Twas the Night Before Christmas in Tyler


Tyler Youth from Foster Care Celebrate ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Party

Photo: BCFS staff at Tyler party
TYLER – BCFS Health and Human Services held its annual Christmas celebration for Tyler youth and teens, December 18 at the Holiday Inn South. Almost 100 youth and their families plus volunteers enjoyed Christmas treats, a hot cocoa bar, a gift exchange, and a dance complete with a DJ.

The youth come from a variety of backgrounds – the foster care system, Child Protective Services, and some from unstable, or poverty-stricken households. They all have one thing in common – they turn to BCFS Health and Human Services for help transitioning from disadvantaged backgrounds, to self-sufficiency and adulthood.

Photo album from the event on Facebook

“The party’s theme – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – is meant to simulate that cozy, homey feeling you enjoy nestled up by a crackling fire with your family, gifts under the tree, and that feeling of joy and peace at Christmastime,” said BCFS director Carla McCalope. “Since many of our youth can’t experience it in their own homes, due to lack of resources or family strife, we tried to replicate it here. They all deserve to experience the joy of the holidays.”

Holiday Inn South in Tyler donated the hot cocoa bar and two ballrooms where 68 youth and 29 volunteers enjoyed Christmas hor d’oeuvres, a dance, a gift exchange, and a Christmas scene with photo props.

The gift exchange was a memorable moment, says McCalope. About 80 partygoers gathered in a circle with wrapped gifts in-hand. As a Christmas story was read aloud, guests listened intently for the words “left” or “right,” and passed their gifts in a circle accordingly. When the story was complete, they unwrapped their gifts to find tablets, portable DVD players and headphones, provided by BCFS.

“It was fun watching everyone pass their gifts around, and fun to hear the party get quiet so they could hear the story and the instructions as I was reading,” McCalope recalls.

Several of BCFS’ community partners donated time or services in support of the event. Brosang’s Flowers of Tyler donated a Christmas wreath and decorative greenery to compliment the party’s theme meant to simulate a cozy Christmas in the family living room. Event security services were donated by Shepherd Guard Security, and staff from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services attended as guests and chaperones.

BCFS Health and Human Services in Tyler is a safe-haven for local youth, helping those at risk of homelessness, poverty or other challenges transition successfully into adulthood and independence. Many of the youth served at the BCFS center in Tyler were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and went into foster care. The center provides case management, counseling, mentorships, assistance with education, employment and housing location, life skills programs and courses for youth.

For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services’ work in Tyler, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Tyler.

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BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

 

 

Jalie and Julie

By Christina Burghard

*Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

Julie Garcia and Jalie Carrasco are a dynamic mother-and-daughter team. Julie is a single mom to sweet little Jalie, a 4-year-old student in BCFS Education Services’ Head Start program. Julie and Jalie have unwavering faith in one another as Jalie bravely battles leukemia.

Julie was confident about enrolling her daughter in Head Start and felt blessed when she was accepted. Several of Julie’s nieces and nephews attended Head Start in prior years, so she knew it would be the perfect environment for her daughter.

Before cancer hit her little world, Jalie was excelling in school and mom Julie was enthusiastic about her bright future. Unfortunately, after the diagnosis, numerous rounds of chemotherapy and exhausting treatments, Jalie’s little body was worn out and she wasn’t quite the same spirited little girl.

Julie said, “that’s where Head Start came in and saved her! She developed her social skills again, had the joy of singing her ABCs and other pre-K songs again, and overall built back her confidence and love for school. Head Start gave me peace and joy in my heart that my daughter’s world was coming back together and she was where she always loved to be – in school.”

On days that were especially difficult, when Jalie wasn’t feeling well, her teachers showed Jalie and her mother love and encouragement that made her feel like everything was going to be okay. That meant the world to Julie.

“Head Start is a great start to a bright future. With small class sizes, there is more time and attention for each child in all areas,” said Julie.

Throughout their journey, Julie has passionately advocated for her daughter. Her goal is for Jalie to feel encouraged, always reach for the stars, remember that school is important, and always help a friend in need.

