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

es.

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 kathleen.maxwell@BCFS.net or call (830) 377-8061

Love Our Kids Family Day

Love Our Kids Family Day Entertains, Educates Community

Photo: Celeste with her daughter

SAN ANTONIO — Youth, families and community agencies convened on a brisk Saturday morning at the historic Woodlawn Gym for the fun-filled, carnival-like Love Our Kids Family Day on April 7. Sponsored by BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program, amid spirited balloon-stomping games, beanbag tic tac toe and some competitive 4-on-4 half court pickup basketball, a balloon-savvy clown molded latex sculptures for patient children mesmerized by her process, and focused artists produced superb caricatures and exquisite face make up.

Held in observance of April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, the event afforded community agencies the opportunity to spread their unique messages of wellness, success and independence to San Antonio families. From youth and women’s rights and advocacy to community health and self-care, the Love Our Kids Family Day brought together individuals and causes that uplift entire communities.

“Youth enrolled in our BCFS-San Antonio programs are often enrolled in programs with our partner organizations,” explained BCFS-San Antonio’s Interim Regional Director Kimberley Rodriguez.

Photo: Love Our Kids Day Participants

“Today is simply an opportunity for parents and their kids to have fun together, to share a little information about community organizations, and let community members know that we are here if they need us.”

Among the crowd of more than 50, Ms. Black Texas, Chaunice Holley, walked hand-in-hand with her four-year-old daughter, Madison, between booths, collecting information and playing the kid-friendly games. Holley, crowned Ms. Black Texas in January 2018, has chosen to share the BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio mission with the broader audience of Ms. Black Texas.

Photo: Chaunice Holley and Madison

“I identify with the youth, with what they are going through,” she said when asked why she aligned her Ms. Black Texas campaign with BCFS-San Antonio’s message.

“Adolescence is a difficult time on its own, and then add the complications of not having a stable home or family; I’ve been there.”

Holley recalled the struggles her single mother and siblings went through in Allentown, Pennsylvania, remembering how a mentor helped her find a path to success.

“I recognize that one person can make a difference,” Holley explained. “I had that one person, so I love to be that person for someone else.”

Photo: Boy shooting hoops

BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL program provides services to youth aging out of the foster care system to expand their skills and knowledge, strengthen self-confidence, create healthy community relationships and learn self-guidance. PAL provides transition services to better prepare young adults for emancipation.

Visit Discoverbcfs.net/PAL for information and visit our Facebook photo album for more photos.

Communities United Against Child Abuse

Proclamations Reaffirm Community Unity for Child Abuse Prevention

In observance of April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness month, BCFS Health and Human Services in Del Rio and Tyler, Texas, participated in citywide proclamations on Friday, April 6, to reaffirm, along with their respective communities, their commitment to work to eliminate child abuse.

BCFS-Tyler accepted an invitation to Smith County’s annual Proclamation Day hosted by the Tyler Independent School District at Mamie G. Griffin Elementary where Tyler Mayor Martin Heines signed the proclamation.

Carla McCalope, BCFS-Tyler Program Director, considers the agency’s participation in the event another opportunity to stand in solidarity with the youth BCFS-Tyler serves.

“On a daily basis we deal with youth who have been affected by child abuse,” McCalope says. “We are there in support of them, the ones that we serve, and also in memoriam of the ones who have lost their lives as a direct result of child abuse.”

For the first time, BCFS Health and Human Services-Del Rio hosted the Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Proclamation Day at the Val Verde County Courthouse. More than 100 blue pinwheels turned in the breeze on the courthouse lawn as U.S. Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas), Texas State Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevarez, Val Verde Judge Efrain Valdez and Del Rio Mayor Robert Garza, each signed congressional, state, county and city proclamations, respectively.

Proclamations will happen in communities across the country all month long as we observe April as National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.

Drug & Alcohol Abuse Awareness Event

Photo: Participants at Awareness Event

Nearly 25 teens aged 15-17 from the foster care system and those at risk of experiencing adverse, unstable circumstances took part in BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program’s No Day But Today drug and alcohol abuse awareness event. The event, organized by BCFS-San Antonio Program Director Deyanira Garcia, welcomed community organizations and the San Antonio Police Department to talk to youth about the pitfalls of drug and alcohol use and abuse, and how the phenomena can have dire consequences for more than just the user.

