Adoption Days Are The Best Days

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BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Foster Care and Adoption Program Call (210) 208-5629 or visit DiscoverBCFS.net to learn how you can build your “forever family”

BCFS Health and Human Services has celebrated hundreds of joyful Adoption Days, building loving families across Bexar County.

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A House Full of Treasures: A Visit To The Goulet Family Home

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From the long, winding driveway, the Goulet family home looks perfectly serene, nestled in the Texas Hill Country. But step inside their expansive estate, and the quiet country scenery gives way to the joyful commotion of children running, playing and giggling.

Mrs. Jill Goulet sits in the family room, recalling when she and her husband, Denis, contemplated their journey to their fulfilling, exciting lives as foster and adoptive parents with BCFS.

“Six years ago, on the very day we got licensed (as foster parents), we got a call for an emergency placement of a six-week old infant that was being discharged from the hospital. That was Nathan.”

Over the course of just five years, the Goulet family took in six children from foster care, and adopted each of them into the family.

The Goulets welcomed Nathan in September 2010. A month later, two-and-a-half year old Judy joined the family as the second foster child. In November 2011, the family fostered Brian and Katie, a sibling duo, and in March 2015, welcomed the sisters, Autumn and Summer.

A Prayerful Beginning

“We always wanted a big family,” she admits. “My husband comes from a family of nine, I come from a family of five.”

They couple shared how they turned to the Lord for guidance when they struggled with infertility issues.

“We started praying about it, and we felt like God was putting it on our hearts to adopt kids,” Mrs. Goulet says. “Family can look different, and a lot of different situations can be considered ‘family.’”

The Goulet Kids

Today, the first child the Goulets adopted, Nathan, at six years old, is the youngest, along with Katie, also six. Brian and Autumn are both seven, Judy is eight, and Summer, at 10, is the big sister. All at once, all six children bound into the Goulet homestead each day at around 3:20 p.m. The calm, quiet household transforms into a bustling scene as Mrs. Goulet quickly adapts from willing interviewee to attentive mom, lovingly tending to each child as they approach her with updates from school, questions about snack time, the dinner menu and the family pet. It’s beautifully frenetic; it’s family.

Brian, the most talkative, is excited about a toy snake he won at school. “His name is Slinky, because he can do this,” as he bounces the swirled rubber toy off the table.

As the kids hear mom begin to talk about family trips, Summer mentions past destinations Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan, Disneyworld and Niagara Falls. Nathan adds excitedly, “and Meemaw’s house!” — Mrs. Goulet’s mother in Pennsylvania.

It’s evident: this energetic, playful group of children enjoys plenty of adventures at home and on the road, and — like most families — they keep a full schedule of hobbies, lessons and sports.

“Autumn and Judy take guitar lessons, and all the girls do ballet and tap dancing. Summer is on the volleyball team at school, and she also does robotics,” Mrs. Goulet says. Before she has time to mention the boys’ activities, Judy asks her mom if she can have candy for snack.

“Nathan is going to be in baseball,” Mrs. Goulet says, before offering Judy a healthier alternative to the treat she requested. “Brian loves to design and build things. He wants to be an inventor.”

The other children have also shared dreams of what they want to be when they grow up and depending on which Goulet child you ask, the answer may vary from day to day (as it tends to for this age group), but their responses are a delightful grab bag of careers: a fashion designer, a chef, a vet and a dancer. Most heartwarming is Nathan’s response. “Without fail, he will tell you he wants to be a dad,” Mrs. Goulet says with pride.

Blessed Beyond Measure

“We’ve never had biological kids, but I can’t imagine loving kids any more than we do… We feel blessed to be a blessing,” Mrs. Goulet says, “and there are so many kids out there that need a home, and we love kids.”

The Goulets adopted all six children through BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio Foster Care & Adoption program. The BCFS team was by their side every step of the way, especially BCFS case manager Erika Noriega, who Mrs. Goulet said was instrumental in bringing their family together.

