Laying Down the Law – with Love

Texas judges celebrate 10-year partnership with BCFS

By Yvonne Paris Rhodes                                                                                               Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

Photo: BCFS group pictureA decade-long partnership has led a group of judges in Del Rio, Texas, to refer thousands of youth and families to BCFS Health and Human Services for crisis intervention, counseling and domestic violence services. This group of esteemed community leaders includes Justices of the Peace Hilda C. Lopez, Pat Cole, Jim Bob Barrera and Antonio Faz III, and County Judge Efrain Valdez.

Every month, the judges collectively order about 30 teens, young adults and families to participate in BCFS programs, mostly for misdemeanors or truancy. The judges review their dockets ahead of time and invite BCFS case managers into the courtroom to give on-the-spot referrals.

In many cases, the judges will defer fines or court costs, or clear the offense from the record if the youth or family joins a BCFS program and receives a certificate of completion. Executive Director of BCFS’ Community Services Division, Celeste Garcia, calls this longtime partnership “an honor and a privilege.”

BCFS operates the Services To At-Risk Youth program, known as STAR, which aims to reduce family conflict and prevent delinquent behaviors, running away, and child abuse by helping youth and their families learn to resolve crises and develop coping and parenting skills. It includes free counseling, support groups, trainings, basic needs support, and emergency respite placements.

“We work closely to identify the issues that are the root cause of each teen’s misbehavior or poor choices,” says Garcia. “If a student faces truancy charges and a judge sends them to us, BCFS works with the youth and family as a whole to find the real problem. Maybe they don’t have a car, are being bullied at school, or they suffer abuse in the home. Perhaps their parents need them to go to work instead to help pay the bills.”

BCFS’ domestic violence program provides safety, support and resources to victims of abuse, as well as promotes violence-free relationships and abuse prevention.

“The youth of our community are our leaders of tomorrow,” says Precinct 2 Justice Faz. “Having the ability to intervene at a young age and the possibility of turning their lives around means that we as a community have succeeded.”

Even after the courtroom referral, the judges stay in close contact with BCFS. “We keep the lines of communication open with our judges and work hand-in- hand to see how we can remove any barriers our families face,” says BCFS’ Celeste Garcia. “Sometimes all they need is transportation, childcare or basic assistance to come to counseling sessions or classes.”

Judge Valdez, who has served the community for 35 years, calls himself an “advocate” of BCFS programs.

“Seeing firsthand the dedication of the BCFS staff and the outstanding results that our youth and families experience has inspired me greatly,” Precinct 3 Justice Cole shared.

Justice Barrera, Precinct 1, recalled a memorable case he referred to BCFS.

“This spring, a teenage girl from Mexico was attending school here in Del Rio. It was hard for her to socialize in the new environment,” said Barrera. “When she finished the BCFS class, she improved her grades to As and Bs. For me and my staff, it was something wonderful for us to have shared with her.”

Justice Lopez, Precinct 4, expressed her thanks to BCFS for “not giving up on people who do not realize they are in need of help.”

She added, “BCFS’ services are inspiring because we can advise people of what is out there for them. What inspires me to connect people to BCFS is the staff who show their concern and truly want to help people.”

Ana’s Healthy Start

By Araceli Flores

Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

Ana was eighteen years old when she first arrived in Laredo,Texas in 2004. Frightened, alone,and seven months pregnant, she crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico to reunite with her baby’s father awaiting them in Laredo to build a better life.

Ana was eighteen years old when she first arrived in Laredo,Texas in 2004. Frightened, alone,and seven months pregnant, she crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico to reunite with her baby’s father awaiting them in Laredo to build a better life.

Photo: Ana and Olvera

Several weeks later, Ana gave birth to a baby girl in Laredo.Born with a dislocated hip, Ana’s baby had one leg shorter than the other. Ana believes it was God’s plan for her to give birth in the United States where her baby could receive proper surgery and medical care she didn’t have access to back on her ranch in Mexico.

Ana is grateful for all the help her family has received from BCFS Healthy Start. In fact, for all four babies Ana has had since her firstborn, she worked with BCFS Healthy Start to stay healthy and join in the health education and parenting classes. Ana has evolved from being a soft-spoken teen mom to a young adult and mother of five children.

