Jeff Wolpers Wins ‘Patriotic Employer’ Award

It’s humbling to think that someone you work with would take the time to nominate you for an award.

HARLINGEN, TX — Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), A U.S. Department of Defense program, awarded BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen’s Community Services Director, Jeff Wolpers, the ESGR’s Patriotic Employer Award as an ally for his focus on hiring veterans and active reservists.

BCFS-Harlingen’s Parent Educator, Rocio Medina, in the Project HOPES (Health Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support) parenting education program and a U.S. Army Reservist nominated Jeff, who accepted the ESGR’s Statement of Support Certificate from Jesus A. Rodriguez, the ESGR’s Area 3-Texas Chairman.

It’s humbling to think that someone you work with would take the time to nominate you for an award,” Jeff says, adding that he shares the award with his team.

The BCFS System, as an overall agency, is very supportive of our armed forces,” he says, mentioning that Rocio’s Parent Educator position is ready for her after a yearlong U.S. Army Reserves deployment in Egypt that began in January.

“Regina (Woolridge, BCFS System Human Resources Director) and Elizabeth (Engelke, BCFS System Benefits Specialist) were very helpful in walking me through the steps needed to preserve Rocio’s job for when she returns.”

Jeff has worked at BCFS-Harlingen since 2014, overseeing Project HOPES and the Fatherhood EFFECT program, another parent education program focused on fathers and building strong families in the Harlingen community. Jeff was also recently spotted at a monthly reading event for the community, where Jeff led story time and he and the Project HOPES team took part in some superhero costume craft making. For photos, click here, and for photos of Jeff’s ESGR award ceremony, click here.

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) was established in 1972 by the Department of Defense to promote cooperation between U.S. military reserve members and their civilian employers to help resolve conflicts that arise from an employee’s military commitment.

Visit for details about BCFS-Harlingen’s work in south Texas.

Congratulations, Jeff, and thank you for your commitment to community.

BCFS Spotlights: Valerie for Community Involvement

HARLINGEN, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Harlingen Clinician Valerie Nelson has been presented with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley’s (UTRGV) Dr. Emmette R. Hutto Outstanding Alumnus Award for her work in the community. Valerie is a recent UTRGV graduate who joined the BCFS Health and Human Services mission of service to others. Through BCFS-Harlingen’s Project HOPES parenting education program, she is building her community through her own education and experiences.

Project HOPES serves families who live in Cameron County who have children between the ages of 0-5. This year, HOPES has served 175 families through the SafeCare Curriculum, an evidence-based parent-training regimen and how-to guide focused on a child’s health and safety that is taught in the home. Since joining BCFS in 2016, Valerie has internalized the project.

Photo: Valerie Nelson

SafeCare is comprised of three separate modules — Parent-Child/Infant Interaction, Health, and Safety — that are each six sessions long. The goal (of HOPES) is to improve interaction between the parent and the child,” she says, “and to give information on ways to facilitate the bond between caregiver and child.

She continues, mentioning HOPES’ ancillary services like basic needs support, family assistance, and counseling that make the program more accessible in the community.

“Also, monthly, we do literacy events that incorporate face painting, and arts and crafts for the kids, and parents have the opportunity to pick up small but practical giveaways, like outlet covers and cabinet locks to make their home safer for their children.”

In addition to managing a six-member team of HOPES Parent Educators and Family Support Coordinators, and being designated a SafeCare coach who ensures fidelity to the curriculum, Valerie is one of two of HOPES’s Licensed Professional Counselors that provide family counseling when a family requests. “Our families face a number of stressors,” she says, “so it’s important that HOPES families have access to counseling professionals in the convenience and comfort of their homes.”

Paving the Way for Future Students

Valerie’s alma mater is the result of the University of Texas System’s decision to combine its UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American and the UT Regional Academic Health Center-Harlingen campuses. During the retool, UTRGV’s counseling program would need to reapply for accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Valerie helped the program succeed.

