Dennis Ferguson Talks Programming and COVID-19 on ‘KDT Live’

In the second week since its launch, “Kerrville Daily Times Live” included an interview with Dennis Ferguson discussing the community support that BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville offers to children, youth and families in Kerrville, Texas.

Dennis, Director of Community Services at BCFS-Kerrville, spoke on the programs he and his team use to help children and youth ages 10 to 25, including Youth Averted from Delinquency, the Hill Country Resource Center, the Texas Workforce Commission and Our House.

BCFS-Kerrville’s Dennis Ferguson on KDT Live

Louis Amestoy, Managing Editor of “The Kerrville Daily Times” newspaper and host of the show, asked Dennis how COVID-19 has affected those served by BCFS-Kerrville. Dennis discussed their ability to keep in touch with local employers and connect jobs to the young men and women in their care, adding that the mental-health services they provide have been crucial to weathering 2020’s barrage of health, economic and social uncertainty.

“We spend a lot of time just reassuring them and encouraging them – getting them to acknowledge that they are capable of making progress even in these times when we’re not able to get out as much as we used to,” said Dennis.

Louis asked how their city could give back to BCFS-Kerrville. “We thank the community for all they’ve already done and the times they’ve stepped up,” said Dennis. BCFS-Kerrville has been able to accomplish great things over years of service, but Dennis admitted there was much left to be done. They plan to continue utilizing community support, partner organizations, and their own ability to connect needs with resources during COVID-19 and beyond.

Listen to the full interview on Kerrville Daily Times Live.

Flat Stanley Joins BVT Family

With the health and safety of our residents a top priority during the COVID-19 restrictions, access to outside visitors is temporarily prohibited at Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT), so residents got creative to stay connected with their friends and family.

Jennifer Ekins and Rachel Parker – Day Program Group Leader and Day Program Coordinator at BVT, respectively – crafted a BVT take on Flat Stanley, a character based on a later-1900s children’s book of the same name.

Jennifer Ekins, Flat Stanley and Rachel Parker

Residents created eight versions of Stanley and mailed them to a list of 40 friends and family, who have welcomed Stanley to their everyday lives and kept a record of his activity. They then send letters and photographs that include Stanley to their loved ones at BVT, and then send Stanley on to his next home and another family to join in on Stanley’s travel adventures.

The project has taken the eight Stanleys to several U.S. states and family events. See highlights from his travels on BVT’s Facebook photo album, updated every Friday for the duration of the project.

Recognizing Those in Foster Care

BCFS Health and Human Services in honored to join the annual recognition of National Foster Care Month, established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

National Foster Care Month has been headed by the Children’s Bureau (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) since 1988.

“The more that we’re able to put information out there, the greater opportunity the general public will have to think much more humanely about families who need help or who find themselves in difficult situations,” said Jerry Milner, Children’s Bureau Associate Commissioner, in an interview with Child Welfare Information Gateway. “We need to be reminded that any of us could find ourselves in that kind of vulnerable position given the right set of circumstances.”

“Our staff is focused on the best outcomes for children in foster care 12 months out of the year, but having this one month dedicated to national attention on children in foster care is important to bring much needed visibility and information to potential foster families. It is a tremendous help in the long term for those we serve in our foster care and adoption program,” said Rosa Baez, Associate Deputy Director with BCFS Health and Human Services.

Learn more about how BCFS Health and Human Services helps children in foster care, young adults leaving foster care and parents raising children in the system.

An Adventure Through Time

Children and youth from BCFS Health and Human Services Transitional Foster Care took a hyperdrive through history on May 14, getting to hear “directly” from notable personalities such as Abraham Lincoln and Frida Kahlo.