“Head Start helped me in such a great way,” said Julie. “Especially when your life has changed in a moment due to your child having a life-threatening disease… As a single mother you always feel like you are forgetting something or you are running behind, but when your child is in an environment where they have your back, Jalie has nothing to fear.”

Update as of November 2015

According to Julie, Jalie’s mom, Jalie has been doing phenomenal in and out of school. She is involved in dance and is expecting to be a big sister on New Year’s Eve. Julie said that she is able to do more physical things this year and dance is her favorite activity at the moment. There is one more year of chemotherapy treatment that is predicted for her which is huge progress. Jalie still asks how her friends are doing in Floresville and hopes to soon visit her old classmates at school one day. Julie thanked us again for all of our support throughout last year and hopes we are all doing well.

Ann M. Osborn, Program Director for BCFS Education Services

The Student Becomes The Teacher

Photo: Lakya Lewis with someone

By the time Lakya Lewis aged out of the foster care system, she had lived in ten different foster homes. At 16 years old, she came to BCFS Health and Human Services in Lubbock to enroll in Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) classes. PAL classes teach youth aging out of foster care the skills they need to handle life on their own, like personal finance, job readiness and self-guidance.
Nearly a decade after completing PAL classes at BCFS Health and Human Services, Lakya reflects back on lessons learned.
“One of the biggest things I took away from PAL was knowing available resources, that if at any time I needed anything, who to contact – like go to the transition center where they’ll have people that can help you with whatever you need,” said Lakya.
Only about 2% of youth from foster care ever graduate college – but Lakya defied the odds and earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Texas Tech University last year. A few months after graduation, as fate would have it, Lakya became a PAL facilitator, teaching the same PAL classes she once participated in as a student.
She sees a little bit of herself in each one of her PAL students. Most of them have walked a similar path full of roadblocks, disappointments and heartache. Lakya knows many of her students don’t yet understand the gravity of the subject matter.
“It is definitely a challenge I face as a facilitator, trying to get students to understand the importance of skills they’re not yet using at 16 or 17,” Lakya explains. “Youth that are attentive and ask the most questions . . . are closer to leaving care, so they might be the older students in the class who are 17 and 18 and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m about to leave and be on my own, how do I do this?’ We start the classes so young, at 16, that it can be difficult to reach those youth and actively engage them, since it doesn’t feel relevant to their life at the time.”
“I like to write a note to each of the people who complete my class, thank them for participating, and let them know that even though they’re in the class because they’re all [in the same] CPS system, they’re all individuals.”
In five years, Lakya hopes to have her Master’s degree. In 10 years, she’d like to have a family and be “working with foster youth on a national level.” For youth who have spent much of their lives seeking stability and support, Lakya ensures her students can depend on her.
“I hope that they will learn from me and understand that if they need something, they can call me directly.”

By Leonard Favela

*Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

 

Healing from the inside out

Healing From The Inside Out

By Ecaterina Babin

*Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

Cristina was born in Moldova, the youngest sibling of four older brothers. Her mother was addicted to alcohol and became increasingly violent and abusive as her drinking worsened. She brutally beat Cristina, while her father did nothing to protect her. Her father neglected Cristina and her brothers, staying away from home as much as possible to avoid the harsh reality that his family was suffering.
Cristina’s mother died of a cerebral stroke in 2009. Even though Cristina has traumatic memories of her mother, she still misses her.
When she was 12, Cristina started having health problems. She had surgery on her appendix and later began experiencing epileptic seizures. She developed a spine tumor – all the while, her father showed no interest in helping her get critical medical treatment. Cristina was put on medical disability and spent most of her time at the hospital. Despite that, she managed to finish middle school with good grades.
After undergoing another surgery in 2011, Cristina found herself with no money or permanent place to live. A woman who worked at the hospital told Cristina about Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), the overseas division of BCFS. Cristina wanted to start a new life and get an education, but her dreams felt hopelessly out of reach. In the fall of 2012, she asked CERI for help.
Cristina spent the next three years in CERI’s Transitional Care program, which provides case management, access to education and vocational training, financial literacy and life skills training, and guidance on how to avoid human traffickers that run rampant in the region. CERI helped place Cristina in a Christian center where she started going to church, and ultimately professed her faith in Christ. Soon after, she was accepted into the Christian University to study social work.
Things were looking up for Cristina! She enjoyed her college classes, and had a new church “family” to encourage her – but she was still very ill. She was hospitalized several more times that year, and ultimately underwent radiation therapy.
Today, she has a clean bill of health, she feels much better and believes that God has healed her. Cristina is in her third year of college and going to class in the evenings. She is a member of New Testament Church in Chisinau, Moldova, where she serves in their Sunday school program.

