BCFS’ McAllen Transition Center Expands to Serve Youth and Families

Photo: Young woman ringing Job Bell

MCALLEN – Whenever a teen or young adult at the BCFS McAllen Transition Center gets a job, they get to ring the “Job Bell” to the sound of cheers and applause from staff. After hosting a Career Education Workshop last week for local youth looking for employment, the BCFS team is looking forward to a lot of bell-ringing.

The BCFS McAllen Transition Center serves local youth and families in need, providing assistance with education, employment and housing location, lifeskills courses, and parenting education.

BCFS opened the transition center in 2012 to help youth aging out of foster care prepare for independent living, but the facility has seen rapid growth and now also provides child abuse prevention programs, rehabilitation for youth in the juvenile justice system, parenting support groups, and services for any youth struggling with poverty, homelessness or a turbulent home life.

Serving about 200 people each month, the center quickly outgrew its office space. Their team of case managers, facilitators, mentoring coordinators and family educators has tripled in the past year. Renovations were completed last month to accommodate new staff, and create more room for family counseling sessions and mentor meetings.

BCFS hosted an Open House Friday, January 23 inviting community leaders and other non-profits to tour the newly-renovated space and learn about their services. Representatives from BCFS’ community partners attended, including the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Tropical Behavior Center, Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary, RGV Play Therapy Center, and the Ramirez Center probation officers.

At the Career Education Workshop hosted by BCFS this month, young men and women in foster care and youth overcoming a past of criminal activity gathered to learn how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview, as well as complete a career inventory to assess what line of work suits them best.

“The youth we serve – like all teenagers – need to feel loved and supported,” said Marissa Cano, BCFS McAllen Transition Center Program Director. “Many of them were removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect and put in foster care. If they aren’t adopted, they age out of the system at 18 years old without a family. This lack of stability and accountability led some to make poor choices, but we help them overcome the trauma that makes them act out and work hard for a brighter future.”

This month, BCFS also hosted a seminar on AIDS awareness and sexual health in collaboration with the Valley AIDS organization.

“Our goal is to convey to our youth the importance of making smart choices when it comes to health and safety, and to connect them to resources that support these choices,” said Deyanira Garcia, case manager at the BCFS McAllen Transition Center.

About 950 families have graduated from BCFS’ parenting education program, which is aimed at reducing child abuse by teaching parents how to resolve conflict, improve communication, and deal with behavioral problems. Participating families meet weekly at the center or local schools, and receive childcare, transportation and necessities like food, diapers and clothing.

For more information about the BCFS McAllen Transition Center, call (956) 630-0010 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/McAllen.

Ten Years Later, Sri Lanka Hit by Another Devastating Natural Disaster

U.S.-based humanitarian organization, Children’s Emergency Relief International, aids families affected by widespread flooding

By: Leonard Favela
BATTICALOA , SRI LANKA — On December 23, 2014, nearing the tenth anniversary of the devastating 2004 tsunami that claimed more than 226,000 souls and left Indonesia’s island nations and the lives of their people utterly destroyed, BCFS’ overseas division Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) received notification of torrential rainfall in Sri Lanka. In only a few days, the rains sparked massive flooding and mudslides across the region, driving thousands out of their homes — and CERI into action.
Since responding to the tsunami a decade ago, CERI has operated a foster care program in two of the hardest hit cities — Batticaloa and Weligama — focused on reuniting or finding safe, loving families for children who are orphaned. In-country staff conduct trauma and loss counseling for children overcoming loss and hardships, and distribute microloans to ambitious foster parents who are entrepreneurs looking to break the cycles of poverty in their families and rural communities.
As the waters rose last month, CERI again found itself searching for children and families through waterlogged streets, and helping many among the 100,000 people affected by floods find refuge and food after their homes were destroyed.
Daily reports were sent back to the states by CERI South Asia National Director Anita Ramesh. Three CERI foster homes were damaged beyond repair, but by God’s grace, every family and child was accounted for. While the organization was able to coordinate temporary housing for families that were displaced, the organization’s goal is to rebuild the homes that were lost.
After flood waters completely receded, many families asked if they could return to their homes and neighborhoods. It is customary for Sri Lankan families to spend the New Year in their homes, performing thorough cleaning — symbolic of purging the previous year, and preparing for a prosperous year to come. CERI staff helped many families prepare their homes for their New Year’s customs, but others’ were too heavily damaged by the flooding. Those families moved in temporarily with relatives or neighbors.
CERI provided all families who returned to their neighborhoods with essential dry goods and water for immediate use. CERI staff asked families to list necessary household items destroyed by the disaster and, thanks to the support of its U.S.-based parent organization BCFS, was able to replace such items immediately.
“I am always inspired by the bravery and resiliency of those we serve around the world,” said Dr. Dearing Garner, CERI Executive Director. “In the wake of such tragedy, hope shined as brightly as it did a decade ago thanks to the prayers and support from not only our Sri Lanka staff but also our many friends and sponsors here in the United States.”
Check out pictures of CERI’s response and recovery efforts in Sri Lanka on Facebook.
For more information about CERI’s work around the world, please visit CERIkids.org.