Fernando Grinan as soccer star Pelé

Transitional Foster Care helps children 5 to 17 years old adjust to a new life with a new foster family. This process includes continuing education, offering tutoring for difficult schoolwork and visiting families in their home. By necessity, most of Transitional Foster Care’s work has recently turned to virtual solutions as part of larger efforts by the BCFS System to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Crystal Vega as astronaut Ellen Ochoa

Transitional Foster Care has responded to the changes in their workflow by seeing it not as a hindrance but rather an opportunity. Their history lesson via time travel is only the most recent of the program’s efforts to keep children engaged though learning has moved online.

For the children’s time travel class, Mariceliz Ortiz, Lead Educational Facilitator, would briefly introduce each of their renowned guests before starting the time machine that let the class jump to that point in history. Although the sound of traveling through time – something between a UFO and an old washing machine – was played before each of the 12 important figures came on screen, one of the boys on the call couldn’t help but laugh every time.

Karla Cosme Maldonado as Abraham Lincoln

Following the lesson, the children were invited to ask questions of their physics-defying visitors or share their thoughts. One boy mentioned he learned new things about el rey del fútbol, Pelé. A young girl said she enjoyed hearing about the human activism of Rigoberta Menchu, who has advocated for the rights of indigenous people in Guatemala and internationally.

Classes like these, which combine the native creativity of Transitional Foster Care staff with resources available at home, illustrate that a new normal doesn’t have to be lesser than normal.

At-Home Performers Bring ‘Snow White’ to the Living Room

When Karla Cosme Maldonado, Experiential Life Skills Coordinator with BCFS Health and Human Services Transitional Foster Care, saw her students’ faces on a video call, she knew something wasn’t quite right.

“We were taking a virtual tour of the [Pacific] Science Center in Seattle, and I could tell the students were not very engaged,” said Karla.

As classrooms have moved online around the world to slow the spread of COVID-19, educators have kept pace by blending technology with whatever is available from home. Though adapting is not easy, the results often showcase the creativity and resourcefulness of teachers.

Julissa Gonzalez as Snow White

These new limitations have brought the talents from staff at BCFS Health and Human Services Transitional Foster Care to the forefront. Last week their education team put on costumes and makeup for a retelling of “Snow White.”

“Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the performance with our students,” said Sonya Thompson, Executive Director at BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio, “but I was there for rehearsal. I don’t think it was just the kids who had fun; [the staff] definitely had fun too.”

“All you have to do is read the news to know that parents have their hands full right now,” said Melissa Bueno, Regional Director of BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Foster Care and Adoption. “These are some great ideas that our staff came up with to break up the monotony of the day and take a burden off foster parents.”

Both Sonya and Melissa have been impressed with the innovative and engaging adjustments the Transitional Foster Care program has made to continue serving children during the coronavirus. Last month the teachers challenged their students to create floats at home for a virtual parade, and this week they will take an adventure through history using a virtual time machine.

“I know what we’re all going through, and I want our kids to have a little fun,” said Karla. “Sometimes you can even hear the parents laughing in the background.”

CSD Hosts Motivational Speaker for Texas Youth

SaulPaul – an author, keynote speaker and musician – delivered a message and a bit of music online to youth from BCFS Health and Human Services Community Services Division (CSD) on Tuesday, April 28.

Like many of the youth at the virtual event, SaulPaul began his life with plenty of obstacles that could have kept him from building the life he enjoys today. After losing his mother at 3 years old, his father soon abandoned him. SaulPaul would grow up in the care of his grandmother, who turned 78 the same year he turned 13. “She had a big heart, and instead of seeing that and being grateful, I took advantage of it,” he told the youth.


At a young age he found himself in a courtroom, facing 10 years in prison. He spent time in the penitentiary, but upon release he started attending the University of Texas and soon received a degree. Now as a public speaker who connects with young people wherever they are in the world and in life, SaulPaul says he hopes the point of his story is not that anyone can do what he did, but instead that his life was made much more difficult because of choices he made. He hopes fewer young people will make the mistakes he did, and can find a simpler path to success.

Youth that may have more burdens to bear than others have an advantage, according to SaulPaul. They have a strength that few others possess. “When you lift weights, it makes you stronger,” he said. “When you have weight on your back, and when you don’t let that weight crush you, you’re stronger.”