 

Children & Families get a HEAD START Celebrating Christmas

Photo: A little girl with Santa ClausJOHNSON CITY – BCFS Education Services’ Head Start helped dozens of local children and families make merry this holiday season, with help from several organizations in the Johnson City-area.

On December 16, BCFS Education Services hosted a Christmas party for children and families enrolled in the Johnson City Head Start program at the Settlement Event Center, courtesy of the LBJ National Park Service. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance at the party and spent quality time talking with each child. The parents enjoyed snapping photos of their children on Santa’s lap. Several local markets donated the food and drinks.

The next morning, several Park Rangers from LBJ National Historic Ranch stopped by the center, armed with guitars and a whole lot of holiday spirit. Park Rangers Dave Schafer, Brian Perry, Kathleen Fry and Patrick Pelarski sang with the children, read Christmas stories and helped the children make ornaments. Several honored guests were present that day – including a grandmother who was a Park Ranger for the LBJ National Park Service for more than twenty years, and other grandparents who traveled all the way from Minnesota.

Head Start provides education, health and social services to pre-school children, helping to build strong foundations for success rooted in academic achievement and healthy living. Center Coordinator Karyn Rogers says family members are always encouraged to participate in classroom activities year-round, since research shows that parental involvement in a child’s education is beneficial to the child’s development and educational outcomes.

“We have wonderful families and children in our program,” says Rogers. “We love working with every single one of them – it’s especially joyful to celebrate the holidays with them. We are so proud to be part of the education and social service initiatives started when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.”

BCFS Education Services has been operating the Stonewall Head Start program since July, with centers in Johnson City, Fredericksburg and Harper. Services are provided to children and families at no cost. Classrooms are open Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 3:00 pm.

The Johnson City Head Start center is currently enrolling 3 and 4 year olds. To apply, call Karyn Rogers at 512-801-5018 or Sarah Cox at 210-919-9224.

Head Start aims to propel children ages 3 to 5 from disadvantaged backgrounds toward academic success and prosperity through the provision of educational, health, nutritional and social services. The program promotes school readiness by enhancing the child’s social and cognitive development, while advocates for the child’s family connect them to helpful community resources.

BCFS Education Services currently operates 91 Head Start classrooms in 24 sites across Texas. BCFS Education Services is a part of the global system of health and human service organizations led by BCFS.

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BCFS Education Services is part of a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations led by BCFS, focused on boosting educational readiness and outcomes in the classroom, as well as ensuring families have the resources, tools and information needed to start their children’s lifetime of learning off on the right foot.

 

Cookies with Santa is a Sweet Treat for Foster & Adoptive Families

Photo: Children doing arts and craft

SAN ANTONIO – Foster and adoptive families in San Antonio received a special treat last week, celebrating Christmas together at BCFS Health and Human Services’ Cookies with Santa event. More than 120 children and caregivers gathered on Thursday, December 17 for the two and a half-hour event, which was organized for children and youth placed in foster and adoptive homes by BCFS. The office was transformed into the North Pole for the evening as families mingled, enjoyed pizza and cookies, and took photos with jolly old St. Nick.

Prior to the event, BCFS Health and Human Services staff asked each child in care what they would like for Christmas. Then, during their meeting with Santa, each child received the gift they had requested: from dolls to soccer balls, and everything in between. Efrén Alvarado, Training Coordinator for BCFS’ Foster Care and Adoption, played the role of Santa Claus for the evening.