“Erika gives 110% of her effort,” said Mrs. Goulet. “She really went above and beyond, she was an amazing advocate for the kids.” In many adoption cases, the child’s past experiences and family history can be complicated and upsetting – for a young child, the details may be too intense to understand. For the day when their kids are old enough to comprehend their pasts, Mr. and Mrs. Goulet are ready.

“I have all their case files, all their history,” Mrs. Goulet says. “Everything is packed away so the day they get curious about it, they will be able to read it, because they’re going to wonder. When they’re old enough to understand, we can go through it together. At some point, they may want to reach out (to their biological families), and that’s going to be their decision to make.”

Crazy Fun

While six children may seem like a full house, the Goulets have considered adopting more children. For now, Mr. and Mrs. Goulet focus on nurturing, loving and guiding their own six. More family trips, stay-at-home movie nights and special birthday dinners are penciled in on the calendar for the foreseeable future. The Goulets wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It gets a little crazy sometimes, but it sure is fun,” Mrs. Goulet smiles.

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Foster Parents Share Sound Advice for All Parents

Pam and Geoffrey Farmer always wanted to expand their family, but they were unable to have any biological children. After adopting a child late in life, they explored foster care. Since they made the life-altering decision to become foster parents in 2011, more than 40 teens and youngsters have lived in the Farmers’ home.

After years of caring for dozens of children and youth in need, the Farmers have this advice for parents of their own biological children or foster youth: “Listen, be there for them, have a servant’s heart, put their needs first, and never give up on them.”

Building a family

In 2011, the Farmers partnered with BCFS Health and Human Services and enrolled their youth in foster care in BCFS’ Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program, which serves young people ages 16 to 21 who are in the state’s custody after being removed from their biological parent or guardian for abuse or neglect. The primary goal of the PAL program is to help youth in foster care and those aging out of care transition to adulthood and independence.

The Farmers try to have four youth in their home at a time so they can each have their own bedroom, but they can care for up to six young adults. Today, they have three teens in their home.

A “day in the life”

So, what’s it like to care for this many teens? The Farmers say it’s not easy, and they’ve had to overcome many obstacles. “It’s a constant juggling act between their caseworkers, attorneys, therapists, and making sure everyone is working toward the same goal when it comes to the kids,” the couple says. Plus, with lots of daily appointments at doctors, schools, relatives and dentists, at times they’ve driven 100 miles a day to get each youth where they need to go.

It is common for children in foster homes to have unique needs. They are sometimes  lagging emotionally, socially and developmentally due to trauma they experienced. Many of them have been abused for years, which can leave emotional scars. According to the Farmers, parents must give these children more leeway, stability, patience and support, while showing them they are wanted.

Coming full circle

The Farmers described a difficult “adjustment period” that occurs as each new youth enters the home. They tend to be slightly stand-offish out of fear and anxiety.

“We try to make them feel at home, and ensure that this is their final home,” the couple says.

“Many of them have moved around a lot and think this is just another place to stay until we kick them out. But once they start to trust us, those walls they’ve built up around themselves come down. It’s great to see them grow to that point.”

In the Farmer household, it’s a time of celebration when youth they’ve cared for in the past come “home” to visit and show the current group of youth how their time spent with the Farmers prepared them for the outside world.

Expectations breed success

“We try to help them reach the next level with school, the military or getting a good job,” Mrs. Farmer says. “We have high expectations for them and express that we want the very best for them. If you expect a lot from them, they will rise to that level and succeed. The BCFS PAL program has done a tremendous job in helping us and the young adults reach these goals.”

The Farmers have tapped into all the services built into BCFS’ PAL program to help the youth with their education, employment, case management, life skills, mentoring, and any additional needs identified on their transition plans.

All the Farmers’ hard work is paying off, because most of their youth have gone on to college after high school, and most still come home for the holidays to spend time with the family.