The speaker ended his message by sharing with the youth that they would each get a copy of his book, “Dream in 3D,” and he had a surprise announcement for the high-school seniors on the call: all are invited to a graduation ceremony in May, which will also be virtual.  

Learn more about CSD’s advocacy for youth in Texas.

Mask Donations

The BCFS System is grateful to our friends and neighbors for recent donations of masks to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yong and Jun Li, owners of China Harbor Restaurant at 17333 San Pedro Ave. (next door to BCFS System Headquarters), donated 200 surgical masks. Some of the masks will be used by office staff while the rest will be distributed to foster families and clients throughout the BCFS Health and Human Services network.

Another donation of masks was received from Natalie Ramirez who made 30 colorful cloth masks to be distributed to foster families and youth served by BCFS Health and Human Services.

Natalie included a letter with her donation in which she expressed her support for the work that we do…

“BCFS! Thank you for all you do! I hope these can help a few of your families, God Bless!”

We are so very grateful for these donations which will help to protect the people we serve. We are truly all in this together and with the help of good friends and neighbors like these we will persevere.

Working Together To Spread the Word

BCFS Health and Human Services Community Services Division is partnering with Foster Angels of South Texas on a co-marketing campaign during the COVID-19 crisis with the goal to spread awareness of the programs that remain available during the crisis that focus on providing services for foster youth.

Other organizations coming together in the campaign include the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Coastal Bend, Agape Ranch and Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi Island Harbor.

BCFS Health and Human Services throughout the state works to give children a new life with care and guidance. It is important that families know that these services are still available and ongoing during the pandemic response.

Texans Helping Texans

BCFS Health and Human Services programs across Texas are pleased to be able to participate in the Comfort Food Care Program (CFCP), a statewide collaboration between the Governor’s Public Safety Office, the Texas Restaurant Association, and delivery company Favor.

Texas is connecting restaurant owners and social-service providers, giving food to families in need.

CFCP is designed to provide meals for youth and families struggling with hunger due to COVID-19 and the unexpected strain it has put on families who are at home with their children sheltering in place. It is also an excellent way to support restaurants, many of which have taken an economic hit during the health crisis.

Participating restaurants will offer an array of packaged foods that donors can purchase on behalf of local families and youth in need. Each package is designed to contain enough food to feed a family of five to six people.

“It’s heartwarming to see the joint collaboration with the various participants,” said Celeste Garcia, Executive Director of BCFS Health and Human Services Community Services Division. “We are impressed by and grateful for the support we have seen from restaurants across the state, and from Governor Greg Abbott and Director Andrea Sparks. This is the kind of quick redistribution that can connect people in need with services that can ensure they don’t go hungry and that food doesn’t go to waste.”

Currently BCFS Health and Human Services is partnering with restaurants in Corpus Christi, Del Rio, Harlingen and San Antonio to deliver food to families in need. The locations and potential service population continue to increase as more who are able to help learn about the role they can play in the program.

Virtual Awareness Campaign Keeps Community Connected

The BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene staff has not allowed the COVID-19 response to deter their efforts to recognize Child Abuse Awareness month.

They are using their social media presence as a virtual means to do many of the things they would otherwise not be able to do during this period of social distancing. The team has been posting facts, tips and information regarding child abuse awareness since the first of the month and have been conducting contests to encourage participation.

“We are offering different prizes for participation,” said Briona Sattarphai, Program Director. “We are asking people to post comments and pictures of themselves doing the activities we are promoting – such as spending time with their kids or making washing their hands fun. Prizes include gift cards for meals or family activities and awareness swag.”

Alana Jeter, Regional Director for North Texas, said she is very proud of her staff and is encouraged by the community’s response to their virtual campaign.

“Our staff even celebrated ‘Go Blue Day’ on Friday, April 3, and posted pictures to our Facebook page of our staff meeting utilizing Microsoft Teams video meeting app with everyone wearing blue,” said Alana.