booth, ring toss and free children’s books, and Mickey Mouse and Dr. Seuss’s The Cat walked around, interacting with the kids.  

BCFS-Harlingen and BCFS-McAllen hosted the event to mark April as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, and encourage families to take a pledge against child abuse. Bikers Against Child Abuse, a national group of motorcycle enthusiasts whose mission is to empower children, educate adults and unite all against the scourge of child abuse, also addressed the crowd. Keynote speaker and BACA member, Dr. Cheryl Sawyer discussed the warning signs of abuse and neglect, and offered tips to children through a demonstration on what to do if confronted by a predator.

Guest speaker Melissa Espinoza of the Rio Grande Valley Families and Friends of Murdered Children, Inc. made an emotional plea to event participants to advocate for those who have lost a loved one, and to be especially vigilant regarding the safety of children.

BCFS-Harlingen and BCFS-McAllen also encouraged families to enroll in parenting education programs and support groups that teach moms and dads how to create loving, stable home environments.

“We had a great time connecting with families from across the community,” said BCFS Director of Community Services Jeff Wolpers. “We talked to families about our services and looked for opportunities to help them, while the kiddos had a lot of fun!”

BCFS-Harlingen operates several parenting education programs that provide comprehensive support, including Project HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT. BCFS-McAllen also operates parenting education through the Texas Families: Together and Safe program, as well as programs for juvenile justice youth, youth from foster care, and teens struggling to transition to adulthood.

Family Fun Day was funded in part by the Prevention and Early Intervention Division of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services, visit

Take BVT out to the ballgame!

Take BVT out to the ballgame!

Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) Enjoys a Rangers Game

Nearly 60 residents, day program participants (aka LEAPsters), staff and volunteers from Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) attended a Texas Rangers baseball game on April 6. Through a Rangers-sponsored community outreach program, BVT LEAPsters  and staff watched the Rangers battle the Seattle Mariners.
“LEAPsters,” according to BVT Program Director Steven Campbell, is the nickname given to BVT day program participants, standing for Learning, Experiencing, Achieving, and Providing. The day program helps adults with developmental disabilities learn new skills.
BVT’s trip to the baseball game was made possible through the Texas Rangers’ Commissioner’s Community Initiative & Players Give Back, a Major League Baseball-supported program that helps fans who would otherwise be unable to attend a pro baseball game. This is the second time BVT LEAPsters have attended a Rangers baseball game.
“We are always looking for ways to engage our residents and LEAPsters in special and unique opportunities within the community,” explains Campbell.  “For many of them, the Rangers game was an experience of a lifetime.”
In addition to Rangers baseball this Spring, BVT recently provided its residents and day program participants with field trips to the Caldwell Zoo, the East Texas Gator Farm and Times Square Cinema to see the Wizard of Oz. On April 23, BVT LEAPsters will compete in the Special Olympics Track and Field events in Lufkin, TX.
BVT is a faith-based community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities. BVT offers focused residential and day habilitation programs to meet the needs of those individuals whose families have sought BVT for its warm, safe setting, its caring staff and its effective services. BVT works to help empower each resident develop physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and socially.