Garcia, who cultivates BCFS-San Antonio’s relationship with the Texas Workforce Commission to help youth prepare for entry into the workforce with job training, education, resume writing and applying for jobs in a way that is appealing to employers, organized the event in tandem with PAL to help prepare youth for making the right decisions when offered alcohol or drugs.

“Struggling with drugs and alcohol, unfortunately, is part of most of their lives,” Garcia says about the youth in attendance. “No Day But Today gives them access to a safe space to discuss the negative results that can happen from abuse.”

San Antonio DWI Task Force police officer Michael Thornton related how alcohol abuse has affected him personally; physically, mentally and emotionally.

“It’s not just your life that you’re screwing with if you’re out here drinking and driving,” Thornton said to the audience of teens and adults that included his partner, Officer Kimberly Kory. “It’s my life, it’s my partner’s life, it’s our families’ lives.”

Thornton remembered his friend and fellow officer Stephanie Brown, who was on duty when she was killed by a drunk driver in 2011 while he recovered from his own encounter with a drunk driver just two months prior. He recalled how in January of the same year, his late night help of a stranded driver on the highway shoulder ended when a drunk driver plowed through his patrol car, severing his right leg at the knee. He lifted his department-issued trousers to reveal a prosthetic limb while talking candidly about the multilayered and sweeping consequences of driving while intoxicated.

“He is now doing 16 years in the Texas Department of Corrections for intoxication assault on a public servant,” Thornton says of the individual who demolished his patrol car. “He has four kids that don’t see him anymore. His wife got a new boyfriend, and she never takes the kids up to see their daddy.”

BCFS-San Antonio community partners UT Teen Health, Chrysalis Ministries and J.O.V.E.N. joined No Day But Today to encourage the youth to learn more about each nonprofit agency’s programs and services that include health screenings, advocacy, and job and educational training.

Garcia would like to see the event happen annually as a way to reach youth with the message that there are people and places that can help them on their path to a stable and independent adulthood.

“I hope they see that they are not alone,” she says, “and that they know we are here to help them get past any issues they may be facing.”

BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL program provides services to youth aging out of the foster care system to expand their skills and knowledge, strengthen their self-confidence, create healthy community relationships and ultimately learn self-guidance. PAL provides transition services to youth ages 15 to 21 from the foster care system to better prepare young adults for emancipation.

Visit DiscoverBCFS.net/PAL for information.

A Sweet Ending To A Long Career

House Manager Petro Smith Retires from Breckenridge Village of Tyler

Photo: Petro Smith
Petro Smith with Kevin C. Dinnin, President & CEO

The BCFS System and the Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) family extends sincere congratulations and heartfelt appreciation to BVT House Manager Petro Smith on her retirement. For 11 years at BVT, Petro worked with a servant’s heart to make a loving, lasting impact on the lives of the residents she served as a House Manager.

Petronella Smith, or “Petro,” as she was fondly referred to for short, has a story that begins nine thousand miles away from Tyler, Texas, in Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa, where she grew up as the eldest daughter of Roelof and Anna Elizabeth Dercksen. She refers to her time growing up in South Africa as “the good ol’ days,” before television, when children spent hours playing outside. Her parents were poor, but Petro makes sure to mention that she and her siblings never lacked for anything.

“We grew up in a happy home,” Petro says. “We never went without and my dad’s pockets always had candy,” she says with a laugh. “We would have never known we were poor.”

Petro earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pretoria and a teaching certificate from the Teachers College in Pretoria in 1975.

“I taught grades 10 through 12,” she explains, “German, biology and my native language, Afrikaans.

After a nearly two decades-long teaching career, Petro traded in her classroom chalkboard for income statements, balance sheets and ledgers to help her husband, Johnnie’s, small accounting business. She also fondly recalls working as a caretaker for an elderly person who was confined to a wheelchair. Her interactions and experiences as a caretaker inspired Petro to create practical and fashionable garments designed to help her patient with the daily task of getting dressed.

Unfortunately, many negative changes were taking place in South Africa at that time, and she and her husband were contemplating a change of scenery when entrepreneur and fellow countryman Pierre DeWet suggested moving to the East Texas town of Tyler, where Pierre had several business interests and was in need of Johnnie’s accounting expertise. Petro and Johnnie decided to move the family to Tyler, Texas.