Part of the accreditation process includes information from the professors and the university, but a major component is the implementation of the program,” she explains. “I was interviewed as an alumnus and internship site supervisor. From those interviews with me and others, the CACREP panel was able to grant the accreditation to the program.

Even after earning her Master’s in counseling, Valerie stays engaged with her professors, crossing paths in a regional association of counseling professionals of which she is the treasurer. Her professors nominated her for the Hutto Award.

“Every two years, the association hosts a two-and-a-half day conference for professionals. They (professors) said they took note of the role I played in leading and organizing this year’s conference,” she says humbly. “I was completely surprised,” she adds about learning of her award. That Valerie has chosen a career path in the direct service of others grows from the example she has seen since she was young girl.
“My mother served in a political position for thirty years and my father was a paramedic,” she says. “At a young age, I was out in the community volunteering with local school organizations, church groups, and the Girl Scouts.“In college, I found counseling as a calling,” she says. “Helping individuals discover their own strengths and using those skills to improve the circumstances for themselves and their families…is indescribable.”

Congratulations, Valerie!

Visit HOPES for more information.

Graduates Celebrate at BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville

KERRVILLE, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville celebrated the recent high school graduations for three youth in foster care who achieved the academic milestone of a high school diploma. The intimate ceremony was organized by BCFS Health and Human Services’ Program Coordinator Deyanira Garcia and BCFS-Kerrville’s Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Advocate Kamaria Woods.

Photo: Kerrville Graduation

Graduation is a big deal,” explained Garcia, and we wanted to show them that their success is important.”

Two of the graduates, Danyela and Adianna, have their sights set on joining the armed forces, while Nathaniel hopes to turn his passion for gaming into a career in video game design.

Community partners H-E-B, Target, WalMart, AceMart, the Giving Bee Hill Country Quilt Guild, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Kerr County Child Services Board provided gifts for the graduates, and Kerrville’s Rails Café donated a meal for the ceremony.

Adianna told me that it means so much to her that we’re in her corner,” said Woods. It takes a village to raise a child.”

Congratulations to the graduates!

For pictures of the festivities, click here.

Visit for information about programs and services in the Texas Hill Country community

Breckenridge Village of Tyler’s April Lanier Earns Accolades

TYLER, TX — The BCFS System congratulates Breckenridge Village of Tyler’s Director of Residential Services April Lanier for her formal recognition by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Public Policy Research Center (PPRC) for her dedication and collaboration in the field of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As BVT’s Director of Residential Services since 2016, April manages the six homes on the BVT campus to ensure that residents’ needs are met and that BVT complies with state and federal guidelines for the Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with an Intellectual Disability (ICF-IID) programs.

Photo: April Lanier

Her work with the Public Policy Research Center involved gathering and sharing non-confidential information from observations and interviews with some of the BVT residents.

“The data we provided will be used by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services,” she says. “In the past, HHS has used similar data to improve the laws that govern the programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has also been used to show a need for more state funding for IDD programs and services.”

April arrived at BVT with an already-developed relationship with the PPRC.

When I made the move to work at Breckenridge Village of Tyler, I sent my updated contact information to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services so that I could continue to advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

While she considers her greatest reward the knowledge that she is providing the best care and advocacy for those we serve at BVT, she is sure to mention that she shares her success with her co-workers.

I could not do my job everyday if it were not for the residential team that stands by me,” she says. “I am so very thankful for their constant support and their devoted care of our residents here at BVT.

Congratulations, April, on the recognition, and for helping make BVT a leader in high-quality care for individuals living with intellectual and developmental challenges.

Visit for information about BVT.

Grant Awards for Healthy Start Laredo

LAREDO, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services’ Healthy Start Laredo (HSL) program earned grants from two philanthropic foundations for its work with mothers and mothers-to-be along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Enterprise Holdings Foundation and the March of Dimes have each awarded Healthy Start Laredo separate grants for specific initiatives in HSL’s array of programs and services.

The March of Dimes’ generous grant goes toward HSL’s impactful Becoming a Mom/Comenzando Bien program that provides free prenatal health education classes for expectant mothers to maintain and improve upon healthy pregnancies.