BCFS Program Director Stacy Lee praised the Farmers as outstanding foster parents for the way they take care of the youngsters.

“Being a foster parent means dedicating yourself 24/7, which can be exhausting,” Stacy says.

“The Farmers have a genuine desire to serve and be a positive influence on these young people’s lives. They do an outstanding job of showing them they are all important.

Wise words for any parent

“Our home is a constant teaching environment – they need to learn how to be independent so when they are out on their own they can schedule and keep their own appointments with doctors and school advisors,” Mr. Farmer says. “Constant guidance, family time, discussing the day and listening to them is what we do in our home.”

“If we can help change the life of just one child and get them on the right path, then we have done our job. It is very rewarding when you see them succeed — it’s a feeling that is indescribable. Even if they misbehave, you never give up on them and welcome them home with open arms. Unconditional love is key — even if they do wrong.”

Meet the Campbells: A Family Meant To Be

With this scripture as their guiding principle, the Campbell family was made whole. Although the divine command sounds simple enough, working through the earthly challenges proved trying for the Campbells, their two biological children, and their adopted daughter, Desiree. Mark and Kathy Campbell already had two small children when they decided to become foster parents through BCFS Health and Human Services.

 

“We were foster parents for about an hour before we got the call that there was a baby that needed a place to stay,” says Mark. That’s when the Campbells met a sweet little toddler, Desiree.

Desiree was born to a 15-year-old girl, unprepared for the rigors of motherhood and still just a child herself. Less than a year later, Desiree was removed from her mother’s care by the state. During the next few years, Desiree bounced back and forth between her mother and the Campbell household. In an attempt to break the cycle, they tried something new. Desiree’s mother moved into the Campbell home with her daughter. This only lasted a few months, as Desiree’s mom struggled to abide by the house rules intended to keep the home peaceful and stable. After this failed, the “foster home shuffle” resumed for another year.

“The goal is always to reunite the child with the biological parent,” says Mark, “and we agreed that was the best thing to do. But, Desiree just kind of disappeared. We didn’t know where she was, and we found out that she ended up in another foster home.”

Cautiously Optimistic

 

The Campbells fostered a pair of sisters during the span of two years without Desiree. After a chance encounter between Kathy and Desiree’s caseworker, the caseworker asked if the Campbells were interested in adopting Desiree. The Campbells began to prepare for the possibility that Desiree could join their family for good – with cautious optimism. But questions remained.

“Would she stay a year? Was that possible?” Kathy wondered. “Because for our kids, it felt like a death in the family with Desiree coming in and out of the house.”

They went to court and presented their home as the safest, most stable place for Desiree. But after an error in court proceedings and documentation, Desiree was deemed unavailable for adoption and would remain in state custody. The Campbells continued to fight for custody of Desiree, and another chance encounter (plus a lot of gusto from Mr. Campbell) caused a breakthrough in the case!

Mark was a member of his local Rotary club, as were all the judges that preside over foster care cases in the county. The judges led a presentation during a Rotary meeting, and when the presentation ended, Mark rose and told the crowd, in no uncertain terms, that the courts were threatening the unity of his family. His rousing, impromptu speech earned a standing ovation from his fellow Rotary members, and caught the attention of the judges.

During this time, Desiree’s mom had visitation rights but rarely came to see her daughter. She missed several scheduled visits – all the while, she vowed that she’d fight for custody as long as it would take. When a trial date was set, nerves set in and Desiree’s mom did not want to appear before the judge. She told her attorney she wanted to meet with the Campbells.

Mark’s voice quivers as he recalls that meeting. “Desiree’s mom said, ‘it’s best for you guys to take her, because I can’t do it.’” Another emotional breakthrough – but more roadblocks stood in their way. In the final phase of the legal proceedings, the family’s lawyer attempted to double his fees to complete the adoption. Outraged and out of options, Mark called BCFS President Kevin Dinnin, who immediately assigned BCFS’ lawyers to their case.

