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  • July 10, 2018 5:00 PM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    A former Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator, Laura Sanderson witnessed firsthand the challenges facing the State of Texas’ foster care program.  Moved to do more for these children so desperately in need of assistance, Laura and her husband Brian became licensed foster parents in 2016.  

    The entire Sanderson family – Brian, Laura and their four biological children, including twin boys – accepted this change with zeal.  All are involved in the care of those who have been placed with them.  Participating in activities such as reading, playing and performing household chores with the children placed in their home, the Sanderson children embrace their new family members just as much as their parents. 

     One year to the date of becoming foster parents, Brian and Laura Sanderson were met with an even greater challenge when Hurricane Harvey destroyed their Beaumont home.  The family had more than 5 feet of standing water throughout their residence.  Except the clothes on their back and the few pictures they were able to grab as they fled their home, everything else was destroyed.  Despite the temporary challenge of having to relocate from Beaumont to Dallas they never once waivered in their commitment to the child placed in their care at the time.  They were all in it together.   

     The Sandersons are now back on their Beaumont property, living in a trailer provided by the state while they determine their next move – rebuild their home or find a new place to live altogether.  Their one easy decision is that they will continue to provide a loving and safe home for children who need their help.  

    Laura describes her dedication to fostering as a call from God, saying that she “should not run from difficult things but towards them.  There is never a ‘convenient’ time for foster care, and if its not us – then who exactly?”  

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we imagine many think fostering is inconvenient and can understand why.  But these children still need our help – no matter the circumstances. For this reason, and many more, we salute the Sanderson family for being true Harvey Heroes.  

     


  • July 02, 2018 8:00 AM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    “Heroes don’t always wear capes; sometimes they have the title of foster parents.”  That’s the description that comes to mind for one case manager who works with foster parents Robin and Dianna Oakes.   

     The Oakes have fostered children and teens for more than 30 years and have been with Arrow Child & Family Ministries for nearly half that time.  During their time as foster parents, they have taken in and supported more than 200 children in addition to having two adopted kids and one biological son of their own.   

     This heroic couple, now in their 60s, continue to foster children that many would consider difficult.  Suffering from behavioral and psychological needs, these children find comfort and respite in the Oakes home.  No matter how difficult to reach, each child is treated with equal love and grace and remains Robin and Dianna’s priority and focus. 

     When devastation hit their doorstep during Hurricane Harvey, the Oakes were greeted with 32 inches of water and lost everything in the downstairs area of their home. Forced to live with their adult son while working to rebuild their residence, Robin and Dianna continued to maintain their sole focus on the children.  Not worrying about things they lost during the historic flooding, the Oakes major fear and concern focused on ensuring a safe, stable environment for their foster children.   

     Now back in their home, Robin and Dianna work to put the pieces of their lives back together. They do not waiver in their support and care for these children so desperately in need of their help.   

    At a time when capacity in the state’s foster care system is stretched thin – worsened in the aftermath of the hurricane – the Oakes are true Harvey heroes. We applaud the Oakes for their love of what they do, their care for children and their continued assistance to always support those in need.  

     

     

     

     


  • June 28, 2018 6:00 AM | Jennifer Harris (Administrator)

    The Texas Center for Child and Family Studies (“the Center”), the 501c3 non-profit arm of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services TACFS, today announced an additional $1.5 million grant from the Rebuild Texas Fund to support the Center’s Healing from Harvey work, focused on recovery and relief efforts for at-risk families and children impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  

    The funding expands on an initial $800,000 grant, announced in February and awarded in April, that is being put to work in local agencies and non-profit organizations across Houston, Beaumont and the Texas Gulf Coast.

    “The Center’s second round of grant money from the Rebuild Texas Fund will allow us not only to continue to support ongoing and substantial relief and recovery efforts but further expand our work in Hurricane impacted areas” said Katie Olse, Executive Director of TACFS and the Center. “We’ll be broadening our support to also include organizations that support child abuse and neglect prevention and family preservation, in addition to the work already underway to support capacity building and mitigating trauma in the foster care system.”

