On Thursday, November 12, BCFS Health and Human Services brought Kerrville men (and women) together at the third annual Men’s Breakfast, featuring a classic car show, pro-football player, live music and steak and eggs – all to benefit Hill Country youth and families in need.
Tyrone Smith, former NFL defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers and former Baylor University Cornerback and Team Captain, led the keynote address entitled Know Your Purpose. The Tivy High School varsity football team was among the 220 guests. The George Eychner Quintet performed while guests perused a classic car show at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. A hearty steak and eggs feast was on the menu as well, catered by Rails.
Several youth from foster care and the juvenile justice system who are in BCFS Health and Human Services’ programs attended the breakfast to personally thank donors and sponsors for their support.
The breakfast raised more than $30,000 to benefit Kerrville youth and families served by BCFS Health and Human Services. Major sponsors for the breakfast included Trade Mark-Carrier, JM Lowe, Kerrville Public Utility Board, Family Practice Associates and Camp Mystic.
“When we provide young men and women with educational and economic opportunity, and serve as a stabilizing force in their tumultuous lives, it’s good for our entire community,” said Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie, development director for BCFS Health and Human Services. “The men and women who enjoyed breakfast with us are part of that stabilizing force for the next generation in the Hill Country.”
BCFS Health and Human Services helps youth from the foster care and juvenile justice systems; families with young children and teens; and young adults struggling with homelessness, poverty, substance abuse and unemployment. The organization provides counseling, education and housing assistance, mentorships, case management, parent support groups, child abuse prevention programs, and life skills trainings.
“We are so proud to be part of a town that sees value and potential in each and every life. It’s wonderful to see time-and-time again how invested our community members are in making sure we reach out our hands to help everyone who wants to work hard to reach their dreams – regardless of the challenge,” said Brenda Thompson, BCFS Health and Human Services’ local director.
For more information about BCFS’ work in the Hill Country, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Kerrville or call (830) 896-0993.
BCFS Health and Human Services has named Celeste Garcia as Executive Director of its Community Services Division. In this role, Garcia will oversee BCFS’ community-based operations, which offer services in every Texas county ranging from case management and counseling, to life skills trainings, parenting classes, college and vocational tuition vouchers for youth in foster care, shelter for young adults struggling with homelessness, and more. Garcia will assume this role on November 1.
Garcia currently serves as Associate Executive Director of BCFS’ Residential Services Division where she oversees foster care, adoption, post release and home study programs, with annual budgets totaling $16.5 million. Garcia also serves as a key liaison between BCFS and its government partners at the federal, state and local level, ensuring compliance, quality assurance, and positive program outcomes for the children, youth and families served.
Under Garcia’s leadership, BCFS’ regional offices across the country continually receive high rankings from federal partners and third party advocacy groups that laud the organization for consistently delivering critical services for children and families in need with exceptional speed, scalability, and quality.
“Celeste is a dynamic leader who invigorates her team and delivers top notch programming,” said Asennet Segura, BCFS Chief Operating Officer. “I know she will not only strengthen our current programs, but also be key in leveraging BCFS locations in other states across the nation to expand our agency’s reach to more children and families in need.”
When she served as National Program Director of BCFS’ Post Release and Home Study Services, Garcia spearheaded the opening of regional offices strategically located around the nation to serve children and families reunited after a separation that sometimes spanned years. Garcia has worked closely with the U.S. departments of Justice, Homeland Security and key international diplomats to ensure BCFS’ operations filled gaps for unmet needs, and exceeded contract requirements.
“Throughout her tenure at BCFS, Celeste has maintained a laser focus on a singular, critical mission: ensuring the best quality placements and environments for children and youth in our care,” said Kevin Dinnin, BCFS President.
Garcia has 14 years of experience advocating for children and families. She earned her Masters of Science in Social Administration at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
BCFS Health and Human Services’ Community Services Division operates centers across Texas that serve youth from the foster care system, teens struggling with homelessness, poverty or a history of abuse, youth in the juvenile justice system, and families. At BCFS centers, youth receive case management, counseling, and assistance with education, employment and housing. Parent support groups and parenting education programs educate families on how to improve communication, resolve conflict, and create a stable, safe home environment for their families.