The adoption was finalized in court two weeks later, February 2, 2005. Desiree was officially a Campbell!

In Her Own Words

Desiree, now 16, sits comfortably beside her mom and dad in their living room, where Christian artwork and scriptures adorn the walls.

 

“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” Desiree says of her mom and dad. “They’re a big part of my life, they’re always there, and I’ll always have somewhere to go.”

The family calendar is full – weekend getaways, family game nights, soccer, swimming and golf. Desiree now has her driver’s license. By the time she graduates high school, she’ll have her cosmetology license, but in the meantime (license or not) she is the “go-to” hair and makeup stylist for her sister and friends.

She traveled to Central America on a church mission trip to disciple youth in a Guatemalan orphanage. “Last year, I brought someone to Christ,” Desiree says. “They wanted me to sign their Bible. It was a really cool experience.”

What Now?

 

In every adoptive family, the parents must decide how best to communicate with the child about their history, their biological parents, and the future of the parent-child relationship. The Campbells decided early on they never wanted Desiree to look back and feel as if she had been “stolen from her mother.” So they determined two things would be key – gratitude and honesty. Kathy and Mark reminded Desiree to be grateful to her mother for helping her have a bright future.

“It would’ve been easier for a 14-year-old girl to make a very poor choice about her pregnancy,” says Mark. “So she did two things for Desiree; she gave her life and then she said, ‘I can’t take care of her and I don’t want her to go down the same path that I have, so here’s another option for Desiree.’ I can’t think of two greater gifts of love that you can give another person.”

Desiree and her biological mother haven’t spoken since the adoption was finalized more than 10 years ago. Desiree is uncertain about the future of their relationship.

“So many things run through my mind, like if I were to find her, would she ever want to meet me back? Maybe her mind has changed and she wants to meet me,” wonders Desiree. “Or, what if I meet her and I’m not what she expected…I definitely, probably would, in the future, want to meet her.”

 

“The fact that my parents are open with me about my adoption and that they’ve allowed me to ask questions really helped me trust them and grow up and be okay with the fact that I was different, and I didn’t look like them…and they don’t go a day without telling me they love me.”

Desiree dreams of one day adopting a child of her own. With her courageous parents by her side, she’s bound to follow in their footsteps gracefully and prove her father right when he says, “God’s always got a way of working these things out. There’s always a good place for a child.”

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Aspen’s Story

Aspen is an 18-year-old high school senior who is beautiful inside and out.

She attends Richard King High School and plays the bass clarinet in the band. Plus, her course load is challenging – she’s taking several advanced college courses to earn 15+ college credits by the time she graduates in May 2016.

 

Aspen participated in BCFS’ Preparation in Adult Living (PAL) program and did extremely well, according to Marco Gonzalez, BCFS PAL Facilitator. The PAL program helps youth from the foster care system prepare for life on their own after foster care.
Statistically, youth like Aspen who have spent time in foster care are more likely to face unemployment, poverty, and a host of other challenges. As PAL assignments were given, she stepped up, took the lead and assisted others – without being asked.

 

“BCFS gave me the knowledge and upper-hand when it comes to Life Skills classes. The classes helped me understand and work through my relationships with others. I now have the knowledge and skills I need to handle most situations.”  – Aspen

 

Aspen works part-time and has learned the value of “paying herself first” through responsible banking and savings, according to her case manager Irene Martinez. She recently purchased her first car, a red Hyundai Tiburon of which she is extremely proud – and she even has a healthy savings set aside.

 

Aspen has grand plans for her future after graduation.  She will go to college to pursue her dream of earning a degree in education with a minor in writing.

 

Get Involved

You can make a difference in the lives of youth like Aspen. Donate to BCFS Health and Human Services to support life-changing programs like BCFS’ PAL.
 