BCFS Taps Stelter as Director of Learning and Development

BCFS has named Patricia Stelter its new Director of Learning and Development, focused on professional development strategies aligned with BCFS’ organizational vision and core values. She has a strong background in developmental learning and curriculum development, and has been recognized as an expert by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, receiving the organization’s Excellence Award in 2013.

Photo: Patricia StelterBCFS Health and Human Services Taps Stelter as Director of Learning and Development

BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations, has named Patricia Stelter its new Director of Learning and Development. In this role, Stelter will establish and lead immediate and long-term learning and professional development strategies aligned with BCFS’ organizational vision and core values. She will create learning initiatives — including an accredited non-profit management certification program — aimed at increasing organizational effectiveness, improving individual skills, and supporting the system’s larger strategy for growth and culture for the future.
Stelter joins BCFS having previously served as a lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio, high school principal, and founding faculty member of Northeast Lakeview College. She has a strong background in developmental learning and curriculum development, and has been recognized as an expert by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, receiving the organization’s Excellence Award in 2013.
“The high-quality services delivered by, and trust our partners have in, BCFS is driven totally by the commitment and caliber of our staff,” said BCFS CEO Kevin Dinnin. “Patricia’s focus on educational and professional development, therefore, plays a critical role in continuously raising the bar on how we are able to achieve success in the communities we serve.”
Stelter earned a master’s degree in English from Our Lady of the Lake University’s Education Department and is pursuing a doctoral degree in Developmental Education at Texas State University.

BCFS Receives $200,000 Grant to Update Youth Apartments

The Cailloux Foundation has awarded $200,000 to BCFS Health and Human Services to update and carry out general repairs for the organization’s apartment complex that provides safe, affordable housing to local youth aging out of foster care, and young adults 18 to 25 who are battling homelessness.
This is the second grant BCFS has received from The Cailloux Foundation that addresses the housing needs of Kerrville youth. In 2008, the Foundation awarded BCFS a grant to purchase the apartment complex.
Current work is being done by Kerrville-based Anderson Steadham Construction, Inc., and will include sheetrock and air conditioning repair, as well as electricity updates, and upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms. Each unit will be able to house one young adult, or a single mother with her children.
“The apartments provide so much more than just a safe roof over our residents’ heads,” says BCFS Development Officer Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie. “The youth work with BCFS case managers to save money and create a transition plan to get out on their own. Renovating the units helps them take pride in the facility and ultimately in themselves.”
Tenants at the drug and alcohol-free facility are provided case management, counseling, and help with education and employment. For more information about BCFS’ work with youth in the Hill Country, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Kerrville or call (830) 896-0993.

BCFS Health and Human Services’ Abilene Transition Center and Our House receives $15,500 Community Foundation of Abilene Grant

The Community Foundation of Abilene has awarded $15,500 to BCFS’ Abilene Transition Center and Our House, which serve local youth aging out of foster care and those struggling with homelessness, poverty and other issues. The grant provides discretionary funds to be used for operational costs, transportation expenses and GED testing fees.

ABILENE — The Community Foundation of Abilene has awarded $15,500 to BCFS’ Abilene Transition Center and Our House, which serve local youth aging out of foster care and those struggling with homelessness, poverty and other issues. The grant provides discretionary funds to be used for operational costs, transportation expenses and GED testing fees.
The BCFS Abilene Transition Center provides youth with case management, counseling and assistance with education, employment and housing. Many of the youth have been removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect and spent time in foster care, or have been involved in the juvenile justice system. Other young adults make the center their “home away from home” to have a safe place to study after school, and mentors to keep them on the right path.
BCFS’ Our House provides young men struggling with homelessness a safe, stable living environment. Our House residents plug into services at the transition center to work towards self-sufficiency, finish high school or earn a GED, find a job, save money for their own apartment, and apply for college.
“The Community Foundation of Abilene is proud to support the tremendous work of BCFS Health and Human Services’ Abilene Transition Center,” said Community Foundation of Abilene President and CEO Katie Alford. “Local teens and young adults now have a resource that simply didn’t exist here, and it’s truly making a difference in our community.”
“It’s an honor and privilege to partner with the Community Foundation of Abilene to serve youth in need in the Big Country,” said BCFS Development Officer Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie. “The foundation continues to bless young men and women working with BCFS to become successful, contributing members of the Abilene community.”
For more information about the BCFS Abilene Transition Center, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Abilene or call (325) 692-0033.

