Youth from Foster Care Gather at the State Capitol

San Antonio, Corpus Christi and McAllen youth converge on State Capitol

Photo: BCFS Youth

Aproximately 20 youth and staff from several BCFS Health and Human Services sites joined more than 300 youth from Texas’ foster care system at the State Capitol for Youth In Action Capitol Day. At each of Texas’ biannual legislative sessions, Texas Network of Youth Services’ (TNOYS) organizes the trip for youth to show their support for bills pertinent to the foster care system and the struggles of former foster youth.

Youth from BCFS Health and Human Services have participated in Youth In Action Capitol Day during every Texas legislative session since 2005. TNOYS provided youth an overview of the timely issues that impact youth in foster care during Youth in Action Capitol Day, among them the need for high-quality, trauma-informed foster care services, and added support services for youth as they transition to adulthood. The young men and women who traveled to the capitol were awarded a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the mechanics of the democratic process.

“Youth in Action Capitol Day gives our youth an opportunity to learn about the legislative process and policymaking,” says Deyanira Garcia, Program Director for BCFS-McAllen’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). “It’s at the state capitol where all the decisions that affect all Texans are made, and it’s a chance for them to have their voices heard by the people that make those decisions.”

Garcia and BCFS-McAllen PAL Coordinator Melissa Gonzalez accompanied four youth from BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen to Austin for Youth In Action Capitol Day.

“These four youth were selected to participate in the event because they have shown great strides in school and work,” explained Garcia. “They took it very seriously and were excited to share their thoughts about their foster care experience.”

In preparation, the youth from BCFS-McAllen made posters displaying heartfelt quotes about their personal challenges faced in the foster care system. The posters were displayed at the Youth Voice Matters Rally on the steps of the Capitol, a powerful show of strength of the young men and women’s collective voice. One such poster held high at the event read: “Every child has a right to normalcy, happiness, and a prosperous future. It’s our job to weaken those oppositions that they face,” signed simply, “Hugo,” a young man served by BCFS-McAllen.

“The youth also worked on a brochure for the event’s Visual Showcase that highlights the need for a transitional center in the Rio Grande Valley, Medicaid concerns and the scope of schools covered by the tuition waiver program,” Garcia said.

Youth in foster care are eligible to receive a state-supported tuition waiver if they choose to attend college or vocational school.

Youth from BCFS Health and Human Services locations in McAllen, Corpus Christi and San Antonio attended Youth in Action Capitol Day. Each of these locations serves youth in foster care, those who have aged out of foster care, and those struggling with poverty, homelessness or an unstable home life. Youth rely on the centers for case management, life skills workshops, and help with education, employment and housing location. BCFS Health and Human Services operates six youth centers across Texas, as well as other locations in Del Rio and Harlingen that serve at-risk families.

Kerrville Celebrates the Grand Opening of the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center

Photo: BCFS Resource Center building

It was standing room only today at the celebration to mark the grand opening of the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center. The 20,000 sq. ft. facility on Main Street is the cornerstone of the city’s non-profit block, offering comprehensive, “one stop” services to local children, teens, young adults and families in need.

The event was hosted by BCFS and featured Kerrville family physician and longtime BCFS board member Dr. David Sprouse as the master of ceremonies, entertainment by the Tivy High School Marching Band and lunch catered by Don Strange. The celebration also included a dedication of the building in honor of Babs Baugh, a passionate advocate for children’s causes, who was named “BCFS Chairman of the Board Emeritus.” Dr. G. William (Bill) Nichols, a nationally recognized artist who lives in the Hill Country, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Baugh that was unveiled following the ribbon cutting ceremony and will hang in the building’s entryway.
For years, Sandy Cailloux dreamt of creating a non-profit block of community organizations where, together, agencies could leverage their combined talents, resources, passion and compassion to generate a powerful force for good. Nearly four years ago, The Cailloux Foundation, who had been a longtime supporter of the transition center model operated by BCFS Health and Human Services, launched a $500,000 challenge grant to build a new center.
The facility will now house several area non-profit organizations, including Art2Heart; BCFS Health and Human Services; Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, Inc.; Families & Literacy, Inc.; Goodwill Industries of San Antonio; Hill Country Ministries, Inc.; and New Hope Counseling. BCFS Health and Human Services’ transition center will also offer free space to organizations on a daily, weekly, monthly or as needed basis; making important resources efficient and easily accessible, without duplicating services already available in the community.
“Today, the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center stands tall as a beacon of hope and healing for anyone needing help. It offers efficient access to critical resources for those who are struggling; bolsters the community’s ability to quickly intervene during crises; and instills a strong sense of personal responsibility in youth and families by creating an environment of accountability for turning their lives around,” stated BCFS President Kevin C. Dinnin.
The center is open to anyone in need, including youth in and aging out of foster care, as well as other young adults struggling with homelessness, poverty, truancy and substance abuse. Under a single roof, individuals have access to counseling, case management, literacy and educational support, job training and placement with local businesses, housing location and more. The center also offers programs that strengthen families, providing parenting support groups and classes that help open communication and teach innovative, healthy ways to set boundaries and discipline; as well as creative art therapy and counseling for individuals of all ages.
For more information about BCFS’ work in the Hill Country, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Kerrville or call (830) 896-0993.