“This program is really good because it has helped me learn how to raise my children with their classes and advice. It helps me learn that even though life might not be easy, a person can be successful if you are determined. On a personal note, I have learned from them and have grown as an individual, woman, and mother.”—ANA

Fathers Twirl Daughters on the Dance Floor

Dads twirl their daughters on the dance floor for a good cause

Father Daughter Dance benefits youth & families in need with BCFS Health and Human Services–Del Rio

DEL RIO ­­­­­­­­– On Friday, February 26, BCFS Health and Human Services–Del Rio hosted a Father Daughter Dance at Plaza del Sol Mall to celebrate the special bond between dads and daughters, and to recognize February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.


More than 80 people from across Del Rio attended the dance, and DJ Sammy Lopez had the crowd grooving for hours. Certificates were awarded for the best 80s dancers, two-steppers, cumbia dancers and line dancers. Emily Ray Photography snapped professional photos of fathers and their daughters, and provided a photo souveneir to each guest.

“It was an awesome experience that my daughter and I will cherish for the rest of our lives,” said Sammy Lopez, who brought his daughter to the dance. “The dance focused on the importance of having a healthy relationship with my daughter.”

“A daughter’s first example of how men should treat women often comes from her father,” explains BCFS Director Delia Ramos. “The dance was a fun way for dads and daughters to make memories to last a lifetime, and learn about how their bond impacts the girl’s future relationships.”

Tracy Wayne Richardson, an outreach worker for the Del Rio Domestic Violence program operated by BCFS Health and Human Services–Del Rio, addressed the audience during a brief intermission from dancing. He discussed teen dating violence, and reminded fathers to treasure special moments with their girls.

“Make your daughter remember this relationship,” Richardson said. “Spend quality time with her.”

Ramos watched the crowd during Richardson’s remarks, and noticed the immediate impact of his message.

“I saw daughters look up lovingly at their dads when Mr. Richardson spoke, as if to say ‘he’s right, I love spending time with you,’” Ramos said.

Several fathers and daughters volunteered to speak publicly to other guests, to share why their relationships were special. Many of them became teary-eyed listening to one another’s heartfelt words, says Ramos.

Sponsors who made the dance possible include DJ Sammy Lopez, Plaza del Sol Mall, Emily Ray Photography, and Sugar & Spice. Finger foods were donated by Queens for a Cause, and additional refreshments were provided thanks to the generous contributions of community members.

Proceeds from ticket sales to the dance benefitted BCFS Health and Human Services–Del Rio, which provides domestic violence prevention and treatment, and crisis intervention and counseling for families. BCFS Health and Human Services–Del Rio operates the Del Rio Domestic Violence (DRDV) program, and Services To At Risk Youth (STAR).

For more information about BCFS’ work across Val Verde County, call (830) 768-2755, or visit

Parenting Education Classes Get an A+

I enjoyed the class. It has taught me to use “Self-Talk’ to remind myself that (kids) are still learning. Plus, the parenting class taught me to understand the ‘I Statements’ and ‘Active Listening’ skills. — Susan Baldwin, Class participant

BCFS Health and Human Services’ 


Class topics include:

  • Resolve family conflict
  • Bond with your children and teens
  • Improve communication
  • Improve chilren’s behavior and habits

The class facilitators created an empowering environment for parents to safely share and reflect upon their experiences. One of the most powerful elements of the program is the way the parents begin to support one another to strengthen their good parenting practices or make adjustments to their current parenting style, if needed.
Vanessa M. Perez, Family Specialist, Pre K 4 SA East

Leaving a legacy for future generations of gentle hands and postiive parenting!
Karenetha Easterwood, Mom who participated in BCFS’ parenting classes

I enjoyed the class. It has taught me to use “Self-Talk’ to remind myself that (kids) are still learning. Plus, the parenting class taught me to understand the ‘I Statements’ and ‘Active Listening’ skills.
Susan Baldwin, Class participant