BCFS’ International Arm Assists Sri Lanka Flood Victims

Heavy rains and flooding have affected about one million people in Sri Lanka, and killed 30 people with many others missing.The international arm of BCFS, Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), is sheltering and feeding flood survivors in Sri Lanka, where it operates foster care and child sponsorship programs.

BREAKING NEWS:

Heavy rains and flooding have affected about one million people in Sri Lanka, and killed 30 people with many others missing.The international arm of BCFS, Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), is sheltering and feeding flood survivors in Sri Lanka, where it operates foster care and child sponsorship programs.

Update from shelter: December 31, 2014

Photo: Men and boyWe thank our Almighty for today is a blessed day for us to give valuable service to people who are in need. Every parent was very comfortable to move in with other parents at the shelter. They spent their time talking and relaxing. Children were playing some indoor games and mostly spent time making friends. We provided meals. It seems they are happy to be here with us.
We also visited other homes to assess the damages from the flood. We asked the people what they needed, and listed out items that were damaged. I plan to gather and distribute items the families need next week.

Update: December 29, 2014

Photo: Room of peopleCERI Sri Lanka staff have been able to locate and account for all of our foster families and children. All families who lost their homes or whose homes are currently uninhabitable have been picked up by our personnel and are in a shelter provided by CERI. With the use of high-profile 4-wheel drive vehicles, food and water have been delivered to foster families who were able to stay in their homes but isolated due to  flood waters.

BCFS’ Emergency Management Division had a response team on standby to travel to Sri Lanka had it been necessary, but with the superb job CERI Sri Lanka staff is doing the response team has been ordered to stand down.

In the days ahead, CERI will begin assisting foster families who lost their homes with recovery. BCFS will continue to provide emergency funds as necessary to assist in these efforts. At the peak of the flood event, more than 100,000 people were reportedly evacuated.

“After they reached the shelter we provided lunch to them with immediate action. They ate happily. Lunch made them very emotional because they had not eaten properly since the flood.”      

CERI Sri Lanka National Director, Anita Ramesh

 

 

 

BCFS Names Wolpers to Lead New Parenting and Child Abuse Prevention Programs

BCFS has named Jeff Wolpers as Director of Community Based Services over its family-centric parenting education programs in Harlingen, called Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention & Early Support (HOPES) and Fatherhood EFFECT. In his new role, Wolpers will oversee the administration of these programs aimed at reducing child abuse and building strong families in the Harlingen community.

HARLINGEN – BCFS Health and Human Services has named Jeff Wolpers as Director of Community Based Services over its family-centric parenting education programs in Harlingen, called Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention & Early Support (HOPES) and Fatherhood EFFECT (Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow). In his new role, Wolpers will oversee the administration of these programs aimed at reducing child abuse and building strong families in the Harlingen community.
“HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT provide families with education and parenting techniques that can turn a chaotic household into a loving and peaceful one – all while helping meet the families’ most basic needs, like food and clothing, to alleviate some of the environmental stressors that can lead to child abuse or neglect,” said Ben Delgado, BCFS Executive Vice President – Community and International Operations. “Jeff’s experience in community-building and one-on-one work with families will be invaluable in the programs’ outreach.”
HOPES is a community-based child abuse and neglect prevention program for families with children younger than 5 years old. It provides parenting education, case management, crisis intervention, counseling and parent support groups.
The Fatherhood EFFECT  program is a parenting education course for households where a father figure is the primary caregiver for a child or children under 17 years old. The curriculum teaches families how to resolve conflict, improve communication, and overcome issues of aggression, alcohol and violence.
Both programs are offered in English and Spanish, and help participating families meet their basic needs like food, diapers, clothing, transportation and even childcare assistance. HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT are funded by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Before joining BCFS, Wolpers served as a supervisor for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. He has more than 20 years of experience in the operation and management of human service programs, including client advocacy, counseling and case management.
To request family support services or learn more about HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT, call (956) 230-3849.

Youth gather for a “Frozen” Christmas party hosted by  BCFS Health and Human Services’ San Antonio Transition Center

“Let it go,” from Disney’s “Frozen,” resonates with youth overcoming complicated pasts

Photo: Sunset Station

SAN ANTONIO – The BCFS San Antonio Transition Center hosted a Christmas celebration for youth in foster care, those who aged out of care, and other young adults overcoming issues like homelessness, poverty and abuse. Over 300 guests packed into Sunset Station on December 17th for the “Frozen” Christmas party, inspired by the hit Disney movie.

The youth received Christmas stockings stuffed with toys, ornaments and gift cards, and posed for photos with BCFS’ guests of honor – Santa Claus and Ana, Elsa and Olaf from “Frozen.” Guests enjoyed a Christmas feast with all the trimmings, and Christmas classics like hot cocoa.

