BCFS’ Healthy Start Teaches Families How to Keep Their Babies Safe

September is “Infant Mortality Awareness Month”

Photo: Teresa Arthur, her child, and Araceli Flores

Teresa Arthur (left) and Araceli Flores (right) smile with the Arthurs’ newest bundle of joy. Teresa, from Nigeria, and her husband, from Uganda, have lived in the colonias for two years. Teresa joined Healthy Start’s program when she was pregnant with her third daughter, the youngest of her two other girls ages 5 and 3.

In recognition of September as “Infant Mortality Awareness Month,” BCFS Health and Human Services is doing its part to raise awareness on how to have a healthy pregnancy, and safe sleep practices once babies arrive.
The organization, which serves expectant mothers and those with children younger than 2 years old living in the colonias, has awarded participation in its parenting classes by giving away new bassinets to several families in need. Parents are also connected to partner resources such as the March of Dimes, Nurse Family Partnership, and City of Laredo Health Department Maternity Clinic, which also lead initiatives to reduce infant/fetal mortality in the community.

BCFS is also hosting interactive community events aimed at boosting awareness on how to prevent infant mortality, along with a baby buggy walk, balloon release and light luncheon for families on the following day.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Webb County experiences 5.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. While not every death can be prevented, there are several ways to mitigate such tragedy. Factors that contribute to infant deaths include poverty, limited access to health care, stress, and diet and nutrition.

“Having a healthy baby begins first with a healthy pregnancy,” said Araceli Flores, RN, BCFS Health and Human Services director. “Learning about safety can ease new parent nerves, while also ensuring that our little ones grow and thrive.”

The infant mortality rate is an estimate of the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. The CDC uses infant mortality rate as an indicator to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also affect infant mortality rates.

Since 2001, BCFS’ Healthy Start program in Laredo has provided medical care and case management to residents in the colonias along the U.S. border with Mexico. This continuum of care extends beyond the welfare of newborns and includes mothers, fathers, and families – essentially the whole community.

For more information about BCFS’ border health initiatives, please visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HealthyStart.

BCFS Education Services Appoints Thompson as Director of Education

BCFS Education Services has named Jamie Thompson as Director of Education. In this role, Thompson will work closely with the organization’s teachers and classroom staff, instituting evidence-based best practices for early education; conducting quality assessments to ensure concurrence with federal Head Start policies and procedures; and developing impactful programs that help young learners and their families prepare for kindergarten.

Thompson most recently worked with the U.S. Army’s Child, Youth and School Services, the Easter Seals Blake Foundation and Family Services Association, Inc. Her career has consistently focused on providing quality education services to young children and families.

“The exponential growth of BCFS Education Services is a testament to the high quality and effectiveness of our programs. Jamie will play a key role in ensuring we not only continue to meet, but exceed, the highest of standards in early education delivery,” said Kevin Dinnin, President & CEO of BCFS, the parent organization of BCFS Education Services.

Thompson has earned degrees in early childhood education from Penn Foster College, behavioral science from Bellevue University, and management from American Public University. BCFS Education Services operates Head Start programs throughout Texas. Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of early learners, providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. BCFS Education Services is part of the global BCFS system of health and human service non-profit organizations.

“We are thrilled to have Jamie’s expertise and energy touch all our classrooms throughout Texas,” said BCFS Education Services Executive Director Cathi Cohen.

To learn more about BCFS Education Services, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart.

“No limits” for Texas youth in the Colorado Rockies

BCFS organizes retreat for youth from foster care system:“The Leader in YOU: No Limits”

Youth leadership retreat participants in a team building excersice

NATHROP, CO – After being removed from their biological parents due to abuse, neglect or other family difficulties, youth in the foster care system often spend years – sometimes an entire lifetime – wrestling to overcome their experiences. Statistically, youth in foster care are less likely to graduate college, and are more likely to experience teen pregnancies, unemployment and generational cycles of poverty.

But, when 34 Texas youth primarily from foster care gathered around a Colorado campfire this summer, roasting s’mores, stargazing, and challenging themselves in leadership-building sessions, it was their unique skills and abilities that were front and center, not their limitations. The goal was simple but profound at the camp entitled “The Leader in YOU: No Limits” – inspire the youth to seek and find the strong leader inside them all.

BCFS Health and Human Services organized and fully underwrote a weeklong camp at BCFS’ Silver Cliff Ranch in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, gathering 32 youth from the Texas foster care system and several youth that overcame difficult family histories.

“Many of them had never been out of the state, much less in the mountains of Colorado,” says Stacy Lee, BCFS Program Director of Youth Services. “They were empowered being out of their element. I saw a definite rise in their self-confidence in just one week.”