“Many of the children we place in foster and adoptive homes have experienced trauma and hardships in the past,” said Alvarado. “We connect them to loving, supportive homes, whether they are permanent or temporary. Christmastime is a wonderful opportunity to show each child they are special, they are treasured, in a way some of them have never experienced. I’ll never forget the joy on their faces when they opened their gifts.”

Each year in Texas, thousands of children enter foster care through no fault of their own, often due to abuse, neglect or other issues that endanger their safety. These children, like all others, deserve a loving and supportive home, and BCFS Health and Human Services is proud to offer foster care and adoption services throughout Bexar County, matching caring adults with children who need a home and helping potential adoptive parents navigate the adoption process.

If you or someone you know is thinking about growing their family through foster care or adoption and would like more information, visit DiscoverBCFS.net or call (210) 208-5629.


BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

Christmas Masquerade Ball hosted by BCFS

Youth from foster care deck the halls at Christmas Masquerade Ball

Annual Christmas dinner hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services

SAN ANTONIO – Sunset Station in San Antonio transformed into a winter wonderland for local youth from the foster care system, Thursday, December 17 at the annual Christmas dinner hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services.

Approximately 250 young adults from BCFS’ Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program donned formalwear and gowns donated by the National Council of Jewish Women, plus colorful masquerade masks for this year’s festive theme, Christmas Masquerade Ball. Nearly 400 guests – including PAL youth plus BCFS’ community partners – enjoyed a Christmas dinner and handmade desserts. The youth received backpacks, gift cards, and stockings stuffed with small gifts.

“Christmas can be an emotional time for the youth we serve from foster care, many of whom are separated from their families,” explains Miriam Attra, BCFS Community Based Services Director. “The Christmas Masquerade Ball gives these youth a chance to celebrate with their BCFS ‘family’ and friends – giving them an unforgettable experience that would otherwise be out of reach.”

The choir from Christian Family Church performed classic Christmas carols, and Alamo City Improv brought the laughs with improvisational comedy sketches featuring several youth from BCFS’ PAL program.

Grace Point Church donated the backpacks, and the THRU Project, a mentorship program for youth aging out of foster care, distributed the backpacks filled with school supplies. Christian Family Church donated stockings, gift cards, hygiene products and sweet treats. Christmas dinner was catered by the RK Group and desserts were donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats.

The BCFS Health and Human Services’ center in San Antonio is a safe haven for local youth including those who spent time in foster care, youth in the juvenile justice system, and other young adults struggling to transition to adulthood and independence. BCFS Health and Human Services provides case management, counseling, mentorships, and assistance with education, employment and housing location.

For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/SanAntonio.

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BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

 

 

 

Annual Christmas celebration helps struggling youth and families make merry

BCFS Health and Human Services hosts annual Christmas gathering

Photo: An excited young adult with a present

ABILENE – For youth from foster care and young adults struggling with homelessness, poverty or family conflict, Christmas can be an unwelcome reminder that they don’t have a traditional family support system. For parents struggling to make ends meet, piling gifts under the tree and providing a full Christmas dinner can be a challenge.

Every year, BCFS Health and Human Services hosts a Christmas celebration for Abilene teens, youth and families in BCFS programs that provide life skills, parenting education, and temporary shelter. On Wednesday, December 9, about 40 teens, youth and parents from around Abilene gathered to exchange gifts, play games and fellowship at the BCFS Health and Human Services center. Guests and BCFS’ community partners made gingerbread houses, played games to compete for prizes, and lucky door prize winners took home gift cards and electronics.

“Each of the folks in our programs received a gift package donated by our generous partners at Wylie Christian Church,” said Martin Pittman, program lead for the BCFS Abilene center. “Each package included journals and notepads, gloves, pens and pencils, a Christmas ornament, snacks, hygiene products, plus jewelry or scented soap for the gals, and a flashlight or portable radio for the guys.”

