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  • August 23, 2018 5:00 PM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    We’ve been sharing stories of the organizations on the front lines of relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. For Texas’ at-risk children and families, these organizations and agencies provide year-round support for our state’s foster children and families, but the devastation leveled by Harvey stressed an already strained foster care system.

    That’s why the work that is underway as part of the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies’ Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grants is so critical to meeting the needs of children in Texas foster care. You can learn more about the progress and promise of our Rebuild Texas Fund grant program here.

    Among the grantees are organizations like Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health of Texas, who The Center recently featured on our #HarveyHeroes blog series.  

    Devereux’s Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant supported rebuilding their campuses that were devastated by Harvey and the flooding that followed. But, the grant is also funding hands-on treatment and training for clinicians and staff to help mitigate and address the intangible, but no less important, needs like trauma support and counseling.

    Devereux’s trauma treatment model is one focused on empowering the kids to help support themselves and, one day, to be able to provide the same support to others in need.

    As the anniversary of Harvey approached, The Center and Devereux were honored to welcome First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Senator Larry Taylor, Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman, and representatives from the Rebuild Texas Fund to learn more about the relief and recovery efforts that are ongoing at Devereux. We were able to share why the Healing from Harvey grants are so important to long-term needs for foster care children and families in the impacted area.

    Mrs. Abbott said, "Hurricane Harvey left behind unimaginable destruction, but over the course of the past year, we have seen that nothing is more powerful that Texans helping Texans.”

    We couldn’t agree more. There are so many unsung #HarveyHeroes. We’re grateful to help support their ongoing work through our Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grants.

  • August 16, 2018 9:00 AM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    If you are a little boy or girl and have never been fishing, when you get the chance to experience the joy of catching that first fish you’ll never forget it.

    For children in Texas’ foster care system, providing normalcy and a nurturing environment are crucial to their social, emotional and physical wellbeing, and it is often life’s simple activities that can strike a chord with these youth.

    Take “Josh,” a resident at The Jim H. Green Kidz Harbor in Brazoria County. When Josh came to Kidz Harbor he was very excited to find out we were located on a bayou and had a fishing pier. He was eager to try his hand at fishing and when he caught his first fish he was so proud and excited. Josh took a five-gallon bucket full of water and placed his fish it, wanting to keep it as a pet. The staff at Kidz Harbor explained to Josh that the fish wouldn’t live like that but seeing the eagerness on his face the staff relented.

    Josh kept the bucket on the porch and checked on his fish often. He wanted to save it to show his mom what he had done. The fish did live for a bit, but of course we finally had to let it go.

    When Hurricane Harvey hit last year, the Kidz Harbor pier was destroyed, and the simple pleasure of relaxing on the pier with a fishing rod was put on hold. The hurricane also caused significant damage to the residential facility in Brazoria County due to flooding following the storm’s landfall.

    As a phase one grantee for The Center for Child and Family Studies’ Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant, Kidz Harbor is on the path to recovering from the storm. The Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas funds enabled Kidz Harbor to rebuild their residential facility and – perhaps most importantly to the kids in their care – to rebuild the fishing pier.

    And, once again, kids like Josh can enjoy the simple joys of learning how to fish.

    When a child catches their first fish, it’s a great memory they will never forget while going through the hard realities of life in their situation,” said Sharon Beard, Kidz Harbor Business Manager.

    That’s why we’re highlighting the work of the staff at KIDZ HARBOR as Harvey Heroes.

    # # #

  • August 10, 2018 5:30 PM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    If you lived it, you get it. But, for the rest of Texas and the world, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the devastation that Hurricane Harvey inflicted on children and families in Beaumont, Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast.   

    As the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies’ Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant work continues, we want to put a human face on the people and places that overcame their own adversity and helped support Texas’ most at-risk children and families in their hour of need as the hurricane ravaged the area.  

    Devereux, who received a Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant from The Center’s phase one grant program, is one of those organizations.  

    Nestled among 450 wooded acres in the South Texas Gulf Coast region, Devereux’s Victoria campus offers services to children suffering from abuse, neglect and serious emotional disturbances. A second 49-acre campus in League City, between metropolitan Houston and northern Galveston County supports adolescents with a ride range of behavioral and emotional needs. These residential centers for children and adolescents found themselves dealing with Harvey in real time and know first-hand what work must still be done to recover. 