A convoy of buses picked up youth from BCFS centers across Texas, traveling to McAllen, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Abilene, and Lubbock before finally heading into the Colorado Rocky Mountains loaded with teens and youth, plus staff from BCFS and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

“At the beginning of the camp, we asked the youth to name leaders. We got names like Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Oprah,” said Lee. “By the end of camp, they understood there are different types of leaders, like a quiet leader or a supportive leader. They realized they could be leaders too, and it’s not just for popular, powerful or out-of-reach people.”

The 34 youth were selected from thousands BCFS serves monthly across Texas as a reward for maintaining high grades in school, successfully completing life skills courses, and staying focused on their goals under the guidance of their BCFS case manager.

Campers scurried into the woods and across the campsite on a leadership scavenger hunt, gathering items symbolizing the core values of a leader: communication, confidence, a positive attitude, inspiration, creativity and being a team player.

Between candid and emotional group discussions, the campers played team games, hiked in the woods surrounding their log cabins, and completed a ropes course which one young camper called his favorite camp activity because it gave him “a chance to help everybody.”

“Interacting with the other campers was my favorite part,” said the teen. “I learned that nothing is impossible. There’s always something you can do.”

Former Major League baseball pitcher Jimmy “The Rookie” Morris, whose story inspired the Disney movie “The Rookie,” led exercises that helped the youth recognize their individual leadership style. Morris distributed awards to the campers, who were eager to snap photos with the ex-pro and get autographed baseballs. Morris serves as BCFS’ Motivational Specialist for children, youth and families throughout the BCFS system of health and human service nonprofits.

“Jimmy asked some of the staff to get in front of everyone and share their personal trials and triumphs to show the youth that everyone goes through hard times,” says Director of BCFS Community Based Services Miriam Attra.

On the last day of camp, the youth were encouraged to show off their hidden talents in a talent show. Attra says she witnessed several young men and women who were initially shy transform into enthusiastic particpants.

“One of our youth opted to share the testimony of her life,” says Attra. “She said the whole camp experience allowed her to open up for the first time, and now she feels more comfortable bringing her guard down and trusting people more.”

“This trip helped me look at things from a different perspective, like the way I think of myself,” said another teen camper. “My teammates and my leaders were very encouraging and they pushed me to do things that I never thought I could do.”

Another young woman says her camp experience inspired her to share what she learned with her peers back home: “I did things that were out of my comfort zone . . . things that I thought I couldn’t do. I hope to one day help other people grow the way I grew.”

BCFS Health and Human Services operates centers across Texas providing case management, counseling, and education and employment assistance to youth in foster care and other youth struggling with poverty, abuse, homelessness or an unstable home life. For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services, visit DiscoverBCFS.net.


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 Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division Appoints Resource Director to Ensure Readiness

BCFS Names Davenport Director of Warehouse, Fleet and Technology Resources

Photo: Davenport

BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division (BCFS EMD) has named William Davenport its Director of Warehouse, Fleet and Technology Resources. As a national partner of local, state and federal agencies during times of emergency, it is critical that BCFS EMD have impeccable inventorying and inspection of resources, as well as maintenance of an extensive vehicle fleet that includes multiple 18-wheeler mobile command platforms, fire engines, mobile medical clinics, box trucks, generators and more, all ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Davenport has spent his career on the front lines of disaster response. He served more than 35 years with the San Antonio Fire Department in roles that included firefighting, technical rescue, communications, and technical services. He joined BCFS EMD in 2008 and has filled vital roles on the organization’s incident management team during several major responses, ensuring continuity of communications technology, fleet readiness and logistical execution. He has also overseen the integration of BCFS EMD’s communications technology with a number of local and state-run communications equipment, ensuring immediate interoperability when BCFS EMD is tasked to support government responses.
“Bill is always one of the first responders to report for duty in the morning, and oftentimes one of the last to leave,” said Kari Tatro, EVP/COO – Administration, Education & Emergency Operations . “His dedication is undeniable, and his thoroughness and ability to move fast makes him an important member of our emergency management team.”
For more information about BCFS EMD, visit BCFSEMD.org.
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BCFS Health and Human Services’ Emergency Management Division is a non-profit partner of federal, state and local government and private industry, specializing in emergency management, incident management, disaster response, public health & medical emergency response, mass care, mass fatality planning, medical sheltering and planning for vulnerable populations.