BCFS Health and Human Services in Abilene is a safe-haven for youth, including those in foster care, those aging out of the system, youth in the juvenile justice system, and any young adult struggling to transition to adulthood and independence. The center provides case management, counseling, mentorships, assistance with education, employment and housing location. BCFS’ Our House is a transitional living home for young men ages 18 to 23 struggling with homelessness. Residents of BCFS’ Our House receive help from the transition center to find employment, save money, and make a plan to become self-sufficient.

For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Abilene or call (325) 692-0033.


BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

BCFS Names Rhodes VP – Communications

Photo: Yvonne Paris RhodesSAN ANTONIO – BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations, has named Yvonne Paris Rhodes Vice President – Communications. In this role, Rhodes will will manage various internal and external communication systems for BCFS and its entities including multiple nonprofits and social service programs.

Rhodes manages BCFS’ online and digital communication including several websites, email marketing, and social media; press and media coverage; community relations; advertising; and messaging across all the organization’s marketing collateral from fact sheets to the annual magazine.

“With her education, extensive experience and passion for our mission, Yvonne has developed an impeccable and genuine way to communicate our story,” said Marilu Reyna, EVP – Public Affairs & Communications. “In this new leadership position, Yvonne will continue spreading the BCFS story to the world, helping to make a difference in the lives of children and families in need.”

Before serving as BCFS’ Director of Communications, Rhodes served as Account Executive with an advertising agency in Austin – formerly MDS Advertising, now V2G Interactive. As Program Director at Southside Community Center in San Marcos, she helped manage the nonprofit’s community relations and marketing efforts, as well as operations at the homeless shelter and social service programs for low-income families.

Rhodes earned her Master’s degree from Texas State University with a focus in Strategic Communication.

For more information about BCFS, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net.

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BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.

 

Kerrville Celebrates the Grand Opening of the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center

Photo: BCFS Resource Center building

It was standing room only today at the celebration to mark the grand opening of the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center. The 20,000 sq. ft. facility on Main Street is the cornerstone of the city’s non-profit block, offering comprehensive, “one stop” services to local children, teens, young adults and families in need.

The event was hosted by BCFS and featured Kerrville family physician and longtime BCFS board member Dr. David Sprouse as the master of ceremonies, entertainment by the Tivy High School Marching Band and lunch catered by Don Strange. The celebration also included a dedication of the building in honor of Babs Baugh, a passionate advocate for children’s causes, who was named “BCFS Chairman of the Board Emeritus.” Dr. G. William (Bill) Nichols, a nationally recognized artist who lives in the Hill Country, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Baugh that was unveiled following the ribbon cutting ceremony and will hang in the building’s entryway.
For years, Sandy Cailloux dreamt of creating a non-profit block of community organizations where, together, agencies could leverage their combined talents, resources, passion and compassion to generate a powerful force for good. Nearly four years ago, The Cailloux Foundation, who had been a longtime supporter of the transition center model operated by BCFS Health and Human Services, launched a $500,000 challenge grant to build a new center.
The facility will now house several area non-profit organizations, including Art2Heart; BCFS Health and Human Services; Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, Inc.; Families & Literacy, Inc.; Goodwill Industries of San Antonio; Hill Country Ministries, Inc.; and New Hope Counseling. BCFS Health and Human Services’ transition center will also offer free space to organizations on a daily, weekly, monthly or as needed basis; making important resources efficient and easily accessible, without duplicating services already available in the community.
“Today, the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center stands tall as a beacon of hope and healing for anyone needing help. It offers efficient access to critical resources for those who are struggling; bolsters the community’s ability to quickly intervene during crises; and instills a strong sense of personal responsibility in youth and families by creating an environment of accountability for turning their lives around,” stated BCFS President Kevin C. Dinnin.
The center is open to anyone in need, including youth in and aging out of foster care, as well as other young adults struggling with homelessness, poverty, truancy and substance abuse. Under a single roof, individuals have access to counseling, case management, literacy and educational support, job training and placement with local businesses, housing location and more. The center also offers programs that strengthen families, providing parenting support groups and classes that help open communication and teach innovative, healthy ways to set boundaries and discipline; as well as creative art therapy and counseling for individuals of all ages.
For more information about BCFS’ work in the Hill Country, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Kerrville or call (830) 896-0993.