Tyler Youth from Foster Care & Disadvantaged Backgrounds Celebrate Christmas with BCFS

TYLER – BCFS Health and Human Services held its annual Christmas celebration for Tyler youth and teens, December 18 at the Holiday Inn South. Almost 100 youth and their families plus volunteers enjoyed Christmas treats, a hot cocoa bar, a gift exchange, and a dance complete with a DJ. The youth come from a variety of backgrounds – the foster care system, Child Protective Services, and some from unstable, or poverty-stricken households. They all have one thing in common – they turn to BCFS Health and Human Services for help transitioning from disadvantaged backgrounds, to self-sufficiency and adulthood.

“The party’s theme – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – is meant to simulate that cozy, homey feeling you enjoy nestled up by a crackling fire with your family, gifts under the tree, and that feeling of joy and peace at Christmastime,” said BCFS director Carla McCalope. “Since many of our youth can’t experience it in their own homes, due to lack of resources or family strife, we tried to replicate it here. They all deserve to experience the joy of the holidays.”

'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Tyler, hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services

Holiday Inn South in Tyler donated the hot cocoa bar and two ballrooms where 68 youth and 29 volunteers enjoyed Christmas hor d’oeuvres, a dance, a gift exchange, and a Christmas scene with photo props.

The gift exchange was a memorable moment, says McCalope. About 80 partygoers gathered in a circle with wrapped gifts in-hand. As a Christmas story was read aloud, guests listened intently for the words “left” or “right,” and passed their gifts in a circle accordingly. When the story was complete, they unwrapped their gifts to find tablets, portable DVD players and headphones, provided by BCFS.

“It was fun watching everyone pass their gifts around, and fun to hear the party get quiet so they could hear the story and the instructions as I was reading,” McCalope recalls.

Several of BCFS’ community partners donated time or services in support of the event. Brosang’s Flowers of Tyler donated a Christmas wreath and decorative greenery to compliment the party’s theme meant to simulate a cozy Christmas in the family living room. Event security services were donated by Shepherd Guard Security, and staff from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services attended as guests and chaperones.

Staff from BCFS Health and Human Services at youth Christmas party

BCFS Health and Human Services in Tyler is a safe-haven for local youth, helping those at risk of homelessness, poverty or other challenges transition successfully into adulthood and independence. Many of the youth served at the BCFS center in Tyler were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and went into foster care. The center provides case management, counseling, mentorships, assistance with education, employment and housing location, life skills programs and courses for youth.

For more information about BCFS Health and Human Services’ work in Tyler, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Tyler.

Christmastime at BCFS: Spreading Holiday Cheer

With Christmas quickly approaching, there is no better time of year to exercise goodwill or spread warmth and cheer. Christmastime can be an unwelcome reminder to those that lack a traditional family or support system, which is why offering a helping hand can go a long way. Here at BCFS, holiday events are in full force as we bring together families and support those in need.

Here are some of the holiday initiatives BCFS has hosted so far this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Candyland

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On Wednesday December 9, BCFS hosted its annual Christmas celebration for Abilene teens, youth and families in BCFS programs that provide life advice, temporary shelter, and parenting education. The group of 40 gathered to exchange gifts, play games, make gingerbread houses and even win prizes at the BCFS Health and Human Services Center in Abilene.

“Each of the folks in our programs received a gift package donated by our generous partners at Wylie Christian Church,” said Martin Pittman, program lead for the BCFS Abilene transition center. “Each package included journals and notepads, gloves, pens and pencils, a Christmas ornament, snacks, hygiene products, plus jewelry or scented soap for the gals, and a flashlight or portable radio for the guys.”

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The BCFS Center in Abilene is a safe haven for youth, including those in foster care and the juvenile justice system, or any youth struggling with the transition into adulthood and independence.

Christmas Masquerade Ball

On Thursday, December 17, BCFS transformed Sunset Station in San Antonio into a winter wonderland for its annual Christmas dinner for local youth from foster care. Donning formalwear kindly donated by the National Council of Jewish Women, about 250 youth attended the event. Also wearing colorful masquerade masks in celebration of this year’s theme, the young adults enjoyed delicious Christmas dinner and dessert.