BCFS Names Regina Woolridge Human Resources Executive Director

BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations, has named Regina Woolridge as Executive Director of Human Resources. In this role, Woolridge will oversee daily human resources operations such as payroll, benefits, tax reporting and governmental compliance. She will also maintain personnel records for BCFS’ nearly 3,000 staff worldwide, assist executive management in employee annual reviews, and support internal auditing.
Woolridge joins BCFS with diverse and extensive human resources management experience, from supporting hospital executives, to overseeing human resources for a research foundation and aerospace firm. Woolridge is a certified Human Resources Professional, holding a Master’s degree in Human Resources and Management from Webster University.
“BCFS is a complex system, operating programs funded by local, state and federal government partners, as well as private foundations. It is critical that we ensure full compliance with contract requirements, all while maintaining a personal ‘human’ touch to support those who are carrying out our life-changing work,” said BCFS President & CEO Kevin C. DInnin.
“Together with our Talent Management Division, we’re building and retaining an amazing BCFS team.”

Tyler Youth in Foster Care Celebrate Back-to-School

BCFS Health and Human Services hosts annual trip to encourage youth to stay in school

BCFS Health and Human Services celebrated the end of summer with 90 youth, enjoying a day of rollercoasters, zip lines and boat rides at Kemah Boardwalk for its third annual Back-to-School Bash on Friday, July 31. BCFS operates a resource center in Tyler that serves youth in and aging out of foster care, as well as other young adults facing challenges like homelessness, poverty, or those recovering from physical and emotional abuse. The center is a “one-stop shop” that provides counseling, case management, and assistance with education, employment, housing location and medical care.
Each year, the agency organizes an annual Back-to-School Bash as a reward for youth who have stayed in school, focused on their schoolwork and participated in BCFS programs and events throughout the year geared toward keeping them on a solid path toward success and independence.
“This event celebrates the accomplishment of the youth completing the year, and gets them excited and geared up to go into the next school and program year with us,” explains BCFS director Carla McCalope.
“We update the youth on programming available at the center for the coming school year, too. Our motto with the youth is ‘Stay Connected,’ and the Back-to-School Bash helps us do just that.”
BCFS works with youth in and aging out of foster care, and those at-risk of facing challenges such as homelessness, poverty, abuse, or neglect. Statistically, youth in foster care are less likely to excel in school, graduate high school or go to college. McCalope says the Back-to-School Bash is also a way to encourage the high school juniors and seniors in attendance to discuss and prepare plans for college.
Community partners that supported the Back-to-School Bash include BCFS, 4Imprint, Zion Temple, Chuck’s Travel, CiCi’s Pizza and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

BCFS Names Harilall as Controller

BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations, has named Suraj K. Harilall as controller. In this role, Harilall will oversee the system’s day-to-day, worldwide financial operations; guide long-term fiscal planning; and ensure compliance with multi-state and foreign reporting requirements.
“Suraj has the experience and expertise needed to effectively oversee BCFS’ complex financial functions, and I am confident he will maintain the high standards by which our agency’s financial operations are run,” said Claudia Oliveira, CPA, BCFS Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.
Most recently, Harilall served as chief financial officer at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio and controller for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. He brings extensive experience in non-profit and corporate financial management, including grant and contract administration, which plays an integral role in BCFS’ funding streams. He is also well versed in financial and budgetary regulations and requirements set forth by federal agencies and private entities.
Harilall earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Accounting and Corporate Finance from St. Mary’s University.

BCFS in Kerrville Receives $170,000 Grant from Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation

Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation Donates $170,000 to Furnish New BCFS’ Texas Hill Country Resource Center and Apartments

BCFS Health and Human Services has received a $170,000 grant from the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation to help furnish its Texas Hill Country Resource Center and youth apartments.
The new BCFS Texas Hill Country Resource Center, set to open later this year, will be the cornerstone of Kerrville’s non-profit block, offering a variety of programming and services through several area non-profits that will be headquartered in the 20,000-square-foot structure.
BCFS’ transitional living apartments provide housing to youth aging out of foster care, and other young adults struggling with homelessness. Updates to the apartment complex began earlier this year, including kitchen and bathroom upgrades. In 2008, the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation donated $100,000 to help turn the original complex into apartments for BCFS youth.
“The trustees of the Perry & Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation are proud to play a part in the development of the BCFS Texas Hill Country Resource Center and the apartments,” said Laurie Milton, Executive Director for the foundation. “The primary focus for Mr. & Mrs. Stevens was helping at-risk youth. The apartments will provide stable housing for youth who are emancipated from foster care.  The numerous nonprofits that will be located in the Resource Center will provide an environment of services for struggling families in the community. We are excited to participate in this new venture in our community.”
In addition to housing the many BCFS Health and Human Services programs, Art2Heart, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Families & Literacy, Inc., Hill Country Ministries and New Hope Counseling have signed on as tenants in the new building. Space is still available at the center for other community-based non-profit agencies.
“We are grateful for the continued partnership of the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation,” said Brenda Thompson, BCFS director in Kerrville. “With this grant, we are one big step closer to opening our doors later this year and welcoming youth and families in need, plus all our community partners, into a top-notch facility our whole community can be proud of.”
“The BCFS Texas Hill Country Resource Center not only offers clients the convenience of finding an array of services in one place, but the close proximity of the agencies working in the new center will also help them work more efficiently,” says BCFS Development Director Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie. “Collocating under one roof will encourage communication; ensure non-duplication of services; and leverage the talents and resources of each non-profit to effectively address the needs of each child and family.”
The transitional living apartment complex is a drug- and alcohol-free facility consisting of eight units, with one unit reserved for a resident advisor. Tenants must be transitioning out of the foster care system or be receiving case management from BCFS in order to be eligible for residency. BCFS works with tenants to help them gain independence by providing job placement services, counseling, and help getting into college or trade school.