The March of Dimes is highly respected for its focus on maternal health and well-being,” says Araceli Flores, BCFS Health and Human Services-Laredo Associate Executive Director. “We acknowledge their teamwork and pledge to continue advocating for the cause of healthy mothers and their babies.

HSL will use the Enterprise Holdings Foundation’s grant to incentivize attendance to the Becoming a Mom program, providing cribs to the expectant mothers in the program that will help progress HSL’s safe sleep initiative.

“The initiative ensures that babies under the age of one year old have a safe sleep environment, being placed on a firm sleep surface by themselves and not sleeping in bed with others as many families are accustomed to due to lack of resources,” explains Flores. “Many of the families we serve in the colonias live entirely below the federal poverty level, and therefore do not have the means to purchase a crib.

The cribs will be given to those low-income families that have attended all nine sessions of the Becoming a Mom curriculum, received prenatal care in their first trimester, and attended all prenatal medical visits as indicated by the physician or practitioner.

Healthy Start is a nationally-recognized program of BCFS Health and Human Services that provides medical care and case management for women who are pregnant or raising a child under the age of two for the purpose of reducing infant mortality, preventing child abuse and assisting families in meeting basic health needs (nutrition, housing and psychosocial support).

Learn more about Healthy Start here.

BCFS-Abilene’s Project HOPES Sock Hops to Summer

ABILENE, TX — BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene hosted families from the Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support) parenting education program for its Sock Hop Summer Kick Off at the Grace Museum in Abilene.

The event welcomed the summer season at the Grace’s Rock n’ Roll Diner with root beer floats and nachos, and featured music from rock n’ roll’s 1950s heyday. Attendees also enjoyed the museum’s children’s arts and sciences-focused interactive space.

“We always have something fun going on,” BCFS-Abilene Program Director Stacy Lee smiles, adding that the museum’s focus on child engagement and learning complements HOPES’s own efforts toward building community through strengthening families.

Photo: Project HOPES

“The Grace Museum, with some of its interactive exhibits, is another great opportunity for parents and their children to learn in the same space,” she says. “It fits well with HOPES’s ideas of family and community.”

HOPES provides community-based programs for Big Country families with young children 0-5 years of age that help parents work through any barriers to a stable home environment. HOPES services include crisis intervention, parent support groups, basic needs support and transportation with flexible scheduling that allows families to attend regularly. HOPES promotes family and community through the concepts of early childhood education and child welfare and protection, and provides referrals to additional community family services like workforce assistance and financial literacy training.

At HOPES, we are engaging with families face to face to be able to get a glimpse of what they see daily,” Lee says. “We acknowledge that they want to be the best parents they can be for their children, and we‘re mutually thankful for the time we spend teaching and learning together.

Funding for BCFS Health and Human Services’ child abuse prevention programs is provided by the Prevention & Early Intervention Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. For more information, visit

BCFS Health and Human Services Trio Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary

BCFS Health and Human Services San Antonio Highway 90 Campus recently celebrated the 20-year anniversaries for staff members Lupe Fernandez, Susana Fernandez and Tony Hernandez on May 30. The three achieved the rare milestone in the dedicated and dutiful service to the youth and families in our care.

BCFS Health and Human Services Residential Services Regional Director-Central Texas Jesse Gutierrez presented each staff member with a BCFS Health and Human Services Certificate of Appreciation and a service award check.

These three individuals have made career-long contributions to the BCFS Health and Human Services mission,” Gutierrez says. “Our success here is a reflection of the detailed work they have delivered for the past two decad


For the youth entrusted to our care, each staff member has excelled in their specific role: Lupe Fernandez facilitates all volunteer services working toward routine and morale, Tony Hernandez meets custodial and maintenance needs, and Susana Fernandez works as a Direct Care Staff member.

Congratulations to Lupe, Susana and Tony, and thank you for your excellence!

Photo: Celebrating Years of Service

BCFS Health and Human Services Names New Regional Directors

BCFS Health and Human Services recently appointed two regional directors in North and Central Texas. Kimberley Rodriguez and Alanna Jeter have been named BCFS Health and Human Services Regional Director of Central Texas and North Texas, respectively.