As a Family Specialist for Pre K 4 SA, I encourage families and caregivers to participate in programs like ‘Parenting Wisely’ that enhance communication, conflict resolution and relationship skills.
Iveth Pacheco, Family Specialist, Pre K 4 SA North

Dentists Warn Head Start Kids “Beware Mouth Monsters”

Dentists Visit BCFS Education Services Head Start Classrooms
to Teach Children: “Beware Mouth Monsters”

BCFS Education Services Hosts Activities for National Children’s Dental Health Month

Photo: A child with an oversize tootbrush, brushing oversize teeth.In observance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, BCFS Education Services partnered with several dentists and dental professionals across the Texas counties where the organization operates Head Start classrooms to teach students the importance of proper dental care.

The dental health month events included fun, interactive games, hands-on demonstrations, and coloring activities for hundreds of 3- and 4-year olds over several weeks. Head Start students at Atascosa, Karnes and Wilson counties even received free, individual dental exams.

Karnes City Head Start kicked off Dental Health Month activities early on January 29 when Agave Dental visited to teach the schoolchildren about tooth brushing, flossing, and how to avoid tooth decay. At a parent meeting in January, Dental Quest staff visited with Head Start parents from Bee, Goliad, Live Oak and Refugio Head Start and brought toothbrushes and dental health information.

Atascosa, Karnes and Wilson County Head Start welcomed Dr. Rebecca Gabriel to their classrooms on February 8 to discuss dental care with Head Start students, teachers and parents. Community partner Agave Dental visited Kenedy Elementary School on February 16.

On February 16, Head Start in Guadalupe and Comal Counties held the Beware of Mouth Monsters event. Community Partners Children’s Dental Ark visited to discuss “mouth monsters” and how to keep a “monster-free mouth” with games, healthy snacks and a dental gift bag.

“Head Start’s goal is to provide our students and families with education to support their healthy development, intellectually and physically,” said BCFS Education Services Executive Director Cathi Cohen. “Kids in Head Start brush their teeth in class every day, and our special events throughout the month reinforce to them and their parents the importance of dental care.”

To close out the month, Agave Dental will visit Floresville South and Floresville North Elementary Schools on February 23 and February 25, respectively, and Southern Smiles Dental of Poteet will visit Poteet Elementary on February 25.

In Karnes City, local dentist Dr. Robert Fletcher will visit on February 28.

Guadalupe and Comal Counties Head Start have planned an activity for Dental Health Month during the monthly Parent Committee meeting in New Braunfels, and in Seguin, Alligator Dental will present a skit about dental care and hand out toothbrushes.

Stonewall Head Start will welcome two local dental hygienists to each of its classrooms to demonstrate good dental health habits and techniques.

Head Start is a national program promoting 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. For fifty years, Head Start has propelled children from disadvantaged backgrounds toward success. The program provides a strong foundation for students that is built on academic achievement and healthy living.

For more information about BCFS Education Services, please visit


Del Rio Girls Learn Self-Defense at Workshop Hosted by BCFS

Del Rio Girls Learn Self-Defense at Workshop Hosted by
BCFS Health and Human Services

In observance of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, BCFS Health and Human Services in Del Rio hosted 15 middle and high school aged girls at a self-defense workshop on Taijutsu (Japanese for “body technique”) on Friday, February 12.

In addition to teaching Taijutsu, the workshop taught the young ladies how to prevent a dangerous situation, good decision-making skills when in trouble, and how to react in a life-threatening situation.

Watch a short VIDEO of the girls from the workshop

  • GET OFFLINE!  (Dodge the attack)
  • BREAK STRUCTURE! (Strike against force)
  • TAKE BALANCE (Know proper technique when falling or being pushed)

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States experience physical abuse from a dating partner. The self-defense workshop offered skills and information for young women to be prepared if ever in dangerous circumstances.

“It’s a sad reality that, in certain circumstances, it can be dangerous for a young lady to be alone ­­― walking to her car late at night, or walking down the street can make you exposed and vulnerable,” said BCFS Director Delia Ramos. “We enjoy partnering with local experts in self-defense to equip our youth to handle themselves, no matter what they may come their way.”