The young adults — from BCFS’ Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program — also received backpacks, gift cards, and stockings stuffed with small gifts, courtesy of Grace Point Church and the THRU project, a mentorship program for young people aging out of foster care.

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Dinner was catered by the RK Group, desserts donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats. Attendees also enjoyed comedy sketches by Alamo City Improv and classic Christmas songs sung by the choir from Christian Family Church. Christian Family Church also donated stockings, gift cards, hygiene products and sweet treats. Christmas dinner was catered by the RK Group and desserts were donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats.

“Christmas can be an emotional time for the youth we serve from foster care, many of whom are separated from their families,” explains Miriam Attra, BCFS Community Based Services Director. “The Christmas Masquerade Ball gives these youth a chance to celebrate with their BCFS ‘family’ and friends – giving them an unforgettable experience that would otherwise be out of reach.”

BVS Live Nativity

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Residents of Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) presented a living nativity scene during the annual Christmas in the Village celebration. BVT is a caring residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, part of the global system of BCFS health and human service non-profit organizations.

Every year, BVS’ Christmas in the Village provides live entertainment, Christmas shopping, delicious food, games and more to people of all ages. Even better, the event increases community awareness of its services to special needs individuals.

Head Start Christmas Celebrations

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On December 16, BCFS Education Services’ Head Start helped dozens of local children and families make merry this holiday season, with help from several organizations in the Johnson City-area.

The Christmas party, for children and families enrolled in the Johnson City Head Start program at the Settlement Event Center, came courtesy of the LBJ National Park Service. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance at the party and spent quality time talking with each child, while parents enjoyed snapping photos of their children on Santa’s lap. Food and drinks were donated by several local markets.

The next morning, several Park Rangers from LBJ National Historic Ranch stopped by the center, armed with guitars and a whole lot of holiday spirit. Park Rangers Dave Schafer, Brian Perry, Kathleen Fry and Patrick Pelarski sang with the children, read Christmas stories and helped the children make ornaments.

“We have wonderful families and children in our program,” says Head Start Center Coordinator Karen Rogers. “We love working with every single one of them – it’s especially joyful to celebrate the holidays with them. We are so proud to be part of the education and social service initiatives started when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.”

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Head Start aims to propel children ages 3 to 5 from disadvantaged backgrounds toward academic success and prosperity through the provision of educational, health, nutritional and social services.

Cookies with Santa

santabcfsOn December 17, foster and adoptive families in San Antonio received a special treat at BCFS’ Cookies with Santa event. The half-hour event, organized for kids and youth placed in homes by BCFS, was attended by more than 120 children and caregivers. Families mingled, enjoying pizza and cookies and photographs with Santa Claus.

During their meeting with Santa, each child received the gift they had asked Santa for prior to the event, with help from BCFS staff. Gifts included soccer balls, dolls, and everything in between. Old St. Nick was expertly portrayed by Efrén Alvarado, Training Coordinator for BCFS’ Foster Care and Adoption.

“Many of the children we place in foster and adoptive homes have experienced trauma and hardships in the past,” said Alvarado. “We connect them to loving, supportive homes, whether they are permanent or temporary. Christmastime is a wonderful opportunity to show each child they are special, they are treasured, in a way some of them have never experienced. I’ll never forget the joy on their faces when they opened their gifts.”

BCFS Kicks Off Holiday Season With Thanksgiving Events

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BCFS Health and Human Services celebrated Thanksgiving the best way we know how: by helping children and families enjoy good food and fellowship — giving them experiences that would otherwise be out of reach. Our initiatives were a precursor to the holiday season, and as December progresses we plan to deliver even more joy to children and their families this Christmas.