“We came to the United States in 1997,” Petro says. “The main reason; to get a better future for our four children.’
“Mission accomplished,” she says, thankfully. “By God’s grace, three of our four children are in the medical field, and our other son is a plumber.”

At BVT, Petro earned high regard for her sense of accountability and for her positive attitude. In 2007, she was working as a classroom helper in BVT’s Day Program. When an opportunity came up to be a House Manager, then-BVT Executive Director Jim Anderson personally encouraged Petro to take on the new role. Petro remembers taking time to pray about it before deciding to say “yes!”

John Dooley’s sister, Beth Ann, lives on the BVT campus in House One where Petro served as House Manager. For Petro’s retirement, John and his wife, Ann, traveled to Tyler to congratulate Petro on her retirement and to say “thank you” for her work with Beth Ann.

“She was the answer to our prayers. She is like family,” John says of Petro.

At her retirement celebration, Petro said what she loved most about her job at BVT was the unconditional love she received from the residents in her care.

“The world would be a much better place if people were more like the residents here at BVT,” she says. “There would be no wars or terrible things.
“There is just so much love,” she continues. “Every day is fun. I don’t consider it a job spending my time here, and getting a paycheck is just a bonus. They (the residents) are like my children.”

BVT Executive Director Steven Campbell introduced a video collage of residents and colleagues sharing their love and admiration for Petro. Judy, a BVT resident in the audience, could not hold back her tears, saying she was really going to miss Petro. When Campbell noticed Judy crying, he said it was evident Petro has made a lasting impact on the BVT community.

“Working with the residents is her passion,” Campbell says.

Linda Taylor, BVT Associate Executive Director of Advancement, and April Lanier, BVT Director of Residential Services, unveiled a cross decorated with beautiful pink roses that will adorn the BVT chapel wall in Petro’s honor, and gave Petro a crystal cross as a token of their love and admiration for her compassionate work with BVT’s residents.

Photo: Petro with BVT Residents
Petro embracing BVT residents

Though she is retiring from her responsibilities at BVT, the 66-year-old grandmother of five plans to stay busy. First thing on her agenda is a month-long trip back to South Africa to visit her mother. She will then indulge in some long-awaited family fun time with her granddaughters. Petro also plans to pursue her passion project; working with the elderly population to innovate products that can enhance their way of life in their golden years.

As a token of their appreciation for Petro, BCFS President & CEO Kevin Dinnin and BCFS Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer-Community, International & Residential Operations Asennet Segura presented her with a special retirement gift.

“She is an exceptional lady,” Dinnin said as he turned from the 200 gathered to address Petro, directly. “We are all honored to have worked alongside you, and we are thankful for your 11 years of dedicated service.”

Petro was clearly touched by the outpouring of love. She used her moment to deliver a message that spoke just as much of a commitment to service as it did of a woman who dedicated her career to helping others.

“It is not about me,” she said. “It’s about the residents.
“My time at BVT is, and shall always be, the highlight of my life on this earth,” she adds. “I am forever thankful to God for giving me this wonderful opportunity. God bless BCFS forever and ever.”

She thanked BCFS System leadership for their own commitment to helping those in need around the world. She thanked her BVT colleagues for their kind thoughts and for a decade’s worth of teamwork.

Congratulations, Petro and thank you! The BCFS System family wishes you a retirement of rest and new adventures!

BCFS Health and Human Services-Baytown Wins Patriotic Employer Award

Photo: Kenneth Williams accepting ESGR’s Patriotic Employer Award

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), A U.S. Department of Defense program, awarded BCFS Health and Human Services-Baytown’s Program Director Kenneth Williams the ESGR’s Patriotic Employer Award as an ally for his focus on hiring veterans and active reservists of the military.

BCFS-Baytown’s Administrator On Duty Pedro Martinez, an Air Force reservist, nominated Kenneth, who accepted the ESGR’s Statement of Support Certificate from ESGR-Texas Ombudsman Director George Nami at the BCFS-Baytown campus.

“It’s very important to hire and maintain a diverse employee pool that includes reservists and veterans,” says Kenneth. “Their commitment to our country says a lot about them. You can find great diligence and teamwork among these individuals, and these are key elements in accomplishing our goals.”

Kenneth has worked for BCFS Health and Human Services for more than a year. As Program Director in Baytown, he oversees the facility’s important operational details to ensure that each child entrusted to our care has their needs met on a daily basis. Kenneth is a Licensed Child Care Administrator and a Certified Assisted Living Administrator.