    In April, The Center awarded grants to 12 community child and family organizations and agencies to support 15 recovery and relief projects. The grantees are working to address the compounding trauma on children and families who survived Hurricane Harvey, while also looking at ways to address the slow growth or loss of foster care capacity as a direct result of the hurricane. Learn more about the initial round of grants at tacfs.org/thecenter.

    Just under two months underway, The Center noted early success stories and progress in its first round of funding, including:

    Capacity building
    • 44 new prospective foster care families attending information session;
    • Training of 21 families and 24 individuals for pre-service and skills training necessary for foster care; and
    • 17 families approved and verified to foster
    Mitigating trauma
    • 811 children provided therapeutic services; and
    • Community grief counseling services and therapeutic projects deployed

    “As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, we’ve seen continuing need to support the varied and complex post-hurricane challenges facing the child welfare system,” said Neeraj Aggarwal, Director of Rebuild Texas Fund.

    “The Texas Center for Child and Family Services will continue to work with its local partners to support programs that mitigate Hurricane-induced trauma and build greater capacity and services for foster care children, but this new round of funding will also allow for prevention and family preservation work, as well. Rebuild Texas Fund is proud to support this work,” added Aggarwal.

    The Center anticipates publishing its RFP within the next 6-8 weeks with awards announcements anticipated in September. The Center will continue to monitor oversee existing grantees’ work with children and families in the greater Houston, Beaumont and Texas Gulf Coast regions. To learn more about this new funding and The Center for Child and Family Studies’ Hurricane Harvey work, visit tacfs.org/thecenter.

    To learn more about the Rebuild Texas Fund, visit rebuildtx.org.

     # # # 

    About The Texas Center for Child and Family Studies

    To learn more about The Texas Center for Child and Family Studies and its Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts, visit txcentercfs.org. The Center is the 501c3 non-profit arm of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services (TACFS) which was formed in 1976 by mission-driven direct care organizations to strengthen the care, services, and practices for at-risk children, youth, and families. It achieves this mission through education and training, collaboration, and advocacy. Online at tacfs.org/thecenter.

    About Rebuild Texas Fund

    The Rebuild Texas Fund is a collaborative project of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the OneStar Foundation, established to support the rebuilding efforts in communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The Rebuild Texas Fund works alongside organizations within the impacted communities that are making an impact in the following six focus areas: community and economic development; health; housing; education and childcare; transportation and workforce; and capital for rebuilding small businesses. The Rebuild Texas Fund will continue to fund projects and organizations within these areas through the end of 2019. Funding through the Rebuild Texas Fund is provided to eligible nonprofit, government, corporate, and philanthropic organizations working on the ground in Texas communities, that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. More information about the Rebuild Texas Fund is available at rebuildtx.org.   

     

  • June 26, 2018 9:11 AM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    When the historic flooding of Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas, Arrow Child and Family Ministries did what they always did when facing a crisis: meet the immediate needs of their families, minimize trauma and look for ways to normalize families’ lives as quickly as possible. Throughout the storm and the immediate aftermath, Arrow supported evacuations, conducted more than 370 safety checks on foster care children and families and quickly mobilized with community partners and non-profits for donations of goods, services and financial assistance to help foster care children and their families get back to their homes.  

    What Arrow and many other local child and family agencies and organizations knew early on is that Harvey would put increased demands on foster care capacity, something the state already struggles with in the best of weather and times.  

    Arrow’s $50,000 Healing from Harvey grant funded by Rebuild Texas is being put to work to hire a recruitment coordinator, conduct a media campaign to attract interest in fostering and providing accelerated options for families to become licensed foster families. Their focus on increasing capacity will serve residents of southeast Texas.  

     What does it mean to foster, and how does a disaster the size and scope of Harvey impact families and children? As part of our #HarveyHeroes series as we’ll check in with Rebuild Texas Fund grant recipients, we’ll share three stories from Arrow of families whose lives were devastated and yet, through it all, have continued to serve children in need. Their stories, we hope, will inspire more families to do the same.   