The workshop was led by Hector Cruz Jr., a healthcare professional with experience in Warrior Fitness, Tai Chi and the martial arts. Special thanks goes to the Ramada Inn Del Rio for providing the classroom, Mr. Cruz for his time and instruction, and the Del Rio Community Spotlight for helping to invite young ladies to the workshop. BCFS case managers Selina Andrade-Jaramillo and Claudia Lopez organized the event. Both serve as family advocates for victims in the Del Rio Domestic Violence Program.

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

BCFS’ Domestic Violence Hotline is available around-the-clock at (830) 768-2755.

For more information about BCFS’ work in Del Rio, or to get help for someone in an abusive relationship, visit or call (830) 768-2755


Free Parent Support Groups for Hill Country Families

Free Parent Support Groups Make a Difference for Hill Country Families

The Frerichs

Misty and Jerry Frerichs’ 7-year-old son, Mason, has a common behavioral disorder that makes him defiant, short-tempered and disobedient at times. It was making for a tense family atmosphere.
“Mason is different than other children,” Misty explains, “and we felt like our house was under siege, and we didn’t quite know how to deal with that.”
During one of Mason’s treatment sessions, Misty wondered aloud to his therapist why more classes were not available for parents to learn how to deal with the ups and downs of parenthood.

The Kelleys

When Arlene Kelley met her now-husband Mike, he already had a teenage daughter. The couple grew their family together and had another daughter later in life, Shannon. When Shannon was eight years old, Arlene was invited to a parent support group next door to Shannon’s art class. Arlene accepted.
“I was having trouble with Shannon wanting to mind me,” Arlene says. “Every kid tries their parents, and Shannon was at a point where she was trying to see what she could get away with.”

Different Paths to the Same Parenting Goal

Mason’s therapist referred the Frerichs to a local parent support group, and across town, Arlene heard about the same parenting program while she waited for her daughter’s art class to let out. Though each family faced different challenges, both sets of parents recognized the program had potential to bring a measure of clarity and peace into their homes.
The program, called Texas Families: Together and Safe (TFTS) is operated by BCFS Health and Human Services across Kerr County. TFTS is a curriculum of dynamic, community-based parenting classes aimed at reconnecting, strengthening and empowering families. TFTS lessons address the common, everyday issues parents face raising toddlers as young as 3, all the way up to teenagers at 17 years old – like how to get your child to do their chores or homework, how to stop siblings from bickering, and how to inspire an unruly teen to stay on the right path.
“We teach families how to improve their communication with one another and consider the perspectives of all the family members, especially when it comes to disagreements or discipline,” explains BCFS Director Brenda Thompson.
The seven-week course offers families wrap-around support that includes free meals and childcare, and referrals to other community resources to help meet the family’s basic needs. Attendance incentives are offered at each class and a graduation gift is presented to parents who complete the course.

Putting Theory into Practice

The Frerichs say TFTS taught their whole family simple techniques to improve their communication and relationships. It even helped improve the behavior of their youngest child.
“Mainly it was our words,” Misty says when asked about the lessons she learned that made a big difference at home. “We learned to use phrases like ‘I’m sorry, this is how it is right now,’ instead of phrases like, ‘this is a consequence of your behavior,’ that can trigger a reaction.”
They also learned a little about themselves, too.  “We learned to keep our cool in all things,” she adds, “and to think before you speak.” By making these simple, yet critical, changes, home life for the Frerichs has improved.
It’s a lot calmer,” Misty says. “It feels like we’re not at war with our son anymore. We’ve got our family unit back.”
For Arlene Kelley, TFTS provided helpful tips to guide their daughter, and other parents in the class helped Arlene see that every family, at some point, struggles for the right anwers when raising a child.
“I appreciate these classes,” Arlene says. “I wish people would understand that it’s not a weakness to go to one of these classes. It’s not just for parents that aren’t being ‘good’ parents, it’s for everybody. I went with an open mind thinking I could learn something, and I did.”
Arlene looks forward to taking the classes again, hoping to refresh her learning and concentrate on a few of the pointers she learned her first time around. “I’m ready to go back and learn a little deeper,” she says. “Shannon was eight when I went the first time; now she’s 10, and we’re dealing with different things now that she’s two years older.”
“I’ve got a wonderful daughter,” Arlene continues, “and I learned so much in the class, and I want to be even better.”