“Christmas can be an especially difficult time for youth who have an unhealthy home life or lack a traditional family support system,” says Gayle Davis, BCFS’ Community Services Division Central Associate Executive Director. “Many of the youth we serve have been removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect. We work with them to overcome their past and build a bright future. Our Christmas celebration is the perfect time for BCFS and the San Antonio community to remind them they are loved and appreciated.”

Guests included youth who rely on transition center services, young adults who are alumni of the center’s programs, and BCFS’ community partners including UTSA, UT Teen Health, and Restore Education.

A group of nine youth gave a spirited performance of the “Frozen” theme song “Let it go,” belting out those now famous lyrics: “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all!”

The “Let it go” performers were decked out in costumes provided by Art 2 Heart, a youth leadership program, and hair and makeup services were provided by Career Point and the National Council of Jewish Women. Gifts and stockings for the youth were donated by Christian Family Church. Rosemary’s Catering donated the Christmas feast, and Williams’ Confectionary provided the dessert bar.

The BCFS San Antonio Transition Center is a safe-haven for local youth including those in and out of foster care, youth in the juvenile justice system, and other young adults struggling to transition to adulthood and independence. The center provides case management, counseling, mentorships, and assistance with education, employment and housing location.

For more information about BCFS’ San Antonio Transition Center, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/SanAntonio or call (210) 733-7932.

“Christmas Dreams” Come True for Lubbock Youth at BCFS Health and Human Services’ Lubbock Transition Center

Photo: Mom and babyThe BCFS Lubbock Transition Center hosted its 9th annual Christmas Dreams celebration this week for youth formerly in foster care and their children. At the party held Wednesday December 17th, the youth and their guests enjoyed a Christmas meal, a visit from Santa, and over 200 donated gifts were distributed to young people in need.
“There are many youth in Lubbock who aged out of the foster care system at 18 years old to find themselves alone and discouraged without a traditional family support system,” said Kami Jackson, program director for the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center. “For these kids, Christmas can be an unwelcome reminder that they don’t have family to turn to – but we believe every child should be able to open a gift on Christmas and be surrounded by folks that love them.”
At the Christmas Dreams party, 51 youth who are clients of the transition center received gifts, as well as 25 of those young adults’ children. A total of 228 gifts were distributed, donated by First Christian Church, Betenbough Homes, Superior Healthcare, Covenant Children’s Hospital, Cynthia Shrader, the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center Advisory Council, and other generous donors from the Lubbock community.
Every year, clients at the transition center create a wishlist of three gifts they’d like to receive, including one household item, one personal item like shoes or jeans, and a restaurant gift card. If the youth has a child of their own (as is common among young people who spent time in foster care), their children also receive three gifts each.
BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center is a one-stop-shop for youth in or aging out of foster care, those in the juvenile justice system, and others in need of a helping hand to make the transition into adulthood. The center provides case management, counseling, life skills training, and education and employment assistance. For more information about BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net/Lubbock.

Men’s Breakfast Speaker Hits It Out of the Ballpark!

Jimmy “The Rookie” Morris has lived a life of inspiration; which made him the perfect speakers for BCFS Health and Human Services’ annual Men’s Breakfast hosted in Kerrville.

The sky was dark and the air was crisp in Kerrville. The thoroughfares seemed empty, but the community turned out in a show of early morning support for BCFS Health and Human Services’ Kerrville Men’s Breakfast. The event, which raised funds to help complete the organization’s new Texas Hill Country Resource Center for children, youth and families, featured uplifting words from former Major League Baseball pitcher Jimmy Morris.
Morris was a high school baseball coach who preached to his team to always follow their dreams, and to be undeterred by naysayers.
There are two types of people: those that want to see you fail, and those that want to see you succeed. The people at BCFS want you to succeed,” he said to nearly 200 community and business leaders, supporters and youth as day broke in the Texas Hill Country.
Morris coached baseball at Reagan County High School in the 1990s in Big Lake, Texas, a west-Texas oil drilling community. When his team challenged him to follow his own message of never giving up on your dreams, they made a friendly wager: If his team won district, he would try out for the majors again, reigniting a dream extinguished ten years prior due to injury.
Believing in his own hard work and his grandfather’s encouraging words, Coach Morris gave the big leagues another shot and, at age 35, made his rookie debut as a starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. While his major league career only lasted a few years due to persistent tendonitis, , Morris became a living testament for having a can-do attitude and following your dreams. His memoir, The Oldest Rookie, led to yet another first – his Hollywood debut – inspiring the 2002 feature film “The Rookie,” starring Dennis Quaid.
Having fulfilled his dream of playing major league baseball, Morris returned to his passion of working with youth and inspiring others to live out their dreams. Thanks to Morris’ support, more than $31,000 was raised for the new BCFS center, which will impact the lives of thousands each year.