     The families we’re profiling in #HarveyHeroes are a cross-representation of the very diverse population Arrow supports and serves. First, meet Shivaria Willie. 

    A single parent, in her fifties, Shivaria has been fostering with Arrow for nearly 10 years. As a foster mom, Shivaria has her own biological daughter and has fostered 19 kids over the past decade. She is licensed to take up to six children at a time and typically takes in kids who are moderate to specialized in their needs.  

     Shivaria makes sure the kids get to experience travel across the country, attend summer camps and receive the mentoring and support they need to excel in school and beyond graduation.  

     When Hurricane Harvey hit, Shivaria’s home was severely damaged with flooding and wind damaging gutters and her roof, busting windows, ruining flooring and appliances. Arrow and the community have helped Shivaria and her family return to normalcy with necessary repairs and donations of appliances.  

    In spite of her own challenges, Shivaria didn’t miss a beat and didn’t waiver in her commitment to fostering youth. When asked by her pastor to think of six words to describe herself, Shivaria said, “I’ve been called to the broken.” Her capacity to serve and her bountiful heart – even in the midst of adversity – Arrow and the Center hopes will serve as an inspiration to other families to consider fostering a child. Even as the one-year anniversary of Harvey approaches, the needs are still great.  

     


  • June 25, 2018 4:25 PM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    In April, the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies (“The Center”) awarded $700,000 to 15 local child and family agencies and organizations across Houston, Beaumont and the Texas Gulf Coast to address ongoing relief and recovery needs in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The funds are part of the Rebuild Texas Fund’s continuing efforts across the hurricane-impacted region. 

     In the aftermath of Harvey and as a new hurricane season arrives, the foster care system faces critical challenges to support an already traumatized population, restart and expand local capacity building efforts and meeting an increasing need for services by children and families in the impacted region.  

     That’s where the grants come in. The grants will support programs and services that address the compounding trauma on children and families impacted by the hurricane last year. The grants will also allow local organizations to address the slow growth or loss of foster care capacity as a direct result of Hurricane Harvey. 

     You can learn more about our initial round of grantees online here 

     As work gets underway, the Center will check in regularly with our grantees, and we want to share their stories with you. Follow along with us here on our blog and on social media with the hashtag #HealingfromHarvey.


  • May 16, 2018 11:19 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    TACFS is recognizing May as National Foster Care Month. As an ongoing series we are highlighting conversations in Foster Care. We hope you will follow along!

    Katie Olse, Executive Director, TACFS: Elyas, thanks so much for talking with me today. As you know, May is Foster Care Month, and we’re talking with folks that work in and around the foster care system in Texas, and you are are former foster youth who now works in the foster care world, right?

    Ilyas, LifeWorks Austin: Yes I am.

    How do you talk about your story from when you were in foster care?

    I pretty much wear my story on my sleeve. When I was younger, it was harder to be vulnerable, but as I got older, I knew that telling my story could actually empower others to get involved. The first time I told my story I could tell it moved people. I think in this foster care world, the issues are so big, and there is a lot of light on it, but it doesn’t reach everyone. The more you can tell your story and move people to get involved, the bigger impact that you can make in the lives of youth. Once I realized that and how powerful my story was, I knew it was important to share it among others.

    Through working in the foster care world, do you feel that you are able to connect to youth that are in foster care now?

    This year I mentored about seven kids in foster care and I am currently mentoring two right now. In the beginning they are a little reserved, but you get to the point where they look forward to seeing you, and over time you get to see their personal and professional growth, and I know that I’m personally making a difference in the lives of youth. So I work 9-5, but this work is important to go outside that 9-5 to get involved within the lives of youth, and I do that naturally. I feel like that what they see is what they are going to become, so they see a professional that was once in their shoes and I try and relate in that fashion, “Hey, although you’re in this space right now, it’s temporary, long-term you can become anything in life.” I try and plant those seeds as I mentoring these youth on a regular basis. 

