BCFS Health and Human Services’ San Antonio Transition Center Programs Aim to End Child Abuse
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, last year more than 66,000 children in Texas were victims of abuse or neglect, and more than 17,000 were removed from their homes for their own protection. As the nation marks April as “National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month,” local BCFS Health and Human Services parenting education programs work to prevent child abuse year-round.
Every year, more than 2,000 families participate in parenting education programs, support groups and counseling at the BCFS San Antonio Transition Center. During a typical weekly family workshop, parents and caregivers are taught how to resolve stress, discipline children in a healthy way, and receive help accessing community resources. Classes include hands-on activities focused on positive parent-child communication, and intimate group discussions that help parents reaffirm their strengths and gain confidence. Free counseling is also offered to families in Spanish and English that includes a child abuse prevention training and crisis intervention.
Miriam Attra, BCFS Director of Community Based Services for San Antonio, believes educating parents is the key to stopping cycles of child abuse. “Oftentimes, parents in high-risk households treat their children the way their parents treated them, in some cases not knowing it’s actually abusive behavior,” says Attra. “But when we teach parents how to respond in difficult situations—like how to calm a toddler’s tantrum or bond with an impulsive teenager—they’re less likely to fall back on old, unhealthy habits.”
Parenting education and support groups are offered through Precious Minds New Connections, funded by the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, and Texas Families Together and Safe, funded by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Counseling and crisis intervention is provided through the Services To At Risk Youth program.
To connect directly with San Antonio families during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, BCFS participated in Fiesta de los Niños on April 18th, the official Fiesta event for children. Fiesta de los Niños featured a parade through Port San Antonio, games, rides and musical performances. Parent educators with BCFS’ child abuse prevention programs joined in the fun, parading down the street in true Fiesta fashion sporting hats they decorated themselves. BCFS’ parent educators will also attend the United Way Kids’ festival on April 25th.
Program Director Whitney Vela says joining Fiesta events is one way BCFS invites local families to participate in parent support groups. “When parents and caregivers come together at our support groups, they’re reminded that they’re not alone,” says Vela. “They can lean on BCFS and a network of other parents to learn how to create a safe and loving home environment. It really does ‘take a village,’ as they say, and BCFS works to build villages around folks that need support.”
In addition to parenting education, the BCFS San Antonio Transition Center serves youth in foster care and young adults struggling to transition to adulthood by providing case management, counseling, mentorships, and assistance with education, employment and housing location.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services urges community members to report suspected child abuse by calling 1-800-252-5400. Signs of abuse include unexplained injuries, aggressive or withdrawn behavior, a child’s fear of seeing their parents, and malnourishment.
For more information about BCFS’ San Antonio Transition Center and child abuse prevention, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/SanAntonio or call (210) 733-7932.