BCFS in Kerrville Receives $170,000 Grant from Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation

Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation Donates $170,000 to Furnish New BCFS’ Texas Hill Country Resource Center and Apartments

BCFS Health and Human Services has received a $170,000 grant from the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation to help furnish its Texas Hill Country Resource Center and youth apartments.
The new BCFS Texas Hill Country Resource Center, set to open later this year, will be the cornerstone of Kerrville’s non-profit block, offering a variety of programming and services through several area non-profits that will be headquartered in the 20,000-square-foot structure.
BCFS’ transitional living apartments provide housing to youth aging out of foster care, and other young adults struggling with homelessness. Updates to the apartment complex began earlier this year, including kitchen and bathroom upgrades. In 2008, the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation donated $100,000 to help turn the original complex into apartments for BCFS youth.
“The trustees of the Perry & Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation are proud to play a part in the development of the BCFS Texas Hill Country Resource Center and the apartments,” said Laurie Milton, Executive Director for the foundation. “The primary focus for Mr. & Mrs. Stevens was helping at-risk youth. The apartments will provide stable housing for youth who are emancipated from foster care.  The numerous nonprofits that will be located in the Resource Center will provide an environment of services for struggling families in the community. We are excited to participate in this new venture in our community.”
In addition to housing the many BCFS Health and Human Services programs, Art2Heart, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Families & Literacy, Inc., Hill Country Ministries and New Hope Counseling have signed on as tenants in the new building. Space is still available at the center for other community-based non-profit agencies.
“We are grateful for the continued partnership of the Perry and Ruby Stevens Charitable Foundation,” said Brenda Thompson, BCFS director in Kerrville. “With this grant, we are one big step closer to opening our doors later this year and welcoming youth and families in need, plus all our community partners, into a top-notch facility our whole community can be proud of.”
“The BCFS Texas Hill Country Resource Center not only offers clients the convenience of finding an array of services in one place, but the close proximity of the agencies working in the new center will also help them work more efficiently,” says BCFS Development Director Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie. “Collocating under one roof will encourage communication; ensure non-duplication of services; and leverage the talents and resources of each non-profit to effectively address the needs of each child and family.”
The transitional living apartment complex is a drug- and alcohol-free facility consisting of eight units, with one unit reserved for a resident advisor. Tenants must be transitioning out of the foster care system or be receiving case management from BCFS in order to be eligible for residency. BCFS works with tenants to help them gain independence by providing job placement services, counseling, and help getting into college or trade school.

BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center Receives Nearly $9,000 from Local Organizations

Community Partners of Lubbock, the Lubbock Area Foundation and the Junior League of Lubbock have together awarded nearly $9,000 to BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center for special programs that celebrate academic achievement and positive decision making by youth and young adults served at the center.Community Partners of Lubbock has pledged $4,750 in support of the center’s annual “Hope Chest” event, which honors local youth in foster care who are graduating from high school and college. After a celebratory luncheon, graduates receive Target gift cards and head out with transition center staff and volunteers for a shopping trip where youth purchase household items for their new dorm rooms or apartments.

The Lubbock Area Foundation granted the center $2,950 for emergency funds as well as support for the “Court Improvement Project,” a partnership with Judge Kevin Hart, Judge Kara Darnell and the South Plains Foster Care Court that boosts youth attendance and participation in their foster care court hearings. Through the project, court hearings are held in the less-intimidating, more-relaxed atmosphere of the transition center. Since the program started, attendance and participation has increased significantly, and youth report being more satisfied with the outcomes and creative collaboration with case workers and family members.

This is the second grant from the Foundation in support of the Court Improvement Project.

The Junior League of Lubbock awarded $1,200 to BCFS to support its monthly “Alumni Nights” at the Lubbock Transition Center. Alumni nights invite young adults who have aged out of foster care to the center for dinner, fellowship and an opportunity to share big news, such as new jobs, graduation or the birth of a child.

“We are extremely honored and thankful to receive these grant awards,” said Kami Jackson, BCFS Lubbock Transition Center director. “Community Partners of Lubbock, the Lubbock Area Foundation and Junior League all work to invest in the future of our community, and their recognition of the center shows that they believe in the good work we do for Lubbock’s youth.”

BCFS’ Lubbock Transition Center provides services for youth in, and aging out of, the foster care system and those at risk of homelessness and other challenges. The center provides youth with case management, counseling, and assistance with education, employment and housing. Many of the youth served by the center spent time in foster care or 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.

The Whole Community is Needed for Mental Health Recovery

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 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.

“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.