    What gives you hope about the foster care system in Texas?

    That’s a hard question. I think, well, I know there are good people out there. My foster mother she raised 53 boys before she passed away, over her lifetime. It’s a system that although there are dark spots, there are a lot of good people, I think what gives me hope is that we can get to a point where we can bring stronger resources, more mentors, people that can go outside that 9-5 to really spend time with these youth, touch their hearts, touch their minds, and stimulate their minds. 

     Long story short, everyone coming together to really understand that there are too many of these kids really falling through the cracks, and it’s really going to take not just the non-profit sector, but different sectors coming together to help these youth be not just self-sufficient, but productive members of the community… Those were the seeds planted in my mind when I was a kid, that I could be the President, so I started to believe that. Confidence is a lot. We need to make sure these kids have that confidence and that self worth. 

    If you could say anything to foster kids in the state of Texas right now, what would you say to them?

    What I talk to my mentees now is about relationships… they get exposed to different professionals in the community, but really understand that where they are is temporary. Understanding how to build relationships long-term is going to benefit them. Going out and getting involved in things they don’t normally get involved in, whether it’s in the tech community or the business community. 

    …Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, that have done things that you haven’t done. Surround yourself with different industries, try to expand your mind. It’s easier said than done, but I wouldn’t be where I am without the relationships I had growing up in my life.  

    I like what you said about experiences, relationships, mentoring, because that’s something that anyone can do, right?

    Anyone can do that. 


    Thank you, Elyas, for your time and for speaking with us. You are doing great work.


  • May 07, 2018 10:23 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

     TACFS is recognizing May as National Foster Care Month. As an ongoing series we are highlighting conversations in Foster Care. We hope you will follow along!


    Katie Olse, Executive Director, TACFS: You are our nation’s top child welfare leaders, so essentially you are responsible for the lives of over 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system. How does that feel?

    Jerry Milnder, Acting Commissioner, HHS Administration for Children, Youth, and Families: It feels very humbling to have that level of responsibility for so many children, and their families. At the same time, I recognize totally that I am a partner with a lot of other key players who share that responsibility nationally – the communities where our children and families live, the public agencies, the private agencies that provide services to those children and families, the legal and judicial community, so many foster families have that an incredible responsibility, and frankly, I’m just honored to have one small part of that awesome responsibility.

    I’ve heard you talk about the child welfare system, and that’s inclusive, right? Not just foster care but prevention, adoption, education, mental health and so on. You’re clearly focused on improving the child welfare system – what do you think it’s really going to take?

    I think it’s going to take nothing short of a culture change. We have a fundamental direction in child welfare right now that’s focused on intervening only after something bad happens to children and families. If we want to improve the outcomes for these children and families, if we want to address some of the intergenerational cycles of trauma and maltreatment, we have to re-conceptualize what foster care and what child welfare is all about, and move our efforts further upstream to prevention, and prevention of the very trauma that we spend so much of our time right now trying to address.

    What do you wish the public knew about foster care and the foster care system?

    I hope the public realizes that we have a tremendous workforce out there, that really wants to do right by children and families. It’s also important to understand that when we talk about the child welfare workforce, it isn’t just the social workers in the public child welfare agency, it’s so many other people that touch the lives of children and families. It’s the attorneys who represent children, who represent parents, who represent the agencies, the service providers, our partners in the community. We’re all a part of that system that’s set up to try and help families thrive and stay healthy. In order for our workforce to do that, we have to make sure that our workforce is also healthy and has the capacity to thrive. 

    If you could speak to every foster parent in the country what would you say?

    First of all, I’d say thank you. Thank you for sharing so much of that responsibility for keeping children safe, and for supporting them in their development. I think a key message that I would want to say to foster parents is that we have a tremendous opportunity right now for them to consider their role as much more than simply providing for the physical safety of children. We have an opportunity through foster care for foster parents to actually support the families, and help to strengthen the resiliency of parents to care for their children in safe and healthy ways. That does require a change in mindset, but the opportunity is before us and I hope we can take advantage of that.