BCFS Education Services Expands Throughout Texas

New sites in Bee, Blanco, Gillespie, Goliad, Live Oak, and Refugio counties promote academic achievement and school readiness for children ages 3-5

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded BCFS Education Services competitive grants to expand its Head Start work to Bee, Blanco, Gillespie, Goliad, Live Oak, and Refugio counties. The program 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.

Staff who were employed by the previous Head Start provider have been invited to apply for positions with BCFS Education Services.

BCFS Education Services currently operates 91 Head Start classrooms in 24 sites across Texas. BCFS Education Services’ new “Stonewall” program in Blanco and Gillespie counties continues the Head Start tradition where, in 1965, the first Head Start school in Texas was formed near LBJ ranch.

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. 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.

“Thanks to the support of our community partners and public leaders, we are excited to expand our Head Start programs throughout Texas,” said BCFS Education Services Board Chairman George Cowden III. “Together, we will ensure children acquire the skills and confidence they need to be prepared for success in kindergarten and throughout their academic career.”

Families interested in applying may call (830) 331-8908 for details. Applications are available online at DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart, along with a list of necessary enrollment documents.

Services for children and families include:

  • Preschool
  • Individualized teaching
  • Degreed teachers
  • Bilingual services
  • Social services
  • Parent trainings
  • Meals and snacks
  • Disability services
  • Dental exams
  • Mental wellness
  • Health services
  • Field trips
  • Bus and ADA transportation (not available at all locations)

A child is eligible to enroll in Head Start if he/she falls in one of these categories:

  • The child is in foster care
  • The family is homeless
  • The family receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • The family has a gross income below federal poverty guidelines
  • The child has a family member living with and supported by the child’s family receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

To be eligible, the child must be 3 or 4-years-old on or before September 1, 2014 and live in one of the counties listed above.

For more information about BCFS Education Services, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart.

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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. 

Cohen to Serve as Executive Director of BCFS Education Services

BCFS’ transitional living apartments provide housing to youth aging out of foster care, and other young adults struggling with homelessness. Updates to the apartment complex began earlier this year, including kitchen and bathroom upgrades.

BCFS Announces Cohen as Executive Director of the System’s Educational Non-Profit, BCFS Education Services

Also names Carrejo de Avila as Director of Operations

Founded in San Antonio in 1944, BCFS is a global system of six health and human service non-profit corporations impacting the lives of millions from coast-to-coast and around the world. BCFS Education Services, the system’s entity focused on early education, has recruited top talents to lead the rapidly expanding organization with the appointment of Cathi Cohen as executive director and Janet Carrejo de Avila as Director of Operations.

Cohen has more than 20 years of experience in senior management and was most recently a long-serving executive for a national system of charter schools, overseeing operations, regulatory compliance, training initiatives and new school development along the East Coast. As executive director of BCFS Education Services, Cohen will oversee the organization’s 91 Head Start classrooms in 24 sites in Texas.

Carrejo de Avila most recently led BCFS’ Head Start programs in Atascosa, Karnes and Wilson counties. She has more than 25 years of experience in Head Start, as well as a Master’s of Education in Early Childhood Development, with a minor in Special Education; plus a number of additional education- and safety-related certifications and credentials.

“Cathi is a dynamic leader with strong mastery of fiscal management, in addition to a true passion for delivering the highest quality of education to students from various backgrounds,” said BCFS Education Services Board Chairman George Cowden III. “Together with Janet’s Head Start expertise, our organization is well-poised to deliver exceptional educational results and support to the children and families we serve.”

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. This year, Head Start is celebrating 50 years of propelling children ages 3 to 5 from disadvantaged backgrounds toward success, focusing on helping preschool-aged children form strong foundations built upon academic excellence and healthy living.

For more information about BCFS Education Services, please visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart.

 

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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.