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  • 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.  

     

     # # #

     

     

  • 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! 

  • April 05, 2018 9:32 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)
    Last week staff members from Senator John Cornyn’s office joined TACFS in El Paso to meet staff from HomeSAFE, the El Paso Center for Children, and Child Crisis Center of El Paso. The Senator’s staff got to see firsthand the great, and innovative, work being done by TACFS members in El Paso. 


    Many thanks to Claire and Henry from Senator Cornyn’s office, and of course to the leaders and staff in El Paso for doing the amazing work they do!



  • April 05, 2018 9:03 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    Frank, LCSW, Upbring

    Why did you decide to become a social worker?

    I became a social worker because my mother was a social worker. Although my mother practiced medical social work, I learned a lot from her and went into child welfare. As a matter of fact, my mother interned at Upbring back in the early ‘90s. Who knew I would be employed by the same organization in 2005, at the same Upbring Foster In Texas office in McAllen.

    What drives you to keep going?

    Nothing is more gratifying to me than seeing a child heal in the care of a loving family. The children Upbring serves have survived things no child should ever experience, and many of them carry deep emotional scars. As clinical director, I provide our foster families with evidence-based strategies for managing disorders stemming from trauma. When a family says something as simple as, “Thank you, you helped us a lot,” it drives me to keep doing what I love.

    Can you tell us a story that helps capture what you do?

    I was fresh out of school and serving as a family social worker at Upbring. There was a couple that desperately wanted a family but couldn’t have biological children, so they decided to partner with Upbring to welcome two foster children into their home.

    In this case, however, parental rights were difficult to terminate, and the children were in the couple’s care for seven years. They loved those kids, encouraged them and supported them as if they were their own. I wanted so badly to see them adopt and make their family complete.

    Although I was promoted into leadership roles during those seven years, I continued to advocate for the family. I went on home visits, completed service plans, delivered training and did everything I could to help the couple experience the joys of parenthood.

    Shortly before the adoption process was complete, the mother passed unexpectedly. But the father’s heart was set on going forward. Of course, I was there when the judge pounded the gavel and consummated the adoption. To this day, the father keeps in touch with me via email.

    Thank you, Frank.



  • March 31, 2018 9:17 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    Anna, Helping Hand Home for Children, MSSW

    Why did you decide to study social work? 

    I grew up helping in my mom’s classrooms. She taught in a very low income title IV-E school with high needs kids and during the summer she worked as a teacher at a camp for the children of the workers that came through the Carolinas and worked on local peach orchards. Helping in her school classroom and especially at the summer camp, I saw how much potential and resiliency all of these kiddos had despite all the barriers they faced. I also really just liked spending time with them and getting to know them and seeing how they grew and progressed over the months.

    What drives you to keep doing your work? 

    My relationships with the children that I work with. Knowing how much it makes a difference for them to have a stable adults in their lives and also seeing the big and small successes - whether those be the kiddo going a week without having a major behavior or they made honor roll for the first time or we are consummating their adoption. Helping Hand Home is great place to do this type of work, we really care about the well-being of the kids.

    Thank you, Anna!


  • March 28, 2018 8:59 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    Megan, LCSW, DePelchin Children's Center

    Why did you decide to pursue social work?

    I started off in undergraduate work thinking that I wanted to help people by teaching. Early in my education practicum I realized that the children I was working with had tremendous socioeconomic challenges/risk factors and unmet needs beyond their education. I really focused in on those things and realized that was where I wanted to help foster the change. I love social work because it looks at the individual and the influence of their surroundings and support systems.

    What drives you everyday?

    I am driven by the hope of ending negative cycles and promoting healthier, happier futures for children. I truly believe that even small changes can make a huge difference in a child’s life and that change will continue on to their children and to the future generations. I am hopeful in the belief that “it takes a village” to raise a child and that one positive influence can make a difference.

    Can you tell us more about what you do?

    I currently provide support in a supervisory/administrative role to clinicians who see children (ages 3-18) in therapy. Since the clinicians in my program provide direct work with children and families, I provide support to them by helping them staff cases, provide resources, and empower them to remain true to the heart and mission of our agency and the social work model.

    Thank you, Megan!
  • March 28, 2018 8:55 AM | Jamie McCormick (Administrator)

    Meredith, LCSW, DePelchin Children's Center

    Why did you decide to pursue social work?

    From a young age, I enjoyed working with people and learning about their lives; I was always volunteering at different organizations such as homeless shelters, nursing homes, and food banks. When I was in college, one of my closest friends committed suicide after years of suffering with a mental illness. His death motivated me to dedicate my life to working with children, youth, and families to address mental health needs. 

    What drives you to keep going?

    The many rewarding experiences that my work has afforded me keeps me coming back for more!

    Can you tell us more about your work?

    I currently manage a federal grant that helps to provide no-cost therapy and psychiatric services to children and their families. I am passionate about maintaining all of the requirements needed to keep this grant, allowing more and more children and families in the greater Houston area to be served. I enjoy hiring and supporting the clinicians that work on my grant. When hiring and maintaining standards of care, I always as ask myself would this be a service or therapist that I would access for my own child/children. Another aspect of my current work is providing clinical supervision to social workers who are working toward their LCSW. I very much enjoy hearing about their cases and helping them to expand upon their social work and clinical abilities.

    Thank you, Meredith!



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