    Thank you Commissioner Milner for your time and your thoughts. We are so grateful for the work that you do!


  • May 02, 2018 10:48 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    TACFS is recognizing May as National Foster Care Month. As an ongoing series we are highlighting conversations in Foster Care. We hope you will follow along!

    Katie Olse, Executive Director, TACFS: Hi Angel, thanks for talking with me today. It’s Foster Care Month, and you are working in the foster care arena, and you are a former foster youth. So tell us a little more about your role and your job.

    Angel: [A new position was] created last year, and it was for a program specifically geared toward helping aged-out foster youth. Since I started the program in November, we have reached out to about 30 former foster youth, we have actively helped about 18, and I have about ten who are actively participating in the program with me…the program has flourished, as we anticipated that it would.

    That’s awesome. You have a really unique vantage foster point having been in the foster care system and now working in the foster care system. What drove you to want to work in this world?

    My personal experiences being in the foster care system. When I was in the foster care, by the grace of God, I was lucky to have such a wonderful support system, wonderful caseworkers who were actively participating, CASA advocates, attorney ad litems, everyone at every single placement I was at. Judges had my back, they always vouched for me. I always had someone advocating for me or speaking for me and always allowing me to be able to stand up for myself if needed, and I felt I wanted to come back and be that person for someone else. 

    What do you think the general public thinks about foster youth and foster kids?

    To be honest, I feel that the general public doesn’t really know too much about the foster care system. About how much is actually needed to support these children who don’t have anyone else. The love and the nurture they are lacking and typically don’t receive.

    …I feel the foster care system isn’t advertised like it should be, it’s needing supports, it’s needing help, it’s needing funding, and it is needing foster care parents to help the children who are abused and neglected.

    What would you say if you could speak with all the foster kids in Texas?

    I would say to speak up for yourself. To be able to say how you feel, even if you don’t think it is the right moment, because someone is listening, even if you don’t feel that way.

    Thank you, Angel, for your time, for your work with aged-out foster youth, and for sharing part of your story with us. We are so grateful for everything you do!


  • April 23, 2018 1:07 PM | Jennifer Harris (Administrator)

    The Texas Center for Child and Family Studies (“the Center”), the 501c3 charitable arm of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services TACFS, today announced awards exceeding $700,000 from the Rebuild Texas Fund to 12 community child and family organizations and agencies to support 15 recovery and relief projects for foster care children impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

    “The Center, in partnership with the Rebuild Texas Fund, is pleased to announce these grant awards to support the tremendous needs and challenges facing Texas’ most vulnerable children and families who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Beaumont and across the Texas Gulf Coast,” said Katie Olse, Executive Director of TACFS and the Center.

    “The foster care system faces critical challenges to support an already traumatized population, restart and expand local capacity building efforts and meeting an increasing need for services by children and families in the impacted region,” added Olse.

    The Center’s Rebuild Texas Fund grants support programs and services that will address the compounding trauma on children and families impacted by the hurricane last year. The grants will also allow local organizations to address the slow growth or loss of foster care capacity as a direct result of Hurricane Harvey.

    The following awards will support foster care capacity-building:

    Arrow Child and Family Ministry ($50,000) – Arrow Child and Family Ministry will utilize funds from this grant to hire a recruitment coordinator, conduct a media campaign to attract interest in fostering, and provide accelerated options for families to become licensed foster families. Arrow’s project would increase capacity in Regions 2 and 3.

    DePelchin ($50,000) – DePelchin will utilize funds from this grant to jump start foster home recruitment and verification that was stalled because of Harvey. DePelchin aims to verify 98 new homes during the grant period. The project would be active in Regions 1, 2, and 3.  

    Family Endeavors Inc. ($50,000) – Family Endeavors will utilize funds from this grant for training and home study services to families who postponed the verification process due to Harvey. The project would be focused in Regions 2 and 4.