Family events

Prior to Thanksgiving Day, BCFS Education Services Head Start invited children and families in Beeville, Fredericksburg and Johnson City to free family events on November 21st and 22nd.

More than 530 turkeys were given away to local families. About 2,000 free meals were served from gourmet food trucks. Plus, 400 backpacks were given out to children.

Kids enjoyed face painting and balloon artists, met superheroes and princesses, and got to check out a real fire truck, courtesy of local fire and police departments partnering with BCFS for the event.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about BCFS Education Services’ Head Start program, which provides free Pre-K and early education services to 3 and 4 year olds. BCFS Education Services is enrolling students now for their Head Start classrooms in Harper, Johnson City, Beeville, Skidmore, Refugio and George West.

Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children by providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families.

Turkey & trimmings for Del Rio families

In Del Rio, more than 100 families received turkey and all the trimmings on the week of Thanksgiving. The meals were given to congratulate the families for completing the STAR program operated by BCFS Health and Human Services, which provides counseling, trainings and other services to unify and strengthen families.

Services To At Risk Youth (STAR) helps Del Rio families create stable, loving home environments by providing free counseling, training for youth and parents, and help reducing family conflict and delinquent behaviors in youth, like truancy and running away from home. The STAR program serves families with youth 17 years old and younger. This November, BCFS helped 160 children and youth and gave out 133 Thanksgiving meals.

“Many of the families we serve live paycheck to paycheck, or are struggling with unemployment, so putting a full Thanksgiving spread on the table is a burden, or completely out of reach,” says Interim Director, Delia Ramos. “We wanted to help families enjoy a holiday meal with loved ones, but also leave a more lasting mark on their lives through the STAR program.”

Thanksgiving luncheon for San Antonio youth

On November 24th, BCFS hosted a Thanksgiving luncheon in San Antonio for youth from foster care and their foster families. The luncheon brought together approximately 200 youth from foster care, foster families, and BCFS’ community partners including the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS).

The event was complete with long, family-style banquet tables, games like giant outdoor Jenga, and a football game on projector screens. Youth played with BCFS staff members and mentors, and expressed their thanks for BCFS Health and Human Services’ PAL program, among other blessings.

The PAL program, or Preparation for Adult Living, helps youth from foster care prepare for life on their own by teaching life skills like budgeting, healthy relationships, and how to access critical resources.

What’s next?

December has begun in the same spirit as November with #givingtuesday, an international day of philanthropy, which fell on the first of the month. BCFS Health and Human Services encouraged supporters to sponsor a child through CERI (Children’s Emergency Relief International), and welcomed donations to our many community programs.

As the holiday season continues, stay tuned for more information on the annual BCFS program Christmas Dreams, which will give youth in the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center holiday meals, visits with Santa, and donated gifts. This year we will give gifts to 55 young adults and their 23 children.
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.

November is National Adoption Month – Let BCFS Help Your Family Grow

SAN ANTONIO — November is National Adoption Month, an opportunity for families to consider opening their hearts and homes to children in the U.S. foster care system. For prospective adoptive parents, BCFS Human Health Services is here to help navigate the process and celebrate the value of stable, supporting environments for kids.

In the United States, there are 402,378 children in foster care — and 107,000 available for adoption, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (2013). For Texans, BCFS provides matching services to connect the right children with loving homes.

“Growing up in a safe, loving home is something every child deserves to experience,” said Sonya Thompson, executive director of residential services for BCFS Health and Human Services. “Whether someone is becoming a parent for the first time or for another time, adding to a family through adoption is one of the most heroic and rewarding things a person can do.”

According to the 2013 National Adoption Attitudes Survey, about 84 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion on foster care adoption, but only 24 percent consider adoption in any form. If just 2 percent of the many millions considering adoption followed through, every child in the foster care system would have a home. Unfortunately, negative misconceptions persist.

Children who enter foster care do so through no fault of their own, often as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Nearly 30 percent of children exit foster care by age 18 without having found a permanent family.  

