BCFS’ McAllen Transition Center Expands to Serve Youth and Families

Photo: Young woman ringing Job Bell

MCALLEN – Whenever a teen or young adult at the BCFS McAllen Transition Center gets a job, they get to ring the “Job Bell” to the sound of cheers and applause from staff. After hosting a Career Education Workshop last week for local youth looking for employment, the BCFS team is looking forward to a lot of bell-ringing.

The BCFS McAllen Transition Center serves local youth and families in need, providing assistance with education, employment and housing location, lifeskills courses, and parenting education.

BCFS opened the transition center in 2012 to help youth aging out of foster care prepare for independent living, but the facility has seen rapid growth and now also provides child abuse prevention programs, rehabilitation for youth in the juvenile justice system, parenting support groups, and services for any youth struggling with poverty, homelessness or a turbulent home life.

Serving about 200 people each month, the center quickly outgrew its office space. Their team of case managers, facilitators, mentoring coordinators and family educators has tripled in the past year. Renovations were completed last month to accommodate new staff, and create more room for family counseling sessions and mentor meetings.

BCFS hosted an Open House Friday, January 23 inviting community leaders and other non-profits to tour the newly-renovated space and learn about their services. Representatives from BCFS’ community partners attended, including the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Tropical Behavior Center, Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary, RGV Play Therapy Center, and the Ramirez Center probation officers.

At the Career Education Workshop hosted by BCFS this month, young men and women in foster care and youth overcoming a past of criminal activity gathered to learn how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview, as well as complete a career inventory to assess what line of work suits them best.

“The youth we serve – like all teenagers – need to feel loved and supported,” said Marissa Cano, BCFS McAllen Transition Center Program Director. “Many of them were removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect and put in foster care. If they aren’t adopted, they age out of the system at 18 years old without a family. This lack of stability and accountability led some to make poor choices, but we help them overcome the trauma that makes them act out and work hard for a brighter future.”

This month, BCFS also hosted a seminar on AIDS awareness and sexual health in collaboration with the Valley AIDS organization.

“Our goal is to convey to our youth the importance of making smart choices when it comes to health and safety, and to connect them to resources that support these choices,” said Deyanira Garcia, case manager at the BCFS McAllen Transition Center.

About 950 families have graduated from BCFS’ parenting education program, which is aimed at reducing child abuse by teaching parents how to resolve conflict, improve communication, and deal with behavioral problems. Participating families meet weekly at the center or local schools, and receive childcare, transportation and necessities like food, diapers and clothing.

For more information about the BCFS McAllen Transition Center, call (956) 630-0010 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net/McAllen.

Parent support groups in Kerrville improve family communication and offer summer fun giveaways

In every parent’s mind there runs a continuous ticker of nagging questions, like how do I get my teenager to follow curfew, do their chores, or be kind to their siblings? Or what will make my young child act appropriately in public, stop interrupting, or do their schoolwork? Some parents call friends or family for advice, others search the internet for parenting tips – but some local moms and dads are turning to new support groups that use an evidence-based curriculum and strategies to answer their questions.

These free parenting support groups aimed at strengthening families, called Texas Families: Together and Safe (TFTS), meet weekly to discover how to improve communication, manage stress and resolve conflict within the family. The groups are led by BCFS Health and Human Services’ Kerrville Transition Center.

“Every parent wants to see their child succeed in their education, personal relationships and overall well-being, and many parents look for ways to improve their skills so their child can truly excel,” says Terri Hipps, executive director of BCFS’ Community Services Division. “The moms and dads who participate in our groups learn a lot from one another’s experiences, gain confidence and see that they’re not alone in the struggle to maintain a loving, nurturing home environment.”

Program participants are included in drawings to win prizes that include an Xbox One gaming console worth $500, and assorted packages worth $150 each including a Samsung Galaxy Tab Lite, a Samsung digital camera and digital frame, and a family gift bag of games and movies. Door prizes including gift cards are given away weekly at each group meeting.

“Too often it can be a thankless job to raise a family. So we want to reward families who take the initiative to participate in the meetings by offering prize giveaways that help family members come together for fun, bonding experiences,” says Hipps.

BCFS’ Kerrville Transition Center serves local youth, helping them transition to adulthood and independence by providing case management, counseling, mentorships, assistance with education, employment and housing location, and transitional living apartments. Youth served at the center are in the foster care system, juvenile justice, or at-risk of issues like poverty, homelessness or dropping out of school.

In recent years the transition center rapidly outgrew its small facility, so in early April community leaders gathered on Main Street to break ground on a brand new 20,000 square foot building set to open in early 2015. The new center, named the BCFS Health and Human Services Hill Country Transition Center, will house five non-profits and is expected to serve more than 4,000 children and families annually.

For more information about parent support groups through BCFS’ Kerrville Transition Center, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Kerrville or call (830) 928-9267.

To support the work of the transition center by donating, contact Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie at (830) 896-0993, give securely online, or send checks to 1105 East Main Street, Kerrville, Texas 78028.