TFTS is now enrolling families with children between the ages of 3 and 17. For more information, call (830) 896-0993, visit, or email

BCFS Health and Human Services operates out of the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center, a one-stop shop for nonprofits and social services on Main Street in Kerrville.

Erica Campos: Babies & Mothers Get A Healthy Start

When Erica began BCFS’ Healthy Start Laredo program as an expectant mother, she felt alone and uncertain about her pregnancy and her future, but with a little help, she has overcome her fear and feels hopeful, even in the face of obstacles.

Erica Campos: Babies & Mothers Get A Healthy Start

By Araceli Flores                                                                                                  Featured in BCFS’ annual magazine, together

Erica is a single mom who lives in Rio Bravo, Texas. When Erica began BCFS’ Healthy Start Laredo program as an expectant mother, she was so quiet and shy that she rarely spoke, even during long car rides to her prenatal doctor visits with her case manager. She’d stare out the window in silence, leaving her case manager perplexed – but patient. One day, Erica finally opened up. She confided in her case manager that she felt alone and uncertain about her pregnancy and her future. She had fallen into depression.

BCFS provided Erica with information about depression and referred her to a therapist. She began attending HSL health education classes, which helped her overcome her shyness by interacting with classmates. Erica’s disposition began to change. Now, she is more confident and rarely misses class. With a little help, Erica has overcome her fear and feels hopeful about her future, even in the face of obstacles.

“BCFS was concerned about my health, and most importantly, they helped me feel better about myself with the health education classes offered and the home visits by my case manager, Maria Arellano.” —Erica

The Art of Education

A Poem by Kathleen A. Stagdon, ESL Facilitator for BCFS Health and Human Services in Raymondville, Texas

Featured in BCFS’ annual magazine, together

Education at BCFS… is not just the alphabet.
It’s learning a schedule and rules, and providing a safety net.
It’s manners, it’s laughter, it’s “Yo no entiendo,”
Y “yo no se como usar el diccionario!”
It’s figuring things out for the first time ever,
Or reapplying knowledge that lay dormant forever.
It’s translations that include… crying quite dramatically
To make sure the word is understood emphatically !
It’s writing, correcting and reading words never seen,
Explaining and questioning what words really mean.
It’s an adventure changing directions as fast as the weather
Fueled by passion that binds us together.
Ready to protect the lives of those we’ve been entrusted,
Sending them off prepared and adjusted Into the world unknown
With knowledge and skills they’ve learned as they’ve grown!


BCFS classrooms encourage a love of learning in students as young as 3 in our early education program, all the way to adolescent and teenage students readying to transition into adulthood, some of whom are learning in English as their second language. Education is the key that unlocks new doors for those we serve.

Jayleen’s HOPES

By Jeffrey Wolpers

Featured in BCFS’ annual magazine, together

Maria Isabel Chavez is a 45-year-old mother in Harlingen, Texas. Her 4-year-old daughter, Jayleen, is the light of her life. Jayleen has Down Syndrome. Maria was referred to BCFS’ Project HOPES program by a neighbor. She began receiving in-home parenting education with the evidence-based curriculum SafeCare.

Within the first month, a BCFS Family Services Coordinator determined that Jayleen could benefit from physical and speech therapy, and located a therapist in the community to provide the services. When the therapist identified some tools that would help Jayleen improve her mobility, BCFS purchased the supplies and helped Jayleen get the most out of her therapy sessions.

When Mrs. Chavez expressed an interest in counseling for her and her husband to learn more about what to expect related to Jayleen’s development, BCFS connected the family to a therapist specializing in working with children with developmental delays.

BCFS’ Project HOPES has helped the Chavez family through direct counseling or referrals to other community resources that could meet the family’s needs.

“For going to the doctor, I learned when it is necessary [to take my child] and when it is not… because sometimes you get scared and think you need a doctor, and you do not need to go. They have also helped me with my child’s speech therapy services, and everything that they have helped me with has really helped me out.” —Maria Isabel Chavez