BCFS is honored to act as a liaison on parents’ behalf to facilitate adoption in the San Antonio, Texas region. Contrary to popular belief, foster care and adoption are neither complicated or costly. The State of Texas provides a streamlined, transparent process that offers financial support to many adoptive families. This includes waived court fees, Medicaid health coverage, free college tuition to public Texas universities, and monthly stipends for those that adopt siblings or older children.

“Many people don’t realize just how easy it is to adopt,” said Thompson. “If your heart is in the right place and you’re capable of making a child part of your family, BCFS can help get the puzzle pieces in order from there.”

If your puzzle is missing a vital piece — one you believe could be filled by an addition to your family — please feel free to email fostercare@bcfs.net or adoption@bcfs.net for more information, and spread the word on adoption’s many benefits to families and children across the nation.

Forever Family: The Story of the Del Rio Mayorgas and Their Incredible Children

For Ana Mayorga and her husband Erick Del Rio, they knew that they wanted a “forever family.” After years of trying to conceive through conventional ways of producing and in vitro fertilization they knew it was time to explore other options.

That brought them to a BCFS Health and Human Services match event where they had the opportunity to meet children and other prospective parents in the same situation. “We were more than ready to adopt,” explains Ana Mayorga. But the event felt bittersweet at the same time. The children at the event, “were hungry for someone to love them,” she describes. After meeting some of the older children at the event, the family felt “selfish” and began to consider adopting older children as well as newborns and toddlers.

With these new thoughts in their heads, the family decided to fast track their credentials with the help of BCFS Health and Human Services so they could welcome a child into their home as soon as they were ready and certified.

Ana recalls having all their paperwork finalized on a Friday, and fielding calls the next Monday. When they received calls from their caseworker, they discovered that many young children had older siblings also looking for permanent homes and families. They began to be open to welcoming multiple children into their home at once–preferably from the same family.

As a Hispanic family, Ana and Erick knew that having a larger family fit into their heritage and upbringing. “The more the merrier,” Ana kept thinking when she envisioned holiday dinners with her growing family. Additionally, they understood the importance of having a group of siblings would help everyone as they acclimated to their new home. “Adopting a sibling group would save us from incompatibility,” she recalls.

The process was daunting at times as Ana had to tell her caseworker that certain children wouldn’t be a fit due to certain needs or uncertain parental rights. Ana would tell her caseworker how bad the family felt saying no, but their caseworker assured them this was part of the process.

One day, Ana received a call about three young sisters and their little brother in need of a home. The more the merrier approach was still fresh in their minds, and the family agreed to take the children for a visit to see if they would fit well together.

Soon, Ana and Erick struck up a rapport with the children’s foster mother and set up their weekend visit. Ana fondly recalls meeting the kids for the first time. “I got there and the three girls had their Disney bags and beautiful bows, and that broke my heart,” she remembers. “The fact that the kids are ready to meet their potential parents amazed me. I was not expecting that at all.”

IMG_1973From there, Ana and Erick took the children–Jeimy (7 at the time), Giovanna (6), Adriella (4) and Matthias (2)–on a weekend where they could just enjoy themselves and be kids. It didn’t take long for both the parents and the children to know this was the home for them. That night, Ana heard the kids pray to God for the ability to behave so the Del Rio Mayorgas could be their family. From there on, Ana and Erick knew these were the kids for them. After seeing the kids pray Ana asked herself, ”How could you say no?”

Now, two years later, the family has become the forever family Ana and Erick always envisioned. Today, the parents and children help other families in similar positions. Not only to pay forward the help they received, but to also teach the children the importance of giving back. “We want to teach the kids to give back what they’ve gotten.”

Today, the family continues to blossom into an incredible family focused on education and having faith in God. They even consider adding more to their family if the right time comes along. Despite taking a less than common route, Ana and Erick know they made the right decision, and it shows.

Just as Ana says, “God chooses special people for special kids.”