May is “National Mental Health Awareness Month”
Jessica was ten years old when she realized her mother was in danger. Whether across the dinner table, down the hallway, or in her parents’ bedroom, she would watch in stunned silence as her father launched into verbal and, oftentimes, physical attacks on her mom. Then, she’d run into her little brother’s room where she could lock the door and hold her hands over his ears to try to muffle the screams. When the police finally came to arrest her father, she ran again; this time away from the social worker sent to retrieve Jessica and her brother, and place them in a new home.
Traumatic events affect people differently. For children especially, encounters with abuse or neglect can have a profound influence that, if unchecked, can adversely affect their mental health and relationships with others for the rest of their lives. In fact, according to Child Advocates of San Antonio, children in foster care experience mental illness at a rate of almost 30 percent greater than the average population of children. Additionally, youth in foster care are less likely to receive adequate treatment and services to address their mental health issues.
Counselors and caseworkers are not only the triage team, but also part of the recovery. These professionals play a crucial role in going beyond meeting children’s basic needs, delving into complex issues that can range from violent learned behavior, to substance abuse or even severe psychiatric issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.
Trauma-informed care is today’s gold standard for working with youth in foster care. This methodology helps youth identify and articulate how past and present issues are affecting them. A safe environment, trusting rapport and careful listening helps counselors and caseworkers recognize mental illness and take quick action to address feelings that could prevent a youth from achieving success in school or at work, or trauma that could lead a youth to harm themselves.
Of course there’s no magic blueprint for identifying and overcoming mental illness. While counselors and caseworkers are the triage team, the entire community needs to be part of the recovery.
As May marks both “National Foster Care Month” and “National Mental Health Awareness Month,” BCFS Health and Human Services encourages all those in our community to be more attentive and sensitive to children whose misbehavior or strange actions may in fact be outcries from trauma. Connect children and families to organizations where they can get professional mental health support.
Together, we can improve the wellness of our entire community and prevent more innocent children like Jessica from suffering from mental health issues.
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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. At BCFS transition centers, local youth in and aging out of foster care and those at risk of homelessness, poverty or other challenges have ”one-stop” access to case management, counseling, mentoring, educational opportunities, employment connections, housing location and legal service – all free of charge.
Formal programs focus on equipping young adults with “real life” knowledge and skills, such as interviewing for a job, balancing a checkbook, healthy decision making, choosing a career path, teen pregnancy prevention and the consequences of being sexually active.
BCFS Health and Human Services has named Victoria Perez as Director of Community Based Services – Corpus Christi. In this role, Perez will oversee all programs administered through the organization’s Corpus Christi Transition Center, which provides resources and services for youth in and aging out of foster care and others who need assistance transitioning into “life on their own,” as well as families.
Perez joins BCFS with more than 20 years of managerial experience in the health and human services field. Throughout her career, Perez has served in several roles, overseeing and delivering important services to those in need, while also meeting and exceeding rigorous regulatory and professional standards.
Perez has been recognized by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for her contributions in the care of offenders with medical or mental impairments, and by Texas Christian University for her work in HIV research. She holds a master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and is working toward a doctorate degree in Educational Psychology.
“Victoria is a compassionate and dedicated leader who knows what ‘right’ looks like,” said Ben Delgado, BCFS Executive Vice President – Community and International Operations. “Her energy and expertise are going to be key assets as we look to not only strengthen, but expand our services and partnerships in Corpus Christi.”
BCFS’ Corpus Christi Transition Center provides resources and services to youth between the ages of 14-26, with the aim of growing their skills and knowledge, strengthening self-confidence, creating healthy community relationships and learning positive self-guidance. Most of the youth served by the center have spent time in the foster care or juvenile justice system, or have battled issues like homelessness, substance abuse or truancy.
The center also offers parent education programs that show families how to resolve conflict and improve communication; improve children’s behavioral problems; as well as deal with complicated issues like strong emotions, aggression, alcohol and violence. Parents who participate in the program may receive other valuable services including free childcare, transportation assistance, and help receiving essentials like food, baby items and clothing.
The 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.