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.

Project HOPES hosts literacy event to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday

Mayor Pro Tem Esmeralda Lozano read a Dr. Seuss book to the childrenLA FERIA – The BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center’s Project HOPES program hosted a literacy event for local children and families at La Feria Public Library to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s 111th birthday. Over 50 children attended, and each took home a Dr. Seuss book courtesy of the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center.

The event, held March 28th in conjunction with the National Education Association’s Read Across America initiative, featured readings from several Dr. Seuss books in Spanish and English, plus a Truffula Tree-making class, face-painting, and gift bags for kids and parents.

Leaders from across the city attended the event in support of Project HOPES. La Feria Mayor Pro Tem Esmeralda Lozano read a book to the children, and Tabitha Outlaw, Special Event Coordinator for the City of La Feria, volunteered to help children make bookmarks. Commissioner Julian Guevara Jr. and Commissioner Olga Maldonado were also in attendance.

Photo: Children were given Dr. Seuss books and gift bags

“When a parent reads a book to their child, they’re not only helping them reach critical educational milestones, they’re strengthening the parent-child bond,” says BCFS Senior Program Director Jeff Wolpers. “Since the goal of Project HOPES is to help build healthy, stable families, we wanted to use the event to remind parents of creative, fun ways to build that bond, and also inspire a love of reading in children.”

Project HOPES is a community-based program for families with children five years old and younger that provides parenting education, support groups and counseling to help families overcome challenges. The program serves families in Cameron County and is funded by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

“We are grateful for the support of city leaders and the La Feria Public Library,” says Wolpers. “The whole community has embraced the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center and been so welcoming to us. We are here to serve this community and touch as many lives as possible, so we treasure these opportunities to bring some light-hearted fun to families.”

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His wildly imaginative stories have captivated young readers for decades, teaching values like responsibility, caring for the environment, and positive thinking. Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Horton Hears a Who are among his most popular works.

For more information about Project HOPES and the BCFS Harlingen Family Services Center, call (956) 230-3849 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HOPES.

# # #

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. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.