    Girls Haven ($44,850) – Girls Haven will utilize funds from this grant to expand their Supervised Independent Living Program which will allow girls ages 18 to 22 to remain in care while developing skills to live independently.t. This project would be active in Region 1 (Jefferson County).

    Grace Manor ($45,000) – Grace Manor would utilize funds from this grant to employee a full-time recruitment and retention specialist, host recruitment events, and create 10 “Foster Home Safety Kits” to assist families in completing the verification process. The project would be active in Regions 1 and 2.

    The Jim H. Green Kidz Harbor Inc. ($50,000) – The Jim H. Green Kidz Harbor will utilize funds to rebuild their residential facility after flooding from the storm. The facility is located in Region 3 (Brazoria County).

    Prairie Harbor ($50,000) – Prairie Harbor will utilize funds from this grant to pay for a site plan and entrance for a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Nueces County. Construction was halted due to the storm. Region 5 is without this capacity.

    Tejano Center for Community Concerns ($50,000) – Tejano Center for Community Concerns will utilize funds to hire a full-time trainer and part-time recruiter to assist in growing foster care placements in Region 2. These positions would allow the TCCC to re-establish ties with foster homes that lost their ability to foster due to Harvey and increase capacity of verified families.

    Upbring ($50,000) – Upbring will utilize funds from this grant to provide stipends to the agency’s foster families in Regions 2, 4, and 5. These stipends would be used for expenses associated with rebuilding damage from the storm and attending the training necessary to maintain their status as active foster families.

    The following grant awards will support mitigating trauma for children in foster care and their foster families in the hurricane-impacted region:

    DePelchin ($50,000) – DePelchin would utilize funds from this grant to provide trauma informed assessment and counseling through its Family Integrated Relational Services Treatment Program to 1,410 children living in Regions 2 and 3.

    Devereux ($50,000) – Devereux will utilize funds from this grant to implement the Devereux Texas Enhanced Trauma Informed Care project to deepen their ability to meet the needs of a traumatized population by training their staff and clinicians in advanced level trauma support. The efforts would be focused in Regions 3 and 4.

    Family Endeavors Inc. ($50,000) – Family Endeavors Inc. will utilize funds from this grant to implement a train the trainer model for trauma inform care and would provide this training to providers in Region 4 who interact with children in care. 

    Girls Haven ($10,150) – Girls Haven will utilize funds from this grant to implement a Hurricane Harvey Grief Group free to the community in Region 1 (Jefferson County).

    Promise Rose RTC ($50,000) – Promise Rose RTC will utilize funds from this grant to implement The Art of Life Project with a therapeutically comforting approach to help children in care in Region 2 (Harris County) who suffered through Harvey to manage their trauma-related stress. 

    Sheltering Harbor ($50,000) – Sheltering Harbor will utilize funds from this grant to expand its yoga relaxation program for children in care by targeting PTSD and stress reduction techniques.

    “By leveraging the experience of these local organizations, the needs of Texas’ most vulnerable children and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey can be addressed in positive and far-reaching ways,” said Neeraj Aggarwal of Rebuild Texas Fund. “With its strong experience, network and expertise, Texas Center for Child and Family Services has been able to mobilize programs and services that can mitigate hurricane-induced trauma and build greater capacity and services for foster care children.”

    The Center will monitor and oversee the grantees’ work with children and families in the greater Houston, Beaumont and Texas Gulf Coast regions. To learn more about The Center, its work, the grant awards and the regions impacted, visit texascentercfs.org/rebuild-tx-grant

    To learn more about the Rebuild Texas Fund, visit rebuildtexas.org.  

     

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  • April 18, 2018 3:26 PM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    The Texas Center for Child and Family Studies, the non-profit arm of TACFS, recently released Exploring Child Welfare: Predictive Analytics in Child Welfare.

    We are excited to share this paper and are looking forward to more great work to come from the Center! 

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