As Regional Directors, the new leaders will oversee the operations of BCFS Health and Human Services Division programs for individuals in foster care, youth at risk of abuse, neglect or homelessness, and families in crisis. Each director will also grow relationships with other social services agencies within their communities to further augment the positive effects that BCFS Health and Human Services delivers to each region.Photo: Regional Directors Head shots

Each of the women has worked her way to her leadership position through varied channels. After a 20-year career in the United States Air Force, Rodriguez earned a Master of Social Work degree and began her profession in community service, while Jeter gained nonprofit sector experience with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and McMurry University in Abilene, Texas.


Both of these appointments arrive for these individuals with a broad range of responsibilities,” says BCFS Community Services Division Executive Director Celeste Garcia. “We encourage each director to use her resources to continue building strong communities through the individuals and families we serve.

BCFS Health and Human Services operates programs and services throughout Texas that work toward improving the circumstances of youth in foster care through case management, the pursuit of education, job training and placement, and identifying foster families. BCFS Health and Human Services’ parenting education programs also help families create safe, loving home environments.

Helping Moms in U.S. Border States Receive Care

LAREDO, TEXAS — On the heels of National Women’s Health Week (May 13-19), BCFS Health and Human Services (BCFS HHS) hosts a Women’s Health Fair on May 31 from 9am- 1pm at the Rio Bravo Community Center in Rio Bravo, Texas. Free medical services will be offered to new and expectant mothers to monitor and improve their health and well-being.

The health of mothers and their babies begins in the earliest stages of pregnancy and even before becoming pregnant,” said BCFS System President & CEO Kevin Dinnin. “By connecting them to quality care as early as possible in the first trimester of their pregnancy, we may be able to reduce or even eliminate some of the risks of poor pregnancy outcomes for women and infants.

Map showing locations of Border States CoIIN Partners

Border States CoIIN Map – Long Description Available

Funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as part of the Infant Mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) initiative, BCFS HHS is the Texas Lead for the Border States CoIIN, which brings together key partners working in US-Mexico Border communities with some of the lowest rates of early and adequate prenatal care in the nation. Under the Border States CoIIN, a network of local teams from Imperial County, California; Santa Cruz County, Arizona; Doña Ana County, New Mexico; and Val Verde County, Texas, are designing innovative strategies to increase first-trimester prenatal care by 10% by 2020.

Teams from each state are holding “design sprints” for their innovations and will receive funding for 18-month demonstration projects to pilot successful prototypes. Proposed prototypes include:

  1. Prenatal walk-in appointments to reduce appointment scheduling delays in New Mexico;
  2. Mobile phone-based reminders for well-woman and prenatal care that link to electronic medical records to facilitate ongoing relationships with doctors in Arizona;
  3. Training nurses who will conduct free pregnancy tests to educate women and screen them to fill gaps in support and care in Texas; and,
  4. Creating a binational network in California of trusted prenatal care providers to track care received on both sides of the border.

Photo:Helping Moms

“Teams are thinking about scalability from the start,” says Katherine Selchau, Border States CoIIN Project Director.

“The goal is to disseminate and scale innovations that demonstrate measurable improvements across the region and beyond.”

National Day of Prayer Breakfast – Kerrville

BCFS Health and Human Services-Kerrville
National Day of Prayer, Kerrville, Texas
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The BCFS System leadership has elected to host and sponsor a community breakfast in Kerrville in support of the 2018 National Day of Prayer. Created in 1952 and signed into law by President Truman, the National Day of Prayer is an inspiring way to bring people of all faiths together to pray and mobilize with a common focus.

Time: Coffee and music beginning at 7:00 a.m.
Where: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church – Tucker Hall
321 St. Peter’s Street, Kerrville, TX
Theme: Bringing our Community together in honor of National Day of Prayer
Menu: Steak, Eggs & More!
Catering by Rails

Please RSVP by April 26, 2018 to or call (830) 377-8061