    Devereux’s Pamela Reed and Joni Robertson shared their memories of Harvey with us.  

     Last August, Devereux was preparing to open a new 22-bed unit on their League City campus, but it was devastated – perhaps more than any other building on their two campuses – by the Hurricane’s floods, winds and fury. Both League City and Victoria campuses – children and staff – had to be evacuated to Latham Springs Baptist Camp.  

     What they came back to is difficult to fully comprehend.  

    “Our League City campus buildings were inundated with 14-inches of water. Everything from the carpet to the walls and ceilings had to be replaced. The children and our staff lost clothing and beds. Devereux lost 26 vehicles, and many of our League City staff faced their own personal losses and damage to homes,” said Robertson. 

     In fact, the damage was so extensive at League City, that the kids who call Devereux home did not return until December 2017.  

     Initial phase one grant money supported rebuilding the campus but also intangible and no less important needs like trauma support and counseling. Devereux’s trauma treatment model is one focused on empowering the kids to help support themselves and, one day, to be able to provide the same support to others in need.  

     Clinicians and team members from all disciplines at Devereux work together to create individualized treatment plans for each child. Additional training that these clinicians will receive as a result of their Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant will go a long way toward employing applied techniques and best practices in their day-to-day work to support the short-term and long-term impact of trauma on a child’s mental and physical health. 

     “It was a powerful experience for these kids. They thrive on structure, crave stability and value predictability. The hurricane took all that away, but what it provided us is a chance to cultivate opportunities for personal and professional growth for both the children in our care and the staff who are there for them each and every day,” said Reed. 

     And, while there’s much work to be done under the initial phase of their grant and their work to mitigate trauma, the team at Devereux is looking ahead to address another critical need: capacity building, increasing their ability to care and serve more children in need. 

     We’re looking forward to tracking their progress and sharing more milestones and success stories from these Harvey Heroes at Devereux 

  • August 06, 2018 5:00 PM | Jenn Vigh (Administrator)

    As the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies continues to shine a light on “Harvey Heroes,” those foster care families, children and providers who endured so much during and in the aftermath of last year’s devastating storm.  

    Grace Manor, serving foster care families in the greater Houston and Beaumont areas, received a $45,000 Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant from the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies back in February. Grace Manor’s work in Harvey relief and recovery efforts is ongoing, but the early impact of the Healing from Harvey funds is real, measurable and meaningful.  

    It’s helping families like Jennifer Kirkland and Sean Henry, who are parents to a 21-year old son with Downs Syndrome and other medical conditions and who have a passion and expertise for parenting children with complex medical needs. 

     And, it was Jennifer’s day job as a special education teacher that sparked her interest in fostering. Her inclusive classroom was home to a 10-year old girl, “A”, who was removed from her birth parents’ home at age 5 (The birth parents’ parental rights have since been terminated.).  

    Sweet “A” has been in the care of the state for over half her life. The Henry-Kirklands hope to offer her a home with parents who understand her needs and how to help manage and mitigate the traumatic experiences in her early life. They hope to provide her with a healing home,” said Lauren PrinceProgram Administrator at Grace Manor.  

    But, as the family embarked on the process of adopting young A, they realized there were still many hurdles.  

    Getting a home up to state standards for adoption of a child through the state of Texas isn’t something many families think about as they embark on this journey. The requirements can place a one-time financial burden on families to get their home up to the safety standards mandated 

    From outlet covers and combinations locks, cabinet locks to fire extinguishers, lock boxes for medications to vouchers for safety inspections, the list is long, and the costs can quickly add up. The Kirkland-Henry family experienced this first-hand when they decided to become foster parents and wanted to adopt young A. But with the support of Grace Manor and the Healing from Harvey Rebuild Texas Fund grant from the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies, the Kirkland-Henry family are able to look ahead to a brighter future with their son and adoptive daughter 

    That’s because, thanks to the Healing from Harvey funds, Grace Manor is not only able to hire a full-time recruitment and retention specialist and host foster care family recruitment events, they can also help support families like the Kirkland-Henry family. Grace Manor’s grant also allows them to provide “Foster Home Safety Kits” to assist families in need with completion of the verification process to foster and to adopt 

    That’s why Kirkland-Henry and Grace Manor are #HarveyHeroes 





  • 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

    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 | Deleted user

    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.

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