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.

Congratulations, Kenneth, and congratulations to BCFS-Baytown for their commitment to the employment of our nation’s real-life heroes, our soldiers and veterans.

Striking a Chord with Jackie

By Aubrey Parke and Leonard Favela

Featured in the 2016 annual BCFS together magazine

Photo: Jackie Boyer

Jackie Boyer loves to play the guitar. “I like that you can make it your own,” he says. “You can make it personal, you can make it unique. Whatever you do is really up to you.”

When Jackie came to BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene, he had dropped out of high school and experienced periods of homelessness. Four years after his first encounter with BCFS-Abilene, at the age of 21, Jackie is now gainfully employed, has his own apartment and is working toward a fulfilling career. Jackie’s story goes to show that in life – as in music – “whatever you do is really up to you.”

An Abilene native, Jackie entered the foster care system at age 14. A severe case of diabetes put his father in a nursing home, and the mental and emotional strain that placed on Jackie’s mother left her unable to raise her four children.

Jackie is the youngest in his family, with two older brothers and an older sister. Jackie was able to stay with one of his older brothers in a foster home temporarily, but they were separated when the brother aged out of the system. Jackie was later transferred to a new foster home.

When Jackie aged out of foster care, he struggled to stay on a stable path. For a while, he was homeless and had nowhere to turn. But things began to fall into place when he was accepted into Our House, a transitional living program operated by BCFSAbilene. Our House provides safe, comfortable housing to young men overcoming homelessness, while helping them save money, improve their life skills and prepare to move out on their own.

However, Jackie’s stay at Our House proved challenging for him and his housemates.

Jackie found it difficult to follow the house rules or stick to his Personal Transition Plan – a set of individualized rules and goals that helps each resident grow to self-sufficiency. When his hyperactive behavior disrupted the other residents, Jackie was asked to leave.

“It wasn’t until he found Our House, enjoyed how nice it was, and then lost it that he decided to take responsibility and overcome all the things that had been holding him back,” said Emily Cole, Regional Director for BCFS Health and Human Services. “He wound up on the streets again and said ‘I don’t want to do that again.’ It was a motivating factor for him to get it together,” said Cole. “Not every fairy tale ending comes with a picture-perfect road getting there.”

Although his time at Our House came to an early end, he remained actively involved in other BCFSAbilene programs, including the Texas Workforce Commission program which helped him define his career goals and advance his education.

“I got help with my schoolwork, they helped me get my GED,” Jackie says, “and they helped me write a résumé and find a job.”

Jackie landed a full-time position as desk clerk and bookkeeper for a local hotel, and soon was offered the opportunity to move into one of the hotel’s units built out as a small apartment. It’s become another step toward Jackie’s goals of independence and self growth.

When Jackie began a relationship with a young woman who was pregnant, Jackie, excited at the prospect of helping care for a newborn, joined the Fatherhood EFFECT program. Fatherhood EFFECT is a parenting education program operated by BCFSAbilene that teaches the characteristics of a good father, like discipline, masculinity and work-family balance.

Although the relationship, ultimately, did not work out, he says he completed the program “for his own personal gain” and learned valuable skills about decision-making and healthy communication.

Living independently, holding down a job and studying to earn his GED simultaneously proved to be a challenging combination for Jackie. Staying active in BCFS-Abilene’s programs was daunting with a jam-packed schedule, according to his case worker, Alexzandra Hust. But, he powered through the study sessions, long work shifts and weekly life skills workshops at BCFS-Abilene.

When he earned his GED in December 2015, Alexzandra and the BCFS-Abilene team were overjoyed. Soon after, they helped Jackie file financial aid and admissions applications for local colleges. He plans to study psychology at Cisco College.

Jackie’s experiences in foster care inspired him to choose a career field helping others.

“I plan to be a social worker working for Child Protective Services or Betty Hardwick, I haven’t decided which yet,” Jackie says. The Betty Hardwick Center provides mental health care for children and adults, residential services for people with developmental disabilities, and early childhood intervention services.

Today, Jackie still plays the guitar and plans to dabble in songwriting for an added creative outlet for self-expression. He doesn’t shy away from opportunities to share his story, and over the next few years, perhaps his song lyrics will be another window into the ups and downs of his personal journey.

“I have made some great memories at BCFS,” says Jackie, “and I will never forget the people I have met there over the years.”