BCFS Celebrates “National Foster Care Month”

BCFS Health and Human Services’ Lifts Up Youth in Foster Care

May is “National Foster Care Month”

According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities and Kids Count Data Center, in 2014 there were more than 30,000 children in Texas’ foster care system. The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work’s Child and Family Research Institute has shown that foster youth, statistically, have poor educational outcomes, are less likely to finish high school, go to college or hold stable employment.
As the nation marks May as “National Foster Care Month,” BCFS Health and Human Services works daily to help young adults and youth in foster care grow toward independent adulthood and self-sufficiency.
At BCFS’ transition centers throughout Texas, 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. The organization focuses on offering a support system to youth in foster care that helps them grow into healthy, productive adults.
“These young people are in our community, and some have endured serious tragedies and challenges through no fault of their own,” say center directors. “Our mission is to help youth learn responsibility, seek and find opportunities and, ultimately, create a healthy, loving environment for themselves, their families and our larger community.
“What we offer at the center teaches them that everyone is important, and everyone can make a positive difference.”
BCFS also offers foster care services that connect youth with safe and loving foster homes. Adults who would like information about becoming a foster parent can call (210) 208-5629 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/FosterCare.
For more information about the BCFS’ transition centers, their programs or how to help, visit DiscoverBCFS.net.

April is “National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month”

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.

Youth in foster care becoming SUPER HEROES

Hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services’ San Antonio Transition Center

Photo: Girl speakingSAN ANTONIO – On Wednesday July 2nd, youth in foster care gathered at the University of Texas at San Antonio for the 15th annual Independence Day youth conference for workshops and informational sessions aimed at preparing them for adulthood and independence when they age out of foster care. The conference, hosted by BCFS’ San Antonio Transition Center, included a college and career fair, four experiential workshops showcasing positions in multiple career fields, and a youth panel of alumni to discuss “Life after Foster Care.”

“For many youth in foster care, aging out of the system can be a scary and uncertain time,” says Terri Hipps, executive director of BCFS’ Community Services Division. “Too often, when they turn 18 years old they’re on their own trying to navigate college, their first job or first apartment without the traditional family support system to lean on. Our annual conference helps equip them for that transition toward independence.”

Approximately 100 youth were in attendance, as well as volunteers and 16 of BCFS’ community partners including UTHSC-UT Health, Metropolitan Health District, and Alamo Community Colleges. The event was sponsored by the University of Texas at San Antonio, Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) Mexico Center, and Full Force Foundation.

Many of the workshops focused on inspiring youth to pick a career field and commit to working hard to find a good job. Professionals from the fields of healthcare, public service, arts and science came to discuss educational requirements and healthy expectations about joining the workforce.

“During the ‘Life After Foster Care’ panel, several youth who went through the system and emerged successful, spoke about their struggles learning how to stand on their own two feet after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home,” says Tramelle Jones, BCFS’ Texas Workforce Advocate who helps youth find gainful employment. “It inspired the youth to hear they can take control of their future, stay focused, and work hard to achieve their dreams.”

The theme for this year’s conference was “Become a Super Hero,” because according to Gayle Spencer-Davis, the associate executive director for BCFS’ Community Services Division, the youth need to “learn the super power of flying forward towards a successful future regardless of their past.”

BCFS’ San Antonio Transition Center serves youth in and aging out of foster care, as well as other young adults facing challenges like homelessness, poverty, or those recovering from physical and emotional abuse. The center is a “one-stop-shop” that provides youth counseling, case management, and assistance with education, employment, housing location and medical care.

To learn more about the BCFS San Antonio Transition Center, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net/SanAntonio.